Choosing the right refit yard for motor and sail yachts

When in a position to seek a yard it is best to research them carefully before asking them to tender.

Going Dutch

The choice of the refit shipyard is sometimes left to the captain. This was the case with Skat, a yacht that maintains a very active annual cruising schedule throughout the Med, Northern Europe, Scandinavia, the Caribbean, Bahamas and the USA.

The Captain explained why he chose Huisfit, the refit division of the Royal Huisman shipyard, saying, “Much earlier in my career I was involved with two refit projects as crew then captain on board Royal Huisman-built yachts. I enjoyed sailing and maintaining these quality yachts and was impressed by the attitude and expertise I witnessed at the yard.

“Choosing the refit yard is a key component to the successful operation of a yacht. Owner confidence, cost, schedule and crew morale are just some of the significant factors at stake. Once a work list is determined, the technical solutions must be proposed, agreed and quoted by qualified yards and their subcontractors. We aim to find referenced expertise with a facility appropriate to our work list, then make every effort to ensure it can all come together in a very specific time frame with a high level of co-operation and trust.

An Oyster Sailing Yacht

“After completing our due diligence with current references such as SY Eos, meetings with yard management and visiting the facility in Harlingen, I had every confidence the team would do a great job with Skat. In the end, the shipyard completed our entire work list, the budget was respected, the standard of work was exceptional and our departure deadline was met to the day. The time and cost to relocate to the Netherlands was easily overcome by these results.

“Did everything go according to plan? Not entirely: some logistical issues were identified early on, all sides were extremely responsive with solutions and additional support was supplied with no question.”

Sailing yacht refit

Sailing yachts need their refits just as motor yachts do. At the Oyster Group’s Southampton Yacht Services (SYS) yard they completed the refit of the super sailing yacht Leopard 3 in time for her owner Mike Slade to celebrate 25 years of yacht racing.

Yacht Leopard interior

Launched in 2007 by McConaghy Boats in New Zealand, this 30m super maxi yacht was conceived by Farr Yacht Design with styling by Ken Freivokh. This speed machine boasts a Southern Spars carbon mast, canting keel and is said to be one of the fastest sailing yachts of the world, capable of top speeds in excess of 35 knots under sail. Following four years of racing, the owner wanted her prepared for a new lease of life.

A modern and ultra-light interior by Design Unlimited was fitted to accommodate guests on board. “She was always meant to have an interior but for several reasons she was originally built without one,” said Matthew Townsend, project manager at SYS. “The owner has always wanted to cruise Leopard with his friends and family and he loves to live on board.”

Chris Sherlock, Leopard’s captain said, “Besides setting numerous world records and racing at grand prix regattas, Leopard 3 is also in high demand for corporate charter and a full interior would definitely provide better facilities for guests.” The SYS shipyard is based in the UK, where Leopard 3 is registered, so was the logical yard to consider. Guest accommodations were added forward of the saloon, comprising a master, two double and two single cabins. The galley area was also refitted. The yacht will continue racing even though she is now ready to accommodate eight guests overnight.

Bridge room of a superyacht

She was seen during the JP Morgan Round the Island Race where she held the title and the monohull record set in 2008 of 03:53:05. The champagne was out on board Mike Slade's giant ICAP Leopard after they broke their own monohull record, by nine minutes and 45 seconds. Crossing the finishing line at 8.43am, they completed the race in three hours, 43 minutes and 50 seconds. Slade said “When we were rounding St Catherine's Point we were concerned the wind would start drying off Shanklin - but it stayed up all the way round the island.”


The refit market is becoming increasingly competitive, with the most financially stable yards appearing most attractive to superyacht owners and potential owners. When in a position to seek a yard it is best to research them carefully before asking them to tender. Look at their reputation for getting the job done well, on time and within budget, and ask other captains and owners for their first-hand experiences.

Yards need as much detail as possible upfront, including ideal time frames and work lists. This is best done as a collaborative exercise between the owner, the captain, his engineer and his crew together with an independent third party, such as a naval architect or surveyor. Do not just base the project on getting a rock bottom price at the nearest location; an initial outlay to reach a further flung yard may reap financial dividends in the long run. No one ever said the process of refitting was an easy one, but this is multi-million pound superyacht refit and rebuild after all – not your typical R&R. 

Sector Sponsorship - Build - Refit & Repair