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The Leading Man

At 87 years young, Leon Slikkers is still in front as Tiara Yachts enters a new era.

January 25, 2016
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Tiara Q44

Tiara Q44

Slikkers, founder of Tiara Yachts and Pursuit Boats. Courtesy Tiara Yachts

Designing a new boat involves thousands of decisions. For Leon Slikkers, those decisions include details most people never notice.

In 1946, at age 18, Slikkers started his boatbuilding career with Chris-Craft. Nearly 70 years later, the founder of Tiara Yachts and Pursuit Boats still creates a full-scale mock-up of every new model, reshaping it until he feels it’s ready to launch. “We had to rethink the whole design process,” he says about the Q44, Tiara’s first day boat. “We wanted to create something very similar to an SUV on the water.”

Virtually every U.S. center-console builder refers to the SUV experience, and many European brands have adopted day-boat concepts — sometimes with bizarre results.

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Slikkers and Tiara designer Andrew Bartlett, however, set out to truly redefine the luxury day boat, using elements from superyachts (a teak beach) and sport-utility vehicles (a roof rack). It took three years to dial in every detail, and the result is a new boat category for Tiara and for the brand’s pioneer.

BUILDING A YACHT DYNASTY

1946: 18-year-old Leon R. Slikkers leaves his family farm for a job at the Chris-Craft plant in Holland, Michigan. Slikkers rises to the position of foreman in the joiner department.

1956: Slikkers founds his own company, Slick Craft, working with a radical new material called fiberglass.

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1974: Slikkers launches S2, parent company of Tiara Yachts and Pursuit. Sons David and Robert join the company soon after its start. A third son, Tom, follows their lead in the early ’80s.

2005: The Slikkers have three plants that employ 1,100 people, having designed dozens of yacht models.

2015: Leon, chairman of S2, helps create a new style of yacht: the Tiara Q44. Collaborating closely with head designer Andrew Bartlett, Slikkers’ fresh take on a day boat design carves a new niche for the company.

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