The pursuit of Excellence

Excellence (2019). Photo: Abeking & Rasmussen

The pursuit of Excellence

Excellence (2019). Photo: Abeking & Rasmussen

Craft

The pursuit of Excellence

For Boston-based businessman Herb Chambers, building a superyacht is just as enjoyable as enjoying the finished product.

By Julia Zaltzman | 9 July 2020

“My exposure to boating began with summers spent at my grandmother’s cottage, just south of Boston,” says serial yacht builder Herb Chambers. “I had friends who owned small boats, and I always had the desire to own one too.” Fast forward to today, and Herb has owned in excess of 40 yachts, often selling them as quickly as he can buy or build them.

For Herb, the enjoyment of yacht ownership comes from being on the water – “it’s somewhat magical,” he enthuses – but his appreciation for the design and the build process itself is integral to the experience.

The pursuit of Excellence

Herb Chambers on board his superyacht

The pursuit of Excellence

Herb Chambers on board his superyacht

Herb regards yacht design as an art form. Scouring marinas wherever he goes for inspiration, his self-proclaimed fascination for boats is bolstered by the sheer diversity of yachts on the market. “I could look at boats all day long, because they’re all different,” he says. “Even when I took delivery of my latest yacht, I walked the marina during the 2019 Monaco Yacht Show looking at every other boat out there.”

“I always get so excited when I see a shipyard’s progress of the wiring, the plumbing and the layout of a boat. Some people don’t care about that, but I love it,” he says. “It took about three or four years to build my first Feadship yacht; I enjoyed building it just as much as I did using it.”

The pursuit of Excellence

Excellence (2019). Photo: Abeking & Rasmussen

The pursuit of Excellence

Excellence (2019). Photo: Abeking & Rasmussen

For all the other visitors attending the principality’s annual boat show last year, it was Herb’s 80m Abeking & Rasmussen head-turner Excellence that became the star attraction. Scooping Finest New Superyacht and Best Exterior at the 2019 Show awards, the yacht’s unusual bow (a homage to Philippe Starck’s highly distinctive Motor Yacht A) and triple-height glass atrium demand attention. For Herb, who has always believed that the future of yachting will involve huge glass windows, Excellence is the realisation of a long-term vision made possible by technical advances in large-scale glass manufacture and shipyard capabilities.

“When designer Andrew Winch showed me a rendering of the design, I saw the big windows and said, ‘That is terrific. I didn’t realise that you could get glass that size.’ He explained that it was a new technology. To get the glass is one thing, but then to be able to install it on board is an engineering feat in itself.”

The pursuit of Excellence

Excellence (2019) at the Monaco Yacht Show. Photo: Mc-Clic 2019

The pursuit of Excellence

Excellence (2019) at the Monaco Yacht Show. Photo: Mc-Clic 2019

His latest yacht may be his largest, but his eye for detail came to the fore in 2005 when sketching designs for a previous incarnation of Excellence. “I sat on the aft deck of my boat in France with Abeking & Rasmussen, and we designed it together,” he recalls. “I told them what I wanted the bow to look like, and I had different ideas on other features, which we incorporated. The shipyard built the boat and I sold it before I even took delivery. Abeking built four or five more boats that were almost identical in design after that because it was something that was very appealing to other people besides me.”

The volume of yachts that Herb has designed, built and owned has shaped his preferences today. Time spent with his family and entertaining friends is crucial, and draft length has become a point of focus for the entrepreneur, so as to allow him to access his favourite cruising grounds, such as Ocean Reef Club on the Florida Keys and the shallow waters of the Bahamas.

 

The pursuit of Excellence

Excellence (2001)

The pursuit of Excellence

Excellence (2001)

With the majority of his yachts made available for charter, keeping one back for his private use is also integral to Herb’s happiness. He considers his 46m yacht built by Feadship (also named Excellence), which is currently listed for sale with Burgess and Merle Wood & Associates, to be his personal boat. Bought by Herb in 2018, but built by his long-time friend Roger Penske in 2001, the yacht is lightweight and fast.

“It has a beautiful engine room, everything in chrome and fire engine red, and it runs at about 23 knots on diesel engines. If you really want it to go fast, you can push a button and the turbine engine kicks in taking the boat up to about 33 knots,” he says. “I enjoy cruising at around 13 knots, but every now and then, if the weather’s kind of turning or you’re in a hurry to get some place and you want to go fast, in that boat you can.”

 

The pursuit of Excellence

Excellence (2001)

The pursuit of Excellence

Excellence (2001)

Size matters, too. When cruising the deep waters of the Mediterranean or the Caribbean, bigger boats are more comfortable in rough seas, he says, with more space to store tenders and toys. Hence his need to always have more than one yacht at a time. But most important of all is design.

“You don’t want your boat to look like a cookie-cutter,” he says, reflecting on his latest choice. “I wanted a boat that if you were a mile away from it, you would recognise it as being Excellence. I like that.”

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