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Lang Walker's top 6 tips for building custom yachts

Lang Walker's top 6 tips for building custom yachts

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Have a clear mission statement

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Lang Walker’s third Kokomo cuts an impressive sight at the Hamilton Island Regatta.

Serial superyacht owner Lang Walker has overseen the build of three custom yachts — the Kokomo series — the last of which was the 58.4 metre sailing yacht Kokomo (III) which was delivered in 2010 and has had considerable success on the regatta circuit. As he prepares to open a Fijian island paradise of the same name, Walker draws on his years of experience to detail his philosophy for building world-class luxury yachts.

Have a clear mission statement

The starting point in any new construction project is to produce a mission brief so that the project manager, designer and builder are able to completely understand the owner’s overall aspiration. In Kokomo’s case I wanted to take a step up from my last two boats, getting higher performance, more comfort, plenty of open spaces and an extremely sleek design.

I specified that performance should be increased by not limiting the mast height to the 66 metre maximum required for a Panama canal transit and having a deeper keel — but one that can be lifted for accessing the best anchorages, harbours and beaches.

We also wanted to keep her under 500GT to avoid the stricter regulations but this was a particular challenge as we also wanted the tenders to be stowed beneath a cambered foredeck, and the volume of this space was included in the 500GT total.

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Choose your management team wisely

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Kokomo yacht running

One of the most crucial factors in a successful new construction project is the choice of management team. This might save an owner being unnecessarily disturbed during the whole build process and certainly ensures that he obtains a better quality, and more valuable, product — as well as a stress-free life!

The complexity of a sailing yacht makes decision making more critical than when building a motor yacht. A sailing yacht has so many more moving parts, from the mast, sails and rigging to the keel. Having the right people around the table, all ahead of their game, allowed for any risk to be identified and calculated.

A good management team, including designer, builder and construction manager, understands the aims and the challenges and is not afraid to bring in specialists, recommend research and development investment and push the limits in an effort to find new and better solutions using ever-evolving technology.

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Find a good construction manager

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Kokomo racing at Hamilton Island

Superyacht builders have their own in-house project coordinators and the builder ultimately takes responsibility for the end product being delivered on time, on budget and performing to agreed criteria. However, I believe that having an independent construction manager acting solely for the owner - who has invested considerable sums in the project — is vital for a successful outcome.

Obvious reasons for this include the monitoring of suppliers and sub-contractors, identifying potential issues and making timely recommendations on how to overcome them, as well as keeping a check on costs and continuously motivating all the people involved over the long build period.

Employing Peter Wilson of Marine Construction Management (MCM) to lead the management team ensured continuity, a superior outcome and a smooth transition to sailing and on-going operations.

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