An exercise in how being open to new discoveries can introduce you to your perfect yacht.
J.R Ridinger is passionate about 62.6-metre Project Vector, the yacht he has in build at Rossinavi; that much is obvious. From his active body language when talking about the minutiae of the interiors to the way he enthuses about the propulsion system, this is a man who has scoured the globe’s best shipbuilders to create his next superyacht, and found exactly what he wanted. And he just can’t get enough.
“I was aggressively trying to find a boat with the right specifications. You know we’re all a little bit weird when we’ve been in boating for 20 years, and I didn’t want a plastic hull etc. I wasn’t being difficult, but I wanted a bigger boat which had to have more staterooms, more space, it had to be fast (anything under 14 knots long range and I’m out), and had to have the right draught for Miami.”
He ended up stumbling across Project Vector, a yacht already in build at Italian yard Rossinavi. “When I first saw the boat I thought, ‘This doesn’t make any sense.’ I’m an old school, twin-screw, deep-vee hull kind of guy, and when I saw this I just thought, ‘How can this be?’ And I know there are a lot of people like me. They are fixated on what they already know, so I really researched the yacht hard. And the more I researched the yacht, the more it made sense. She was already in build, as the superstructure and the hull was built for the owner who started the project. I was extremely sceptical, but the more I looked, the more convincing it was. To me the style of yacht was a complete paradigm shift. And I was also scared of shipyards,
I had only ever bought a boat that was finished, I’d heard too many nightmares, but we got to the point where I agreed if we could get close on the price then I would look deeper. It was over what I was expecting to spend, but I re-evaluated the case, and I was at a point in my life where I thought, ‘Loosen up, go a little deeper!’ My wife Loren Ridinger and Claudia Rossi, sales manager at Rossinavi, made the deal. Honestly! Somehow they got it together.”
Part of what encouraged Ridinger to take the plunge was the relationship he developed with the yard. “I can feel them,” he explains. “They’re like I am, in my own area. It’s not about doing the deal, it’s about doing it right. And in yachting I had never seen that before. When I started dealing with them I recognised similar traits in my own family and business. In my family business there’s no nepotism, everyone is a rockstar, and I started checking Rossinavi out: no skeletons in the closet and they deliver on time. And when we met with them, that did it. They were so passionate, it wasn’t a business deal, it was a passion to make history together. This was one year ago and the boat is due for delivery in March 2018.”
Project Vector is a yacht you can talk about in detail for hours, with her unique design cues and impressive sporty style. Luckily for Ridinger and his family, she was exactly what they were looking for. “We didn’t make many changes. Maybe a couple of lifestyle things, we have three new grandchildren, and the family is on the boat a lot. So we made minor changes like that. We looked at the plans really hard as we have a very consistent, defined lifestyle, so we know what we need and what we want. But nothing was that far off. Already an awful lot of thought had gone into a lifestyle of entertainment. You look at the stern of the boat, something that is normally a practical and crew-orientated space, and Project Vector has turned it into an entertainment space. It’s incredible.”
There are plenty of spaces on board that get this excited owner talking passionately, reeling through them like a shopping list, but he has a serious point to make: “Things that work in boats are generally done over and over again, because it’s hard to get right. The master stateroom has a starboard balcony that folds out, and the flow of the boat is excellent. But somehow they’ve redone it. My experience has been that it’s really hard to merge great design with structural engineering, they’re always fighting each other.”
The philosophy of the interior design by Enrico Gobbi also matched well with the Ridinger vision. “This design, the minimalistic, Italian, sexy design, I don’t care what motif you like, it’s not going to offend you, and it actually draws you to it. My wife has designed four of our houses, and she loved it right away. Enrico is a genius. And usually trying to make it right with scalability and size, the placement argues with the architecture. I don’t know how he did this, but when my wife saw it, it was very easy to work with him and change colours and make adjustments without changing the overall concept. We did it in a weekend!”
The experience has so far been a foray into new territory for Ridinger, and he is overwhelmingly positive about the serendipity of the adventure. “The miracle of this project is that it had the speed and the draught we needed. It is a total paradigm shift for me. Lots of people are doing new things but this project puts it all together I think. The propulsion system, the dimensions of the boat, the stability, and they’ve somehow blended it with the fantastic design. This boat is revolutionary, it really is. I feel like everyone is going to be copying it. I like to get in early with things and not lose, and I think that I’ve hit the jackpot! I have ended up being a yachting man for 25 years by accident. I didn’t plan this, I don’t even know how it happened! But here I am.”
Like many owners, Ridinger wanted to be able to work from his yacht, but his yacht is also part of his brand. “Indirectly, without it being a business entity, I’ve had so many deals and relationships come together through the yachts, I can’t even measure it. It’s a great discovery, one of the great accidents of my life. I never thought I would be well off, or a yachtsman or that a boat could be such a great instrument of commerce. I had to buy a bigger boat because I had too much going on on our current yacht, Utopia III!”
So being on the yacht isn’t just an exercise in downtime for Ridinger and his family. “Our lifestyle on board is in the digital age, and everything I do, my philosophy of business is that
I don’t want to trade time for money, so if I can operate out of a digital office then I will. And what better office to have? I’m in the ecommerce business so the technology of being able to have connectivity and broadband is very important. Being down or slow is not acceptable.” Apart from anything else, it sounds like a Millennial’s paradise.
Project Vector is also a yacht full of legacies and will be called Utopia IV when launched in March 2018.“The perfect place, fourth time around. In our circle people collect things, such as cars, watches and real estate. I collect people. I have a huge collection of very interesting people, and Utopia has kind of become a brand for me. I would hate to change the name. We also do charity and business events on the boats, such as Make A Wish events, and my wife has hosted breast cancer charities. We personally do about two a year, but other people ask to have their charity events on board, so we facilitate that even though we’re not the organisers.”
And it’s not just his immediate circle that Ridinger wants to keep interested. “I’ve had 15 captains over the years, I’ve now got one that’s great, and a great engineer. Captains and engineers are important, and when they’re great you’ve always got to worry about losing them. Well, this boat is keeping them! They’re so excited about it. They go over to Italy, they’re very heavily involved and feel like they’re part of it.” The new yacht will certainly be a new challenge for the crew. “The propulsion comes from four waterjets and they all steer. It’s going to be interesting, a challenge for the captain!” laughs Ridinger. And for the engineer there is certainly enough to keep him busy too, with four engines, one for each jet. The draught is a shallow 2.2-metres, which was an important part of the original ‘must-have’ specifications list that Ridinger started his search with, allowing the boat to navigate the Floridian Intercostals and moor outside the family home in Miami. “They came up with a way to not draw water from the bottom of the boat, but to draw it from the side, so you don’t suck up the bottom in shallow waters, like in the Bahamas,” explains Ridinger. This is a man who has done his research.
And after all his effort in the early search and build, Ridinger plans to enjoy the fruits of his labour. “Many yacht owners that I know don’t really use or enjoy their yacht. For Loren and me it’s a big part of our lives. I do think we use it a lot, but I think we could use this one more. Do some long trips while she’s still new and fresh, live it up a little, because our digital office is there anyway!” To be planning trips 15 months before delivery is testament to his passion for the project, both how and what it stands for: “They didn’t sacrifice style for use. It’s eloquent but it’s designed to be fun.” This sounds like a yacht that will certainly enjoy her fair share of fun.