New Kid on the Dock
Having previously dipped its toe into the U.S. market, Windy is now diving headfirst into North American waters thanks to a partnership with Nautical Ventures.
The son of a Scandinavian fisherman, Hugo Vold gained his respect for the ocean at a young age. His father regularly encountered treacherous seas and storms while working the waters between Norway and Sweden, yet always made it home. Thankfully for the young Vold, fishermen—and their boats—are built hardier at higher latitudes.
After graduating from college, Hugo set out to build sport boats that shared the seakeeping ethos of his father’s fishing vessels, all of which were named Vindy. As a tribute to their strength, and his father, in 1966 the young man named his fledgling boatbuilding company Windy.
For those of us in the U.S., we hear the word Windy, and we think of the kind of conditions you may hesitate to go out in. In Europe, however, Windy is synonymous with luxurious, high-quality sport boats that have retained their founder’s original ethos of getting owners home safely no matter the conditions. Built in Sweden, the Windy fleet ranges from 27 to 60 feet.
Windy SR44 Blackhawk
I discovered Windy boats (they were hard to miss!) at the Düsseldorf boat show a few years ago. With a half-dozen boats on display around a large, elevated platform, this builder was clearly a serious player in Europe. Today, Windy employs 170 people and builds around 110 boats a year. Predominately powered by stern drives at the time, I inquired if they had any outboard-powered models—they did—and if they had considered coming to the U.S.—they had.
In fact, I would learn from Windy’s Executive Chairman, Knut Heiberg-Anderson, that I was not the first Power & Motoryacht editor to wander into the display. Years prior, my predecessor, Richard Thiel, had asked him the very same question. According to Knut, Richard’s suggestions pushed him to dip a toe into the U.S. market. Fortune, in that instance, would not favor the timid; the builder’s time in the U.S. was short-lived.
At the recent Miami show I spotted Windy once again playing in American waters, this time beneath the large orange display of Nautical Ventures, which has been a dealer on fire lately thanks to their success in bringing European boats to the Florida market: brands like Axopar, Beneteau, DiAntonio and others. Led by visionary owner Roger Moore, the company has expanded and grown exponentially; in Nautical Ventures, the Windy team saw a partner that could help them properly introduce the brand in the States.
“We were too careful last time,” says Heiberg-Anderson. “But we strengthened our position in Europe, which was the right decision at the time. Today, every boat we build is available in stern drives, IPS and outboards. We have this market in our design brief now.”
The goal, according to CEO Trevor Fenlon, “is to grow sensibly in the American market. We think we can be conservative and sell 20 boats a year here.”
With a plumb bow, open transom and raked windshield, the SR44 Blackhawk I climbed aboard looks the part of today’s European dayboat. The twin 600-hp Mercurys, on the other hand, scream red, white and blue. I’m told future 44s will be available with triple 425-hp Yamahas. It might be possible to get a stern drive or IPS-powered model if a buyer was truly eager, but largely these boats will be outboard-powered for American waters.
The Power & Motoryacht team prides itself on carefully looking through the boats we review, but there’s an undeniable extra level of urgency (read: responsibility) when reporting on a builder that’s new to our waters. Thankfully for me, I’ve learned from some of the best like Capt. Bill Pike. As he would, I lifted every hatch, looked at every piece of hardware inside the cabinetry. I poked my head into the bilge and spent significant time in the machinery spaces. Everywhere I looked I saw quality construction, smart labeling and clear access. If corners were cut when building this boat, I couldn’t find them.
There are versatile seating and sunpad arrangements, a cabin I would find more than accommodating for a week away as a family of four—with plenty of natural light courtesy of windows built into the boat’s hull. Overall, I believe the 44 would be equally at home on a Florida sandbar in the winter as it would at the Vineyard in the summer.
The real test for this boat, however, was always going to be the sea trial. Would that proud Scandinavian heritage live up to the hype, or was it all just a nice marketing story? I quickly found out thanks to a steady breeze and 3-foot chop offshore. The verdict: There’s no hype here. I ran the boat at all angles to the sea and felt comfortable in every situation. She runs like a sprinter and lands from a wave like a ballerina. Smooth was the word that came to mind. Thanks to the near-silent 600s on the transom, we hopped onto plane and hit a 37-knot cruise effortlessly. As is the case with most luxury vessels, I wouldn’t have believed how fast we were going if not for the speed staring at me from the MFD.
Weaving our way back to port, enjoying the kind of bluebird Florida weather us Northerners crave, I daydreamed about taking the boat to a sand bar for a cookout. Or maybe pulling the boat up to one of the waterfront bars along the ICW. Maybe I was just getting hungry. Wherever we would stop to eat we would have undoubtedly been peppered with the question: Windy, what’s that?
This brand reminds me a lot of Axopar—and not just because both brands are repped by Nautical Ventures. Both brands are characterized by quality construction, a strong following in Europe and growing representation in the U.S. It wasn’t long ago that Axopar was the new kid on the dock, and today they’re a household name. When boats are high quality and ride the way the 44 Blackhawk does, word spreads throughout the boating community like wildfire. I would not be surprised at all to see this builder and models like the 44 Blackhawk really take off.
Windy SR44 Blackhawk Test Report
Windy SR44 Blackhawk Specifications:
Displ.: 20,000 lbs.
Fuel: 238 gal.
Water: 80 gal.
Power: 2/600-hp Mercury V12 Verados or 3/425-hp Yamaha XTOs