At the latest edition of the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, SYT Director, Merijn de Waard, sat down with American entrepreneur, JR Ridinger: the man behind the exciting new 63 metre superyacht project, Vector, at Rossi Navi.
A semi-displacement full aluminium vessel, Vector will be powered by four engines, coupled with four Rolls Royce Kamewa water jets, providing her with a top speed of 28 knots whilst maintaining a transatlantic range at a cruising speed of 15 knots. Scheduled for delivery in early 2018, here Ridinger enthusiastically tells us why he made the decision to invest in a new build project and why Rossi Navi is the perfect fit.
Tell us about your background in yachting.
I’m a triple pisces - all my signs are water signs - so I love water and I was a marine biologist when I started my career. Around 25 years ago I got my first boat, a 27’ Carver, then I went up to a 36’ Wilkerson, then a 105’ Hatteras with an extension, and then a 116’ Feadship with a canoe stern.
After the Feadship I moved up to a 155’ Trinity… I’ve had incredible experiences with the yachts in my life. A lot of yachties park their boats in the marina and are hardly ever there, so it’s the crew that gets to enjoy it, really. We use the yachts all the time. We always put the yachts behind the house and combine it with business and entertainment, and yachting has really just become part of our life.
How do you typically use the boat?
We keep the yachts behind our estate in Miami, or in Manhattan right off of Chelsea Pier. So the yachts are always nearby, which enables us to do a lot of events a lot of charity work and social things - we have a lot of celebrity friends. It’s really a way of life for us. In terms of business, we don’t necessarily use it for business but more for the relationship network. We have a lot of fun, and out of that comes all sorts of incredible business deals.
Do you still own the 155’ Trinity?
Yes. Utopia I, the Hatteras, Utopia II was the Feadship, Utopia III was the Trinity. The latter was an interesting boat because they built it right under the commercial specs, US flagged, so it was perfect for us. It was as much boat as you can get with as little trouble.
What lead to the decision to purchase Vector?
I started looking for a new boat and I was looking at Italian boats but I just couldn’t find a boat on the market that was right for us. I met the Rossi Navi family and started researching what they were doing. I wanted speed, and our boats are always around the house so I need a shallower draft… I came across Vector and at first I thought, there’s something wrong. This boat is impossible - she’s beautiful, gorgeous, Italian, sexy. But how can it be stable? How can she be 62 metres and go 28 knots? I was in disbelief and pretty sceptical. Our engineer and captain started studying her, and it all started to make sense. She’s much bigger than our other boats, but she will still fit behind my house. To me it’s miraculous.
She’s the next generation in yacht building, but I was scared to build a yacht myself. I’ve heard too many stories, so I was hesitant… but when I looked into the Rossi Navi family and the brand’s record, you know, it’s impressive. They built a team and the whole family is involved, and within my business, we have the same thing. So there was this similarity, and then they came to Miami and we just fell in love. When we got into the build they met every expectation. I believe in them.
In terms of the interior, what style would you like to achieve?
Well my wife is very particular, we have more real estate than brains and she designs them all. With Vector, she’s going to be very minimalistic. She’s Italian and sleek, and the design - by osmosis - absorbed us. Beautiful tones, and Enrico Gobbi is so talented in putting that together. She’s not gaudy, just gorgeous.
And speed is also very important to you on board this boat?
Yes. Our Trinity goes 21 knots which, for a 155’ boat that’s pretty fast. I was very concerned about speed, and very concerned about being able to get through shallow waters. The proportions of Vector and how it is done is incredible, with a shallow draft and still that speed. You can cross the Atlantic at these speeds in this boat. Vector was a big move for us - she is two and a half times more than what we spent on our last boat. It was totally revolutionary in terms of engineering, a new model, a new paradigm. This boat is the boat of the future.
Will you cruise with Vector to Europe?
We haven’t decided yet. I need to figure out how we would get her back. The time of the year is important because we use the yacht connected with our business activities… but we’ll definitely take her through the Caribbean. We have homes in Puerto Rico and we’d like to go to St. Barths. When the boat is delivered the question is will we go to the Med for a couple of months and bring her back ourselves, or head off to the Caribbean.
Tell us about an average day on the yacht for you?
Well I get up and go and do some yoga on the boat. I love jet skis so we go out on the water a lot, but we also like to relax on board a lot. I also work a lot on the boat. I get away from the hectic interruptions, and I can think and work. It stimulates your mind being on board the yachts.
Will she be American-flagged?
No, we’re keeping a foreign flag, Marshall Islands. We didn’t do that in the past, but with the way we use the boat… it’s very difficult to get a big boat into the US. It’s like a labyrinth of things that have to be done. We have fantastic maritime lawyers and they’ve solved any issues that we had. We only use her privately. When you’re not charging for people to be on board, it becomes very valuable for our business relationships.
For you this is whole new process, building a boat as opposed to buying second hand. How have you found the experience?
When you’re in yachting it’s inevitable that you also have friends who are in yachting, and I’ve heard some stories. Rossi Navi really was just the perfect fit. There’s nothing like getting to know the business, the family, who the brand are, what their mindset is… the process has made me entirely comfortable, and I’m very happy with the decision to go forward with the build of Vector. They’re passionate, and they want to make their mark. I really believe that this new technology and design will propel them into the future.
Most owners of boats are generally quite private when it comes to media exposure, though you are a very vocal owner. Can you tell us about that?
Part of me is yachting, so I want the best. Now I can afford it and I’m excited about it, I want to share it with everyone. I have a great relationship with Rossi Navi and I’m proud of what we’re doing here.
When can we expect to see Vector hit the water?
Well, they’re ahead of schedule but it will be the turn of 2018, around February. When you pay on time, they work on time, so it’s going to plan! I’ve been on a lot of boats and I love this design, so needless to say I’m looking forward to the delivery date already.