A couple of years ago, with the monetary exchange rate pegged at 85 cents to the euro, yachts from European builders offered both top quality and a reasonable price. Now, the euro has climbed to $1.30 or more, making the imports considerably more precious to the Americans who form the lion's share of the world's yacht buyers. The solution to the price differential, of course, is to buy American, but what about quality? If Janie, the latest delivery from Trinity Yachts, is an indicator, potential owners need not worry.
Janie's owner, Allan Jones, is in full agreement, and he should know. His previous yacht was European-built and fit for a king. In fact, the prior Janie was a 136-foot Mefasa yacht originally owned by King Juan Carlos of Spain.
Jones, a Tennessee businessman, lost the Mefasa in a fire at Palm Beach's Sailfish Club last April. An avid sportsman, he had bought his first boat, a small skiff, as a fourth-grader and had not been without a boat since, so the search for a replacement was quickly on. Into the void stepped Trinity co-owner Felix Sabates, who arranged a deal in which Jones assumed ownership of the 157-footer then nearing completion for auto racing's Rick Hendrick.
As a result of the swap, Hendrick is now awaiting delivery of a Trinity 161- footer and Jones has a one-of-a-kind plaque in his spotless polished engineroom that reads: "This engineroom customized for Allan Jones by Hendrick Motorsports." (Jones laughs that it should read "accidentally customized.") Meanwhile Sabates is trying to convince Jones that Janie is just an interim yacht and that what he really needs is something in the 180- to 190-foot range. And Jones is listening. After all, this is a man who has steadily moved through a progression of boats that has included a 26-foot Silver Queen, a 37-foot Marinette, a classic 53-foot Hatteras motoryacht, a 108-foot Broward and finally, the Mefasa.
Knowing that both Hendrick and Sabates are NASCAR team owners and that Nextel Cup driver Jimmie Johnson had recently honeymooned on Janie, I asked Jones if he was involved with NASCAR as well. He could hardly contain himself as he explains that he did indeed sponsor a car-that had qualified only once. Not only that, but he hadn't even been there to watch it race. "Just as well, though," he remarks, "as it finished ahead of only two other cars, both of which wrecked early in the race." Ever the entrepreneur, Jones sees an advantage to running last and plans to sell camera time to the TV networks if he ever qualifies again. "I figure if we point the camera forward, the audience will have a great view of the entire race."
An affable man who clearly enjoys life, Jones splits his time between his work, his home in Cleveland, Tennessee, a ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and time aboard Janie. But his overriding interest is college football. "I have something that not many yacht owners can claim," he says. "A football field in my backyard." And this is not just some rough sandlot-it's a beautifully manicured regulation field with night lighting, bleachers and a magnificent field house that many small colleges would kill for. Jones invites nearby schools to use the field, and last spring, he hosted his beloved Mocs of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga for a charity scrimmage that raised a substantial sum for the team.
Football is not left ashore when Jones boards Janie. There's the requisite big-screen in the skylounge, in this case a 61-inch plasma, but that's not the center of action. When at anchor, Jones and his buddies take over the pilothouse. "It doubles as a gentlemen's room," says Jones. The nine screens lining the helm are connected to nine satellite receivers and according to Jones, "It doesn't get any better than that!"
Although most of the design and much of the construction were completed when Jones acquired Janie, he worked with designer Scott Carpenter of Charlotte, North Carolina, to make the interior his. It is fully traditional, with an abundance of exquisite and highly detailed woodwork forming the bulkheads, marble tiles and ankle-deep carpet lining the decks and rich tapestries at the windows. A subtle compass-rose theme is repeated throughout the yacht with inlays in many of the spaces, and rich silks and soft velvets are used for soft goods.
The saloon has three comfortable sofas and two chairs, all pulled away from the sides to create a more intimate arrangement for conversation and to allow easier passage through the room. There's also a baby grand player piano at the after end of the saloon, and a theater system with 50-inch plasma screen forward. Original art, specially commissioned for the yacht, adorns the bulkheads and niches.
The traditional arrangement continues with a starboard passageway and foyer, and a formal dining room to port that accommodates the full guest complement of 10 at a huge circular table. The overhead here is domed and decorated with painted artwork. The corners of the dining room are softened with attractive china cupboards that fulfill both functional and aesthetic roles.
Abaft the saloon is an open aft deck, again with a table for 10. The table is set forward a bit, leaving space for a buffet and serving area aft, between the two stairways to the swim platform. The area is fitted with air-conditioning and can be enclosed when desired.
The bridge deck, in addition to the skylounge and the wheelhouse/gentlemen's room, carries a captain's cabin, a large and sensibly functional chart/navigation area, and aft, an alfresco dining area. The top deck has a spacious spa, lounging area and bar forward, with tender stowage aft.
Guest accommodations include four staterooms below deck, surrounding a central foyer that has a small buffet with refrigerated drawers to facilitate a late-night snack. The two aft staterooms have king beds; one includes a tub while the other has a shower. A third stateroom has a queen bed, the fourth, twin berths and a Pullman.
The master suite, forward on the main deck, has a king bed, full beam hanging locker, settee and vanity. The bath includes both a whirlpool tub and a huge glass-enclosed shower. There's a small office, which, along with the day head, separates the master stateroom from the foyer. The triple-coffered overhead in the stateroom, as well as the carved onyx sink in the day head, testify to the level of detail that Trinity can achieve.
While that detail is most obvious within the guest and public spaces, arguably the most impressive workmanship is in the engineroom, with its acres of polished stainless steel. It is an absolute showpiece, rivaled perhaps-but not excelled-only by Roger Penske's magnificent Detroit Eagle. Perhaps there's a little competition afloat as well as on the track?
Here, Trinity must share the credit with David Doll, captain of Rick Hendrick's yacht and his project manager for this build. Doll stayed on to complete the project after Jones assumed ownership, before returning full-time to Hendrick. He has also substituted aboard Janie for Jones' captain, Don Edwards, on occasion.
Chatting at length with Doll in the engineroom (I'm an incorrigible gearhead at heart) I find him happy to point out many of the special features that might go unnoticed to the casual observer, things like the dry-stack generator exhaust, easy-to-access fuel, fire and bilge manifolds, and the redundancies on many systems. As Jones comments to me, "Hendrick might have a whole new career, just doing enginerooms."
And what does Allan Jones think of working with Trinity Yachts? As mentioned earlier, he's talking with them about another larger yacht, so his satisfaction may be taken for granted. He's also quick to mention an unexpected benefit discovered on his first trip to the New Orleans yard: Trinity co-owner John Dane is personal friends with famed chef and restaurateur Emeril Lagasse. As Jones wryly observes, "Trinity makes it a lot of fun to build a boat."
Janie is available for charter through The Sacks Group. Rates are reported as $157,000 to $175,000 per week, plus expenses. Just keep in mind that availability may be limited during football season, especially if UTC is playing.
Contact: Trinity Yachts, (504) 283-4050; www.trinityyachts.com. Charter contact: The Sacks Group, (954) 764-7742;