YARD PROFILES - Belize

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Movers and shakers Wes Moxey and Lee Dillion talk about the making of Belize, a new luxury-boat brand born in the discerning post GFC era and based on an innovative virtual manufacturing model at a well established and respected Taiwanese yard. DAVID LOCKWOOD gets the scoop...

YARD PROFILES - Belize
YARD PROFILES — Belize
Good mates Wes Moxey and Lee Dillon need no introduction but their background is everything. After all, in this age of great scrutiny and diligence, experience counts for everything. While fly-by new-boat brands struggle to get a toehold, marques with heritage enjoy strong custom. Moxey and Dillon hope to trade off their past to create a new global boat brand.

Wes started his career as a shipwright at Carrington Slipways in Newcastle before moving to the Gold Coast and establishing a boat-repair business. He then went to Riviera to work in the New Product Development side of the business. He studied the production of Grand Banks in Singapore before they were made under licence in Australia, and then worked his was up to CEO at Riviera before relinquishing the helm after 26 years at the big Gold Coast yard.

Lee meanwhile was with the Riviera brand from its inception in 1980 and in the ensuing 25 years became Sydney’s leading boat dealer selling more Riviera’s than anyone else. His forte was customer service, second to none. He did a stint in management at Riviera and was on the Riviera board before resigning and embarking on a marine-industry sabbatical a few years back.

Using their collective nous, Moxey and Dillon are in the process of building a new niche cruiser range with a difference. Belize is the badge. And the first thing they were adamant about was that their boats would be built in Asia.

"Starting Belize with a clean sheet of paper, we wanted to develop some-thing special and unique," says Wes.

"From the outset, we both had the philosophy of creating a standard of boat design and construction that was the highest we could possibly achieve. We wanted to limit production volume to allow this level of quality and we wanted to partner with the best people in their respective fields.

"Finally, we wanted to create a truly global brand and range of boats that would have equal appeal in the major boating markets of Europe, the US, Asia and of course in Australia," he explains.

Asia, Wes and Lee decided, was the perfect manufacturing base for Belize given the great skill and heritage of the Taiwan shipbuilding industry, the ready access to global shipping and the ability to trade in US dollars.

So the duo set about considering their options and toured many yards before settling upon a very established Taiwanese yard with a long tenure and history to help develop their range. Wes has since spent most of his time in Kaohsiung (at Kha Shing Enterprises), guiding them in modern boatbuilding and production techniques to achieve far more complex moulds and standards that allow for repeatable quality with an efficient use of man hours.

"That’s probably the one area that they’ve lacked exposure to, as most people that have gone there with a design or brand have not had the production experience or the knowledge that I’ve been exposed to over the years," Wes enthuses.

KHA SHING ENTERPRISES
A fully ISO-certified builder, Kha Shing Enterprises build all their yachts to the ISO quality-management system as well as all of the regional and international standards where required. These include CE, RINA, Bureau Veritas, DNV, MCA, and ABYC. Kha Shing Enterprises has a reputation as a skilful fabricator of GRP boats and has been one of the largest yachtbuilders in Asia since 1977. It’s capable of building yachts ranging from 40ft to 145ft in a variety of styles and sizes. The yard has delivered more than 1500 boats worldwide in the past 35 years, and partnered with well-known badges like Monte Fino and Hargraves and with designers such as Ed Dubois, Ward Setzer and Tony Castro.

In respect of the construction of Belize, the boats are all handlaid using resin-fed rollers. Everything’s matt rather than chopper. But Wes has created much more complex moulds than what he’s been used to in the past. "It’s a split mould, split two ways, centreline and transom, to get the shape and styling that we are after," he explains.

The investment in design development tooling is said to be a seven-figure sum. So Wes and Lee did not want to leave anything to chance. Working with Australian-based naval architects Oceanic Yacht Design, the hull and running surface
was designed and then tank-tested at the Australian Maritime College in Tasmania.

BUILDING THE BRAND
Lee came up with the name Belize after a friend had returned from an extended cruising adventure in the region. He researched the market and found out there was nothing else with the name. It’s a beautiful part of the world — sitting north of the equator on the eastern coast of Central America and facing the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. Belize has a 174-mile-long barrier reef and more than 1000 white-sand islands, all of which makes it a dream boating destination. And it’s catchy, with an upmarket European feel.

We were shown the badge that will appear on the boat. Belize Motoryachts is the company name but just Belize will appear on the side of the boats. The red colour in the badge is for B or Bravo on the international flag chart.

In parallel with the development of the branding work, their focus was on making Belize a globally-acceptable design. "That was the success of my past, building a boat that had European influence and styling, that had American sizing, and the practical approach from Australia," Wes says.

Wes believes when you put those three key elements together correctly you end up with a lot of the key drivers that are important to boating consumers globally. And it is very much a global market these days. So the first model will be a hardtop and then they’ll also offer a flybridge model by the end of this year.

But they make the point they’re not trying to follow — and this is the hard part for them after spending so long with one company — but are seeking to be different. "We believe that boaters today are looking for something new, something different and something more unique," says Wes. "That’s been the challenge for us on a daily basis with every aspect of this project. To step back and review the market objectively and then see how we could do it better."

POINTS OF DIFFERENCE
Because they’re building overseas, they have some latitude, and don’t have to have a cost, cost, cost focus on every material and component. That’s what they’ve got away from by going to Taiwan. An example being, a typical bowrail on a cruiser is a 32mm round rail with a 25mm leg. Belize has got a 60mm by 40mm oval tube (elliptical), stainless steel (electro-polished) with 32mm leg, all invisibly fastened and beautifully done, we’re assured.

"We have to deliver better quality and design than established brands with clear points of difference," Wes explains.

"We believe our future success will come from delivering our clients a very personally-built boat to suit their individual and experienced needs. We do not want to be a high-production volume brand; we just want to be the best," he says.

NAUTICAL STYLE
Wes says he’s influenced by automotive companies that have gone back to the past and then really brought their heritage forward with a contemporary approach.

Belize’s in-house lead designer is Stephen Ford, who spent his early years in the UK with the industry-leading Sunseeker before moving to Australia and working with Riviera.

Stephen works with Wes on design and they are supported by a number of external contract consultants.

Italian Giorgia Drudi is responsible for the interior design and she quotes Bruno Zevi’s thesis as her design mantra that "everything that does not have an interior space is not architecture". Giorgia has worked at Ferretti but now lives in Australia. She’s fully embraced Wes and Lee’s challenge to be better and different and has produced an interior design that pairs well with the boats distinctive external lines.

"The exterior is very different to our past and other offerings in the market," said Wes.

"We want you to walk past the boat at a marina, stop and say: ‘Wow, what’s that boat?’ If we achieve that on the exterior then you will want to walk onboard.

"There, you won’t be disappointed either. There’ll be a blend of two-pack polyurethane finishes used to accent key surfaces and design elements and a contemporary palette of fabric panel walls, leather, leatherette and timbers that will combine to create a warm and inviting ambience. There’ll even be the odd fiddle," Wes laughs.

POD PROPS AFT
They’ve gone with Cummins Zeus pod drives for a reason. Wes believes the aft-facing propellers suit the experienced-boating nature of their prospective owners. The package suits the hull design, the engines are robust, the drives are tough, the propellers are protected and they can still run a keel. That was one of their key criteria. It helps the tracking of the boat in a following sea and controls your sideway-motion in the wind at anchor or when berthing.

After getting approval from Cummins’ in-house naval architect, who reviews the tunnels, LCG, weight and deadrise, for example, they took their hull to the Australian Marine College for tank testing. They did two sets of tests and made some small changes while there. The boat has a warped-plane hull with about 12° of deadrise at the transom, which increases going forward to a very fine entry. There’s a nice big flare in the bow with a very substantial turn-down chine for spray deflection.

"We wanted a soft and dry ride," said Wes.

"When we were working with our naval architect, he was surprised when I wanted to pull the chines in, especially given my past life where we’re always trying to chase volume in the interior.

"He was very happy when I said pull the chines in two inches either side as he knew this would enhance the ride characteristics. We want the performance and ride to equal the stately exterior," Wes added.

Lee adds that there’s an enormous amount of technical detail involved in a project of this magnitude and that they’re not leaving any of it to chance. That and the fact they’re working with real craftsmen is a great asset. The boat was designed and engineered here and then the plans were sent over to Taiwan. As Belize are offering a five-year structural warranty — the boat will be built to CE Category B (B Offshore: designed for offshore where conditions up to and including wind force 8 and wave height up to and including 13ft). So they’ve got to build it to strict weight and structure calculations.

The local Belize team goes online almost daily with the yard and moves around in 3D images, while talking to the boatbuilders about what they see. It’s collaboration between the old and the new. Despite all the latest 3D and CAD technology, they still made a craftwood mock-up of the boat, deck, dash and other components before producing the moulds. "You need to check every angle, all the details and the scale of things in relationship to each other," says Wes, "there’s nothing like touching, feeling and testing the real thing in the development process.

"If I had a criticism of Taiwan it’s that they’ve been too influenced by American designers without the production knowledge," Wes says. He’s catalogued all the build steps and details going back to September last year to assist in future production.

The second hull is now in production and the deck plug has just been signed off, it was to be two-pack sprayed as I wrote this. They put 30 people on the deck plug just to fair it before painting. The first Belize will arrive in late August. The first two layers in the hull will be vinylester and with painted hull finishes, they will look rather special.

BELIZE RANGE
The first model is 52ft with a 16ft6in beam, wide and deep walkaround decks, traced by the aforesaid almighty bowrail.

Heat-resistant E-glass has been used for the overhead skylights in the hardtop aft of the big sliding sunroof, with blinds as well. Burmese teak will be used on the deck. The big portlights in the hull sides have opening stainless steel ports for natural ventilation. The saloon floor features vacuum-bagged foam for greater insulation and strength without weight, but the engines will be mounted in such a way that they can be wheeled to the centre of the boat and easily removable.

The engines sit well outboard, with the batteries easily accessible on the centreline, to allow for the 3m tender in the aft garage. The centre of the swimplatform will be submersible, but with fixed wings so you can launch the duckie without getting your feet wet.

The cockpit will have a hopper window, too, but a curved rear bulkhead with clever doors and inbuilt blinds. There will be options of two or three cabins, a standard full-width master cabin, and two bathrooms.

There’s been considerable attention paid to the bilge system, says Wes, to ensure the Belize doesn’t hold dirty water at rest and underway. Air-con units are mounted high so they drain overboard. Engine vents, with fan ducting, are inboard. There should be no reason there’s any water whatsoever in the engineroom.

It’s going to be a shippy fitout, with aluminium fuel tanks and big balance lines, Wema fuel and water gauges and BEP C-Zone
AC/DC switching. All the lights on the boat are LED. Raymarine G-series multifunction screens are the electronics of choice, with Mastervolt chosen for the charger, inverter and sealed batteries.

And with a joystick, it will be an easy boat for a couple to manage from the big, open, day flybridge or internal helm station. Cockpit cameras will relay images of the boat’s extremities, with the option of a cockpit docking station. But there will be few options offered on what will be loaded boats.

Besides the 52 Hardtop and subsequent 52 Flybridge, another two Belize models are planned — smaller and bigger. In all cases, the boats will be positioned somewhere between a production-made and a custom-built boat. Wes is quick to point out he’s building a niche boat.

"There are a lot of people out there who have owned a number of boats over the years and have now reached that stage where they want something a little bit different and more customised to their individual needs. They want to pull into a bay and say ‘I’m the only one with one of these’," explains Lee.

"We both like the traditional timber-boat look. But there’s too much maintenance with these boats and some of their modern counterparts," Wes says. "We’re not trying to be all things to all people; we very much want that stately, classic look married with all the convenience and ease of modern technology. We have a clear and exciting direction of where we want Belize to go."

"After all, it is our last job," adds Lee. "Our brand will grow organically and we’ll keep control of the whole thing." Lee and Wes will be at Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show to officially launch their new brand.

Photos: A Kha Shing Enterprises-built hull is lifted from the mould; an Onan genset sits amid tanks, all waiting for installation; attaching the Cummins engine and pod-drive to the hull; Belize boys, Lee Dillon (left) and Wes Moxey; workers piece things together from a giant template; others handlay the figbreglass hull; straight from the mould, a new Belize hull.

 


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