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Intrepid 475 Sport Yacht

Photos by David Steinlauf

There’s No Script

The Intrepid 475 Sport Yacht is completely customizable and runs like an Olympic bobsled.

I blame my father.

He writes with his left hand, and I learned handwriting from watching him. Only problem is, I’m a righty. Thusly, everything I’ve ever produced from a pen has been smudgy chicken-scratch. So imagine what it looks like when I write down speed, rpm, and fuel burn on PMY’s boat-test charts as I fly around on the water trying to log different vessels’ performance numbers. It’s a mess.

Shortly after starting at PMY, I learned to transcribe my notes upon returning to the dock. Otherwise I’d have to spend a good chunk of time back at my desk in New York poring over my charts trying to divine just what exactly I meant by that squiggly piece of hieroglyphic I wrote under fuel burn. Is that a nine or a four? I’m pretty sure it’s a nine. (No way that’s a four, right?)

But a funny thing happened on the way back to the docks after testing Intrepid’s flagship, the 475 Sport Yacht, just off the west coast of Florida recently. When I glanced at my chart, I noticed my handwriting looked exactly the same at 1000 rpm as it did at wide open throttle (6000 rpm). And uh, it wasn’t exactly like we were puttering around out there. The Intrepid’s four 350-hp Yamaha V8s had us screaming across the water at upwards of 60 mph. Not that you could tell. The boat’s modified-V stepped hull is so expertly designed and her acceleration is so sublimely smooth that 60 mph felt closer to a more pedestrian 40. I was distinctly reminded of the first (and only) time I drove a BMW 7-series, and hit 100 mph on the Long Island Expressway without even realizing it on a trip out to Quogue. Suffice to say: This boat goes. And at speeds like that, and with an LOA approaching 50 feet, watching her run flat-out from shore should rightfully be considered a spectator sport.

But this boat doesn’t just excel at straight-line speed. Her S-turns were fluid and totally controlled even with the hammer all the way down. And at a cruise speed of 51 mph, she turned hardover in just under two boat lengths. At 35 mph, she did it in one.

Ken Clinton, president of Intrepid, proudly maintains that his boats have no competitors, and during a tour of his plant in Largo, Florida, he set out to substantiate his bold claim to Capt. Bill Pike and me. It soon became clear to us just why Clinton feels this way about his vessels. For one, they are completely customizable. Each boat is built specifically to an owner’s needs. The owner signs a contract, puts down a deposit, and then works hand in hand with Intrepid to pick out all of the boat’s features. This personalization process makes the 475 an incredibly versatile boat. Are you a serious fisherman? Opt for the aluminum half-tower and outriggers. Into scuba? Get Intrepid’s rock-solid dive door installed in the side of the boat. Then decide if you want it hinged down or in. Or maybe you’re really living large (the company counts A-Rod and Jeff Gordon among its customers) and plan on using this 47-footer as a tender for your big boat. That’s no problem at all. Intrepid offers special tow and tender packages. Heck, I was on a megayacht last year that had an Intrepid tender with a T-top that raised and lowered hydraulically to fit inside her garage. (That, my friends, was a big boat.)

My test boat was tricked out with, among other things, an electrically controlled dual-pedestal helm seat, a fiberglass arch with a hardtop and six lights, a hot-and-cold box transom shower, bulletproof (yes, bulletproof) hull-side windows, one of those dive doors to port (fold-out), a transom door to starboard, enough fire-extinguishing equipment to douse a bonfire, and a partridge in an exquisitely manicured, Nepalese-grown pear tree. But you can get your 475 with whatever amenities you like.

It’s not hard to see where the genesis of Intrepid’s focus on customization lies. Clinton stares at me blankly for a second when I ask him how he makes his boats so unique. “It’s just fiberglass,” he eventually chuckles, “I’ll cut it, stretch it, whatever.” He seemed a little incredulous that every boat company doesn’t build its boats to order like his does.

Indeed, the attention to detail in the Intrepid factory borders on fetishistic. In particular, the company has always staked its reputation on having outstanding fit and finish, and as we walk into that part of the factory Clinton noticeably lights up. He refers to the workers here as “artists” and says that with enough care and elbow grease, they can make boat parts look like jet parts. With all the buffing, sanding, blasting, and spraying that was going on around us, I’d have to agree. At one point Clinton gestures to a fiberglass wall with a fully flush fiberglass door, which once installed would lead to the 475’s head. “Most people don’t really get as excited about the fit-and-finish stuff as me,” he says. “You might say, ‘But Ken, it’s just a wall,’ and I’ll say, ‘Yeah, but it’s a sexy wall.’” And he’s right. It’s perfectly curved, perfectly smooth, and perfectly cut. It is a sexy wall. I never thought I’d write that sentence.

However Intrepid doesn’t build its boats just to win beauty pageants. If you’re banging around out on the water at 50 or 60 mph, you’re going to want something sturdy underneath you. To that point, two things in particular struck me about Intrepid’s building process. First, Intrepid hulls are inlaid with Kevlar, a nice complement to the bulletproof hull windows, I suppose. And second, unlike some builders who view vertical structures on boats—cabinets for example—simply as added-on compartments, Intrepid actually integrates them into the hull in effect creating vertical stringers. The payoff for this technique comes in the boat’s ride, which is smooth and imbued with an exceptionally solid feel. “This all may sound like overkill,” Clinton offers, driving home his point, “but I don’t get phone calls [from unhappy owners] later. My boats don’t break.”

Needless to say, this relentless attention to detail and craft does not come cheap, even with Intrepid’s factory-direct sales model, which eliminates dealers and mitigates price. If you want the 475, you’ll still be ponying up roughly three-quarters of a million dollars for an outboard-powered boat, a price which may seem high to the uninitiated.

But as with most things in life, with Intrepid you get what you pay for. And if I had a spare $750K lying around to spend on a boat, I just might end up writing a check. Whether anybody’d actually be able to read it is another story entirely.

Intrepid Powerboats
(954) 922-7544.

This article originally appeared in the December 2011 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.