Aussie Rules — By Diane M. Byrne —
The Courage of His Convictions
|Part 2: At her reported cruise speed of 15 knots, she sees an incredible 8,000-NM range.|
Those individuals were Brendan Westerhout, his captain, and Shane Dingle, his engineer. Norman had interviewed Westerhout when he bought his Feadship, and while he ended up hiring someone else to be captain at that point, he was nonetheless impressed with what he calls Westerhout’s “brain power” that “I knew he was the right guy for the job” this time around. As for Dingle, not only did Westerhout recommend him, but also “he and I were on the same wavelength from an engineering standpoint,” Norman explains.
While it’s common for yacht owners to have on-site representation, usually in the form of a captain or project manager (or even someone who wears both hats), Norman’s choice of two people—and the fact that he sent them to Australia before the first weld—was atypical. It’s an approach that Norman stresses is “crucial” for other owners to follow, pointing out how the two men monitored the yacht’s progress every day, ensuring that both they and the yard followed his specs “to a tee.”
So what were some of those specs? A central one was having an engine room that wasn’t cramped. One look at the photo on page 73, and you can see the space is exceptionally neat and voluminous. Machinery is arranged over two levels (three, if you count the level down a few steps with barely standing headroom, used for stowage). Wiring runs overhead are meticulous. The diamond-plate walkway between the twin Caterpillars is wide enough to permit two adults to stand shoulder to shoulder and still have plenty of wrench-swinging room. And the powerplants themselves sit higher than normal, providing easy access to key maintenance points.
Another key requirement was having the yacht’s four decks re-create a home environment. Laura, who owns her own design company, N.I. Designs, worked closely with Sam Sorgiovanni in selecting freestanding furnishings (many of them antiques) and setting up a combination of formal and family-friendly rooms inside and out, including a cinema, library, observation lounge, crow’s nest (complete with four pedestal chairs plus a long settee), and full-beam master suite, with its own saloon-like seating area off to starboard.
Then there are the toys. Besides the above-mentioned No Rules, Aussie Rules carries a 29-foot SeaVee used for diving and fishing excursions, a 31-foot Novurania Equator, two 18-foot Hewes flats boats, four PWCs, and an assortment of sea kayaks, surfboards, and wakeboards. And lest these provide too much heart-racing diversion for Norman’s family (or select charter parties), the mothership also holds two dozen sets of snorkel gear.
“Aussie Rules can drop anchor, go to a marina, or head to the South Pacific for 90 days,” he says. At her reported cruise speed of 15 knots, she sees an incredible 8,000-NM range. The Normans have already put that range to the test, during the best time that Greg says he’s had so far: the three weeks he and his family spent in a remote atoll of French Polynesia. They enjoyed “magnificent cruising grounds, calm weather,” water devoid of plastic flotsam, and “a trillion more stars” because there’s no pollution in the air. “It absolutely shocks me why people go to the Caribbean or Mediterranean when people with these yachts can go to places like this,” he says in astonishment.
What he’s not incredulous about is the idea that owners need to have more of a voice in general in the yachting industry. He speaks passionately about how he’d like to see an owner’s association meet on a regular basis to discuss everything from how build standards are set to pros and cons of MCA. As to the former, he feels strongly that there is no industry-wide standard and that brokers and crew have more of a voice. As to the latter, Norman thinks policy requirements should be reviewed on a boat-by-boat basis. For example, during one particularly rough crossing where Aussie Rules encountered 20- plus-foot seas, Norman says the magnetic hold on the MCA-mandated automatically deploying watertight bulkheads wasn’t strong enough to hold the doors closed. While the yacht came through the turbulent seas relatively unscathed, the failure nonetheless troubled him. “It’s incumbent on us as owners to direct the future of the industry,” he says.
As I said, this man does not mince words.
Oceanfast USA Phone: (954) 522-5353. www.oceanfast.com.au.
This article originally appeared in the February 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.