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At $31.5 million, the new 164 is arguably a bargain for a brand-new yacht in her size range. But she's also a huge leap from the builder’s existing models, one made simply to see how far the composite concept could go. "Our goal was to see how big a boat we could build and keep it under 500 gross tons," Edson says.

One of my goals in researching the 164 was to determine what Westport’s production mentality means in terms of owner choices. The company will not move bulkheads, for instance, meaning the general-arrangement plan is fixed. But interiors can be customized to varying degrees, and in this respect the first two hulls serve as an interesting compare-and-contrast duo.

The seating areas all the way forward on Evviva's sundeck were incorporated at the owners' request. Hull No. 1, Vango, has a hot tub instead in this space.

I’d walked through Vango in Miami just a week before touring Evviva in Mexico, and I spent a good bit of time with Westport designers Ellen Henry and Martin Pieramico. They’re the people who follow through on interior decor after Starkey and each 164’s owner lay out a plan. They explained that if you buy early in a 164’s construction, you can customize a heck of a lot. Evviva, for instance, has a second owner’s office off the bridge-deck VIP in the same place that Vango has an extended guest skylounge with marble bar. Evviva’s sundeck is also different, replacing Vango’s large forward hot tub with additional guest seating and eliminating Vango’s bar to allow for extra helicopter-landing space.

But those kinds of big changes aren’t possible if you order a 164 too far into Westport’s production schedule, nor are some smaller changes that might surprise you. "It even affects the china, which we custom-fit" for stowage, Henry explains. "If you order too late, we have to say, 'This is the china you’re getting.'"

These are the kinds of compromises that face owners who want a yacht of this size in the short timeframe that Westport’s production schedule allows. As Henry puts it, "We’re still learning just how custom our production boats can be."

On parts and materials, for instance, many things are non-negotiable. "We don’t mess with the operational things because we’ve refined that," Wakefield tells me. Westport’s vice president of sales, Phil Purcell, picks up that idea by explaining that he sees the 164 the same way owners might envision a Gulfstream jet. "Think about it," Purcell says. "Have you ever gotten on two G-5s and the wings are different? The design's a great design. The reliability is there. People call it a custom jet, but they don’t change the engines or the wings. I can tell you what your draft will be, how much fuel you'll burn at how many knots. We know it. We’ve built it before."

So you can know, for instance, that your 164 will have a maximum speed of 24 knots, a cruising speed of 20 knots, and a maximum range of 5,200 nautical miles at 12 knots. And you can guess with relative certainty that your 164 will have the same genset draw as hulls that have come before.

Edson’s longtime captain, Joe Trailer, explained the day-to-day effects of this boatbuilding philosophy down to the kilowatt in Mexico, as we discussed the difference between cored-composite and metal hull construction. "We’ve been operating at about 40 kilowatts on a 65-kilowatt generator, and we’re sitting here in 85-degree heat," Trailer says. "The system doesn't have to be scaled to keep a metal hull cooled."

The yard will consider some changes that can measurably affect day-to-day cruising. One that came to my mind was the addition of zero-speed stabilizers, which are in demand in this size range but are not standard on the 164. "We just did a 130 with zero-speeds from Naiad," Edson says, “and it added only $30,000 or $40,000 to the price because we just subtracted the price of our regular stabilizers."

This article originally appeared in the May 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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