If you haven't been to Turkey lately, then perhaps you haven't realized that this country of 74 million people is taking off economically, with its GDP growing 7.8% in 2010. Turkey is the industrial powerhouse of the Middle East. In 2006 Sanko Holdings, a large Turkish conglomerate with annual sales of over $2 billion US and 15,000 employees in 82 separate enterprises, bought the majority share of Vicem Yachts. It now has the financial backing to withstand the economic roller coaster as well as to branch out all over the world. And since the acquisition by Sanko the groundwork has been slowly laid for Vicem to become a potent force in luxury yacht building.
Who Buys a Vicem?
The most important market for the Vicem 58 Classic is right from the geographical area where its design finds its inspiration -- Downeast. Indeed well over 50% of the company's sales come from the U.S. and most of those come from the New England states. We're told by the folks at Vicem that the average customer -- for their classic boats -- is about 61 years old, often sailors from old wealth, have knees that are about ready to go, or grandkids, or both, and now it is time to settle down with something sensible -- like an elegant Downeast motoryacht. Not all Vicem owners are the leading edge of the Boomer Brigade, however. Some of Vicem’s buyers are under 50, says Dirk Boehmer, president of Vicem Yachts USA. "They got their boating experience in sailboats but now they want the comfort, room and speed potential of a powerboat."
What Dirk didn't say was that the people who buy Vicem Yachts wouldn't be caught dead in a Euro-styled boat. Clearly, aesthetics, and a traditional notion of what a boat should look like -- be it power or sail -- bears strongly on the sensibilities of Vicem customers. Vicem's Downeast look fits in well at the New York Yacht Club annual cruise in Maine, and its target customers have summer homes along the water from Greenwich to Bar Harbor.
Familiarity Breeds Content
There is another reason why seasoned sailboat owners are drawn to Vicem Yachts and that is because they are familiar with cold molded boat building. In 1960 Meade and Jan Gougeon from Bay City, Michigan, built two sailboats using thin wood planks bent over a jig and changed the face of one-off boat building forever. In collaboration with DuPont Chemical Company, which made the epoxy, a new product was developed that could easily be applied and be smoothed out both between the wood planks and on the surface of the hull. The whole process became known as the "West System" of cold molded boat construction. (West:
echnique.)The Gougeon Brothers introduced their process and the reformulated epoxy under the West System brand name. The system was a way to build one-off custom boats without going to the expense of making a male and female mold for a fiberglass hull, and sailors all over the world read about the exploits of these new West System boats.
More importantly, these boats were strong. We happened to be aboard the 72' cold molded Windward Passage during the 1972 Bermuda Race when the fleet was hit by a hurricane. Windward Passage punched into the teeth of the storm hard on the wind, driving off 20' seas for over 10 hours. We can tell you that when the boat fell the 20' from sea crest to trough -- ker-slam! -- it sounded as if the bow was going to fall off. While some of the rigging came down, the triple-planked West System hull held. Windward Passage is still sailing the world's oceans today -- 43 years after she was built in 1968.
So exactly how are the Vicems built? The company uses the West System and here are the basic steps (leaving out numerous details)--1. A female jig is made of the hull shape in plywood sections.2. Longitudinal laminated frames are attached to the inside of the jig.3. Transverse frames are laminated to the shape of the longitudinal frames.4. The female jig is removed and the hull is planked with four layers of mahogany or sapele wood. These layers are put on the diagonal, and fastened in place. In the 58, the thickness of the planks are: 3/8"-3/8"-3/16"-3/16" (9.5 mm -9.5 mm-4.76 mm - 4.76 mm).
5. After each layer is put in place epoxy is rolled on which both seals the wood and adheres to the next layer.6. A layer of E-glass and epoxy is put on both the inside and outside of the hull.7. An epoxy top coat is applied to the outside which is then sanded down with long battens to make the surface fair.8. After priming, the hull is coated with AWLgrip polyurethane paint.
To see exactly how the Vicem cold molded hulls are made: watch this excellent video which was made by the builder in its Turkish factory...
Considerations of Cold Molded Hulls
As you can readily see from the description above, building a cold molded hull is labor intensive. The builder uses mahogany and sapele woods which Vicem says come from farmed resources in Africa and South America. Like mahogany, sapele is a hardwood which has a straight grain, and is usually free of knots, voids and pockets. Because it is so durable, it is ideal for fine furniture. Sapele veneer is often used for bulkheads in large motoryachts because of its distinctive striations.
Compared to a conventional fiberglass hull the Vicem 58 hull is about the same thickness as a cored fiberglass hull from a boat of the same size. It is undoubtedly more puncture resistant than a cored fiberglass hull, and it may even be stronger than a solid fiberglass hull. Vicem says that the weight to strength ratio of cold molded wood is superior. The thick cold molded hull of the Vicem is certainly quieter than a fiberglass hull. And it also absorbs vibration better than does the glass boat simply because of its mass. Because the skin coat is epoxy and the four layers of mahogany/sapele are glued together with epoxy, the wood will not soak up water nor swell as would a conventional wood-hulled boat.
Since the hull is sheathed on the outside by E-glass and epoxy and painted with polyurethane the exterior should hold its gloss far longer than conventional gel coat which oxidizes and requires compounding every few months, and possibly painting in five years or so. The Vicem 58 is heavier than other boats in class and that will give her a good, solid ride, and she should slice through rough seas with authority. We suspect that kind of riding comfort will be more important than raw speed on a calm day to the people who are attracted to Downeast boats. After all, as we have already noted, many come from a sailing background where going 10 knots is almost cause for cardiac arrest.
While Vicem has jigs that are already made for hulls of a certain length and width, what happens next is up to the customer. It is truly a custom builder. The boat pictured here was the one at the recent Miami Boat Show and its layout appears in the standard drawing shown here. But there are two alternative drawings presented to give you an idea of what is possible.
Since you are going to be paying $2 million US, more or less, you might as well get what you want. Tailor make the interior to fit your family, or cruising friends. If you have a 7' tall friend, just let Vicem know. If you have three or four grandchildren who would love to sleep in the same cabin, no problem.Depending on the size of the boat, we're told that it takes from a year to 18 months to get a 58 built to your specifications, once the plans have been finalized. If you need a boat to cruise the Turkish coast in the meantime, Vicem would be glad to help you find something suitable, while you wait, Vicem will build a bunk room.
Comparison to Other High-End Downeasters
But whether the weight of the Vicem 58 is in the hull or in its furniture and lavish cabinetry, the fact is that she is heavier than other boats on the market in the same class -- and there are not many. The Hinckley T55 MKII and the Eastbay 55 come to mind. The Vicem 58 and the Hinckley T55 have about the same beam, but the latter weighs over 13,000 lbs. (5,909 kgs.) less (68,350 lbs. dry for the V-58 compared to 55,000 lbs. dry for the Hinckley).
Interestingly, the Eastbay 55 with about 1' less beam than the Vicem 58 weighs only 5,000 lbs. (2,272 kgs.) less at 63,000 lbs. (28,636 kgs.). Since the Eastbay's hull is cored fiberglass, this leads us to believe that much of the added weight in the Vicem is not so much in the hull as in the flooring, deck frames, wood overhead and general opulent use of wood all over the boat, particularly in places that a weight-conscious quality builder would not use it, such as in the door to a shower. So, these two other boats can probably go faster, but is that really the name of the game here?
Power and Performance
The Vicem 58 is powered by twin 800-hp MAN engines, standard. Twin 900-hp MANs are optional. The company says on its website that with the 800s she will cruise at 21 knots and have a top speed of 26 knots. We have not tested the boat, so can not comment on these numbers. But whatever the boat does, we would say that 800 to 900 horsepower in a boat this size is enough and a wise owner would let the speed chips fall where they may. At anywhere from $1.9 million US to $2 million depending on the engines and the customization, this yacht is not about speed or economy, but about gracious boating.
A Man for All Systems
Having ascertained that the hull is solid and the interior is as pleasing as they come if you like wood interiors, then the most important outstanding question is -- how well have the systems been put together? The fact is on all boats, the Achilles' heel is usually the installation of the electrical system, the plumbing, and the myriad items of equipment installed. Everything always looks good at a boat show, and in fact veteran surveyors often can not see installation boo-boos. They usually make themselves known once the owner is out on the Bahama Banks, 50 miles from the nearest dock and the A/C won't work. Or on the big night when a huge party has come for an evening cruise and the boat won't start. Frankly, there is only one solution (with two parts) that we know of to give an owner a fighting chance with the gremlins that are lurking in nearly every boat -- a builder with years of experience, and redundancy. When your competition are companies such as Hinckley (founded in 1928) and Grand Banks, the builder of Eastbay (founded in 1965), the fact that Vicem has only been building boats since 1991 makes it seem like a newcomer -- and it is! What to do?
Vicem's answer to this conundrum was a master stroke: hire the man who was the plant manager for Grand Banks for nearly 10 years! In 2009 Bruce Livingston was hired by Vicem Yachts to run its three yards and oversee its 350 workers. Livingston had not only been plant manager of Grand Bank's Malaysia boat building facility, but he had also set up the product development departments that ended up creating the Eastbay 55 and 47. Prior to Grand Banks, for fourteen years he had been the general manager of Little Harbor Custom Yachts in Taipei, Taiwan, as well as overseeing the boats built for Ted Hood Yachts. Livingston is one of the most respected production managers in the yacht building industry.Now, all that Vicem owner needs is a little redundancy here and there (just like the rest of us).
Oh, there is one more thing. People in Turkey have been building boats for about as long as there has been a need for big boats to be built. You will recall that it is the home of Mt. Ararat. There's an old boat up there needing a little work.
Standard and Optional Features
|Dripless Shaft Seals||Standard|
|Washdown: Fresh Water||Standard|
Boats More Than 30 Feet
|Helm: Second Station||Optional|
|Oil Change System||Optional|
Full Warranty Information on this brand coming soon!
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