How Westport designed the world's most popular superyacht

26 November 2020by Rebecca Cahilly-Taranto

With the 65th hull now in build, we explore the secrets behind the Westport 112 model’s success

Few production yacht models have as long a timeline and as dedicated a following as the Westport 112. For more than 25 years, the Westport shipyard in the northwesternmost corner of the U.S. has been cranking out two-to-three 34 metre W112 production yachts per year. These yachts, whilst started on spec, are quickly snapped up by owners at all levels. For some, the W112 is the ultimate entry-level superyacht. For others, it’s the go-to yacht when it’s time to downsize. And, for others still, it is simply the best owner-operator boat out there.

This particular Westport 112 was designed by Sylvia Bolton who joined Westport a few years ago.

The W112 layout offers a 7.2 metre (23ft 9in) beam housing a good-sized main saloon with formal dining area and a spacious country kitchen forward. On the lower deck, four ensuite staterooms sleeping up to eight guests include a full-beam master, with space for up to five crewmembers in three cabins aft of the engine room.

Despite the builder’s introduction of larger models including the 38 metre W125, the 40 metre W130 and the 50 metre W164, as well as the W117 | 35M and W172 | 52 metre design concepts, Westport’s W112 has held steadfast to its position as the gateway vessel to Westport’s high-quality lineup. Perhaps no one is more surprised at the model’s unimpeded success than Westport itself.

Whilst the model is most sought-after by North American clients, the company has not been shy about marketing its product to the European and Middle Eastern markets and considering the specifications that would most appeal to those markets.

“It’s the smallest offering we have, which is amazing to me,” says company President Daryl Wakefield. “It’s just a really spacious boat for its length, it’s easy to operate, it has a shallow draught and it’s high quality through-and-through.”

That quality has only been improved upon over the course of the model’s evolution. Featuring naval architecture and styling by renowned Pacific Northwest-based naval architect Jack Sarin, the first W112 launched in 1994 (née Lady Melia). There have been styling updates to the superstructure and interior modifications as well as new technology and equipment, such as Gyro SeaKeeper stabilisation, of course, but today’s W112 retains the same Sarin semi-displacement hull design with a slightly raised sheerline forward and timeless styling as it always did. Little nuances in its evolution, says Wakefield, have kept the model current and allowed it to maintain its value.

Nearly three decades on, having outlasted both the introduction of newer, larger models and the company’s own transitions of ownership, the W112 Hull No 65 is currently in production at the company’s facility in Westport, Washington.

“Westport hulls are valued very well, and have always been just slightly out of my price range,” says the new owner of the W112 Hannah. Finding a W112 within budget on the brokerage market was a personal quest, one that lasted a full ten years. “I went to all the boat shows, I looked at Browards, Ferrettis, everything, but I always gravitated back to Westport. Every time one came on the market, my broker would call me.”

The stars finally aligned during the bidding process for a 2003 W112, as the first potential buyer negotiated heavily and succeeded in bringing the price down but backed out of the deal, leaving a window for the current owner’s offer to be accepted.

“I think the Westport 112 is superb. The layout is great, I like the quality. Everyone tells me it’s the best one around. It has very good bones,” says Hannah’s happy new owner, who had the boat refitted by Florida-based yacht interior designer Destry Darr.

“The Westport 112 is an ideal boat to refit,” says Darr. “It’s very smartly built and – whether purposeful or not – the builder seems to have anticipated for future changes and upgrades.”

Darr has overseen the designs of five Westport yachts, including one new build W112 and two W112 refits. “I’ve done so many refits on boats where the builder didn’t foresee future changes or upgrades, leading to the need to tear everything up to make an upgrade. Westport plans for these changes in the build. The calibre of the woodworking and the styling of the joinery alone allows for a lot of flexibility to achieve a variety of interior styles – from contemporary to traditional and in between.”

Hannah has just completed an extensive nine-month refit, which brought the yacht up to 2020 design and systems standards and included engine and generator maintenance as well. The owner plans to offer her for charter when he and his wife aren’t island-hopping in the Caribbean.

“I’ve done some research and I see that there are very few available for charter and they are very much in demand,” he says.

Westport’s in-house charter broker Kim Vickery agrees. “There is a shortage of 112s on the charter market; there are eight on the market now but of those, only four are actively chartering – from New England to Florida, the Bahamas and Caribbean. The other four are either in the shipyard, seriously for sale, or just looking for the occasional booking.”

The W112 is a great charter boat for its spacious layout, shallow 1.8 metre draught and 20-plus knot cruising speed ability, says Vickery. “The overall functionality allows the crew to provide seamless service as well as the ability to quickly fix any issues – and Westport’s service support and easily accessible parts is a plus.”

So a solid buy on the brokerage market, with good resale value, simple to refit – and a good prospect as a charter yacht. It’s little surprise Westport is now on hull 65 of this enormously popular superyacht, but what does the future hold?

“The whole philosophy behind the W112 was to build a quality product,” says Wakefield. “As long as the marketplace will continue to accept them, we will keep building them. I never thought we would be talking about hull 65 but here we are. It’s an amazing machine.”

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