460 Flybridge — By George L. Petrie
— May 2002
Conspiracy in the First Degree
|The Birchwood 460 takes aim at the American market.|
When Benedict Arnold gave aid to the British, he was branded a traitor. Fort Lauderdale yacht broker and design collaborator Mark Gianassi will doubtless enjoy more positive repercussions arising from his conspiracy with England's Birchwood Marine, bringing a new 460 Flybridge to American shores. Birchwood's managing director, Richard Oddie, gave Gianassi wide latitude to specify what features the yacht should offer in order to succeed in the American market. In accommodating that wish list, Birchwood aims to deliver a boatload of comfort and convenience in a hull that's been honed in harsh North Sea environs.
Not yet a household name in America, Birchwood Marine was founded in England in 1959 and for many years produced a line of cabin cruisers and semidisplacement yachts. A decade ago the yard went into decline, but fortuitously Birchwood came under new ownership in 1996 and is again a thriving enterprise, with 118 employees building about 60 boats each year. Now its sights are set on the American yachtsman. Even the boat's name sets a tone: The 460 Flybridge is the largest of Birchwood's Challenger series of motoryachts.
To enhance brand recognition, Birchwood employs several distinctive styling elements on the 460, the most prominent one being a towering mast aft on the flying bridge. Shunning the ubiquitous radar arch, Birchwood feels the rakish mast makes a definitive statement that will set the Challenger apart whenever she enters a harbor. I have to admit, it's got panache. And from beneath, you see sweeping wings (like a whale's tail) extending from the tower with two recessed floodlights to illuminate the cockpit and swim platform below.
Also among her distinguishing features are the three vertical oval ports on either side of her deckhouse, standing in striking counterpoint to sweeping side windows farther forward. From a functional point of view, oval ports suit the interior space nicely, letting natural light flood into the saloon and opening to let in refreshing breezes when weather permits. Portions of the angular windows forward also open to circulate fresh air into the helm station on the starboard side and the galley to port.
Beyond issues of styling, Birchwood's emphasis on cruising comfort and enjoyment is also strongly apparent, perhaps most noticeably in the flying bridge layout. Rather than settling for the usual forward-facing single- or twin-helm seat setup, Birchwood's installed sporty bucket seats for the helmsman and guest. When the yacht's not underway, both can be rotated aft to form a cozy seating area that faces the other guests and transforms the bridge into a more intimate entertainment center. And to keep guests comfortable in all weather conditions, the bridge can be enclosed and air-conditioned, sheltered by a bimini top with removable side curtains all around, and closed off from the cockpit stairs by a Plexiglas hatch.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.