Founded in 1863, the American yard Burger Boat Company has produced a number of noteworthy custom yachts over the years, such as the recently sold 38.4-metre Bella Una and the 31.5-metre Northland, delivered last November. Today we sit down with Jim Ruffolo, who has been Burger Boat Company's President and CEO for the last 12 years. Ruffolo's ability to adapt in the industry, alongside his profound knowledge of yachting, becomes apparent as he discusses the company's prior accomplishments and what he envisions for them in the future.
You have been Burger Boat Company President since 2007. What have been some of the most exciting developments at the company since you took over at the helm?
In my 12 years as President and CEO of Burger, we’ve seen a lot of change in the industry. While continuing to pursue full custom yacht projects, Burger has embraced its roots by also offering new commercial vessel construction as well as yacht and commercial repair and refit services. We’ve also renewed our focus on adopting an internal culture of continuous improvement and have cross-trained our staff to provide even more value for their own careers and for Burger’s clients.
The ability of the Burger team to quickly adapt and build upon its incredible depth of knowledge allows us to create amazing vessels, whether they are yachts or commercial projects. That knowledge and passion were evident during the construction of our most recent deliveries, the 103’-6” expedition-style yacht Northland and our first Burger 48 Cruiser, Blue Boat Home. Two very different projects with very personal visions from their owners. The Burger team now, more than ever, has the passion, knowledge and an intimate understanding, not just of what it takes to deliver an impeccable yacht or commercial vessel, but also what it takes to exceed an owner’s expectations. The repeated demonstrations of these characteristics have excited me since taking the helm. The knowledge this team has about yacht building, and its ability to adapt to any style, should be exciting for anyone seeking to build a new yacht.Photo: Jeff Brown / Breed MediaYour most recent delivery over 25 metres was the 31.55-metre expedition-style yacht Northland. Tell me more about how this project went for Burger.
Northland is a unique vessel. The owner had a specific vision for a long-range, expedition style yacht that featured modern design, open spaces and, their own personal touch, a dedicated fishing cockpit. They searched the marketplace but did not find anything that met these requirements. Ultimately, the owner collaborated with American designer Luiz de Basto of De Basto Designs to create the custom design we know today. It is because we have the capacity, team and knowledge needed to build yachts like Northland that we were honoured to be selected as its builder.
We know how important building a vessel like Northland is for an owner and their family. It’s a dream. To be a part of that dream is not only an honour but more importantly, it is an incredible responsibility which is why we are so determined to work as partners from the very beginning. Knowing they’d be working with a yard that approached this project as a partnership was indispensable to the owner.
How do you think the American new build market is looking at the moment?
Based on the interest we are seeing, the American new build market is strong. Yachting has always been a part of the American character and Burger has a unique understanding of what people desire and what the market demands. As long as there’s a longing for adventure, we’ll see a passion for yachting. Today, we see owners, designers and brokers doing their homework in order to determine which yacht builder will be the best partner for their project. They don’t want to simply hand over a project and walk away. It’s important that owners be involved and get to know their builder’s capabilities, credibility and approach to yacht building. The market is strong and people are taking the time needed to get to know their builder.
Buyers would do well to not simply judge a shipyard by the sheer number of projects completed within a given time period, but rather, research each yard to be sure they have demonstrated their ability to complete complex projects. Burger’s business model does not have us chasing every project simply to show the market how quickly and how many projects we can complete. Rather, we seek owners who understand and appreciate that the yard they choose must have an experienced team, a quality reputation and that they would be focused on their project. Burger is committed to getting each project right for each owner!
We’ve focused on our own backyard, in the Americas. Burger is a part of the American yachting experience and has earned a reputation of trust and high-quality craftsmanship over many generations. Yet, it’s important to evolve to meet the needs of today’s yachting enthusiasts. We’re making sure we communicate Burger’s evolution to our audiences in our own backyard first. It’s helping us connect with the expectations of today’s audiences while sparking their imaginations with our vision – the promise of limitless adventures. Yacht building is for dreamers, leaders and adventurers. A Burger is for someone who lives a life without limits. We’ve made that case with our recent campaign – 'Limitless'– and have received great feedback.
What do you have on the drawing boards for the future?
With the introduction of Blue Boat Home, our first Burger 48 Cruiser, we experienced such a growing interest in smaller, personal-sized yachts, that we have built a second 48 Cruiser featuring an interior by De Basto Designs. It is currently available for purchase with delivery in early spring. We also continue to provide refit and repair services on a wide array of personal and commercial vessels. We continue to pursue custom projects and relationships with those who wish to build high quality, exceptional yachts in the United States. That includes a number of concept designs we have available on our website. You can also find us at any one of several yacht shows throughout the year. These yacht shows are great opportunities for owners and potential owners to have a personal, face-to-face conversation with us to discuss their vision or to discuss refitting an existing vessel.Photo: Jeff Brown / Breed Media Is there anything else you would like to add?
We’re focused on showcasing the spirit of how the Burger team works with each potential and current owner. This helps us demonstrate our commitment to building the finest and most ambitious yachts while making it a fun process for the owner. If you have a passion for yachting and a dream of building your own yacht, the best approach is to start a conversation with us. Our track record proves our capability and knowledge, and our recent deliveries stand as great examples of what we can create together. All partnerships require open communication and collaboration. That’s how we approach each new project and form lasting relationships with our clients. Let’s talk!