There is something special about Hargrave Yacht’s new 84-foot motoryacht that I think is worth sharing. It is not her design, although I find her tasteful, contemporary American styling refreshing-to my eyes Euro-chic has worn thin. It is not her interior arrangement, although its variation on the raised pilothouse motoryacht theme is truly creative and unique. What is special is the backstory of how this motoryacht reached the water and how, even in challenging economic times, the passion of a designer and a builder can create a winner.
If you’ve wandered the docks for more than a few years the Hargrave name should be familiar. The late yacht designer Jack Hargrave’s work played a significant role in shaping modern American yachting. The hundreds of yachts he penned still provide satisfaction for their owners as well as inspiration for a new generation of designers. It is this legacy that inspired Mike Joyce to launch Hargrave Yachts in 1998. While Joyce’s vision was to create a successful boatbuilding company, it was his respect for the late designer that drove his business plan.
“Jack looked like a recruiting poster for the Marine Corps,” said Joyce, who went to work in Hargrave’s brokerage office in 1976. Joyce explains that a snowstorm brought them together. “I was watching a television report on a blizzard that had buried my marina,” said Joyce. “Commentator Heywood Hale Broun was explaining that the “stump” he had his foot on was actually the top of a phone pole- that was it…I was headed for Florida.” Joyce had several job offers but signed on with Hargrave on the advice of a savvy friend who realized the designer’s significance. “My friend told me that for the rest of my career I could proudly say ‘I had worked with Hargrave’- he was right!”
Joyce launched his own successful yacht brokerage in 1981. We met while I was serving as a yacht designer with the late Tom Fexas. Joyce seemed an endless source of knowledgeable and challenging clients. He expressed an excitement for new design that he seemed able to transmit to his customers. He would spend hours in our office tweaking designs and as much time at the yard sorting out the details. Unlike most in his line of work, he seemed to enjoy the process more than the commission checks. As predicted, Joyce’s pride for having served in the Hargrave office never waned, and he was working on a book about the designer when Hargrave passed away. It was completed with the help of the Hargrave family but Joyce felt there was more to do. “Hargrave was an icon in the marine industry, and I was determined not to let the brand fade away.” As I remember, when Joyce told me that he intended to buy Hargrave’s company I pointed out that yacht design was often charity work-but I had underestimated Joyce. His blend of passion and business sense paid off and Hargrave Yachts thrived.
While Hargrave surrounded himself with a talented and dedicated staff, he was the creative nexus of the company. Developing new Hargrave designs like the 84 became Joyce’s most daunting challenge and Ted Black proved to be the perfect solution. I introduced the two of them in the late 1980s when Black and I were working together on a number of design projects. “I had met Mike before he acquired Hargrave and immediately liked him,” said Black. “Mike understood design and had a passion for the process.” A graduate of both Parsons School of Design and Pratt Institute, Black was already a seasoned industrial designer before his eye wandered to yachts. He had worked with design icon Donald Deskey, the designer of Radio City Music Hall. At King Casey, he helped pen the iconic bull for Merrill Lynch. In the early 1980s, he managed design at Page Avjet, where he turned 747s into flying palaces for heads of state and customized other commercial jets for Forbes and Trump. By the time he and I were fiddling with yacht design, Ted claimed he was “retired” and simply having a bit of fun. In Ted Black, Joyce found a gifted designer who understood his vision of keeping “the Hargrave” in Hargrave Yachts. Joyce had Ted in his business plan from the start: “When I took over the company I had Ted warming up in the bullpen…he was on board the day we started and has been an integral part of our organization-from yacht design to branding.”
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The success of the Joyce/Black relationship is displayed in the 84. I believe she is the sort of boat that Jack Hargrave would have liked. She is a sensible size for her mission and she makes no concessions in terms of styling trends. Her house needs no dramatic fiberglass sculpting and her hull lines are not violated by oddly shaped, oversized picture windows. She is the sort of boat that will still look good twenty years from now, while others will appear dated-this has proven true of virtually every boat Jack Hargrave designed. “Jack never used styling gimmicks-the appeal of his designs was their simple elegance and their proper proportion and that has been our focus,” said Black.
Black feels that the marine industry has too often tried to emulate the auto industry. “Car designers are driven by a different culture and a design cycle that demands change whether it’s needed or not,” said Black. “Yacht design moves at a slower pace and should be driven by what makes sense at sea.” For example the 84’s window lines are not arranged for styling shock-and-awe but so that those aboard will have a clear view of the sea. Her exterior profile was crafted with walkaround side decks for handling lines. A wide-body version will likely be offered as well, but Black sees it as a compromise that Jack would have tolerated but not encouraged.
“Ted was a fan of Jack Hargrave,” suggests Joyce. “He has been careful to reconnect with the traditional Hargrave styling before expanding it.” While Black’s design brief for the 84 was weighted with respect for what has come before, he has included creative features that Jack Hargrave may have never considered. Though technically a raised pilothouse design, a clever abbreviated interior helm station offset to starboard creates an open main cabin. Above, a cantilevered mast design leaves the bridge hardtop clear and allows for an oversized sunroof. The real magic is that Black has gracefully blended these sorts of thoughtful assets to produce a pleasing contemporary design. To my eye the 84 is the best looking post-Hargrave Hargrave to date. Her interior décor is equally good and was created by Yacht Interiors by Shelley.
The 84’s conservative specifications would likely have pleased Jack Hargrave too. She is not overstuffed with horsepower-she’s a yacht intended for cruising in comfort and she offers relative economy for her size. Her pair of 1,675-horsepower, Caterpillar C32s allow a maximum speed of 24 knots. However, she cruises easily at 20 knots and has a range of over 800 nautical miles at 10 knots.
Joyce has not only secured the Hargrave legacy, but together with Black, he has moved the brand forward. “Jack was frustrated towards the end of his career because clients were less interested in his new concepts-they wanted his classics,” said Joyce. “It was Sinatra singing ‘Strangers in the Night’ for an entire show.” The 84 breaks new ground for Hargrave. I’m certain Jack would be glad that Joyce and Black are standing watch.
Hargrave Yachts, (954) 463-0555; **www.hargrave.org**