“Can’t we do it in the United States?”
That was the overriding thought in the heads of an American owner and his captain, Bill Zinser, when they began laying groundwork for a new yacht seven years ago. The duo had bought, refitted and/or commissioned four megayachts already, so they were well versed in what they wanted and needed. Surely a U.S. yard could build it — couldn’t it?
The prevailing wisdom throughout the 1990s held otherwise. Only European shipyards could deliver a project of the magnitude they were considering, closing in on 3,000 gross tons. In classic American style, however, the owner and his captain remained optimistic.
It paid off: The result is the 281-foot Cakewalk, the largest yacht by volume built on American soil, and the second-largest by length built stateside since the 343-foot Corsair IV in 1930. Furthermore, this build brought the skills of a quiet New England shipyard to global attention.
That shipyard is Derecktor Shipyards, based in Bridgeport, Connecticut, long run by a family that prefers focusing on the work at hand to seeking the limelight. As the “Shipyards” part of the name implies, Derecktor has other facilities — in Mamaroneck, New York, and Dania, Florida. Derecktor Florida had actually refitted a previous Cakewalk, originally built by Feadship as Fiffanella, adding 10 feet to her 132-foot overall length. It became one of the largest refits of the mid-1990s. Zinser and the owner were pleased with the work, so naturally Derecktor Shipyards ended up on their short list for the new project.
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While Zinser and the owner were doing their homework, so was Derecktor. Hugo van Wieringen, the director of Azure Naval Architects, was approached by Paul Derecktor, president of the yard. Paul Derecktor explained that he’d like Derecktor Connecticut, known for its ferries and other commercial projects, to take on more yachts. He proposed teaming with Azure Naval Architects on a few designs and builds. Coincidentally, “quite soon after that, I met with Bill Zinser and learned that the owner wanted to build a bigger yacht, and preferably in the USA,” van Wieringen says. (He knew Zinser and the owner from his days in the De Voogt Naval Architects office of Feadship prior to setting up his own shop.) Introductions were made all around at the 2005 Monaco Yacht Show.