Power & Motoryacht: How does your passion both for boating and business feed innovation?
Tony Fleming: When we started Fleming Yachts in 1985, our mission statement was simply to build the best cruising yacht we knew how—using all the experience and knowledge we had acquired up to that moment. Since that time we have, of course, gained additional experience and, if you are passionate about something then you are always on the lookout for ways and means to keep moving ahead to pursue that same goal using the increased knowledge and experience you have acquired.
Although I had done a fair amount of cruising earlier—mainly in Fleming 55s belonging to clients, my cruising really started in the summer of 2005 when Fleming 65-001 was delivered to Southern California. Having reached the landmark age of 70, I had handed over the reins of running Fleming Yachts to a younger generation, which has given me time to make use of the boats we had been building for the past 20 years. I had originally decided to keep back the first hull of the 65 range for in-depth testing but this initial idea has expanded to the degree that I am still cruising then same boat today—ten years later. My personal preference is for high latitude cruising, preferably to places hard to reach by any other means. I named the vessel Venture which the dictionary describes as: “a daring journey or undertaking involving a degree of risk,” which seemed entirely appropriate! Since 2005 Venture has taken us to the Galápagos, to Nova Scotia on the U.S. East Coast and to Alaska several times—culminating in a visit to Dutch Harbor in the Aleutians during the summer of 2015. Total mileage to date on this boat is 53,000 nm. For a while I also owned Venture II and we took this boat to Iceland and Norway. Total miles cruised on this boat exceeded 10,000 nm. These trips have literally expanded my horizons and provided me with unforgettable experiences which must surely be the reason why anyone who can chooses to go cruising.
Power & Motoryacht: What lesson from your past has helped move your business forward?
Tony Fleming: As we went along and gained experience in our field, it becomes increasingly clear that honesty and integrity are what count above all else. This means turning out an honest product built up to a standard and not down to a price and then standing firmly behind that product and supporting the clients who put their faith in you.
Having these yachts has been invaluable not only for testing existing design but also providing opportunities to try out new ideas and equipment under real-life conditions. The results of this testing are fed back to the design team at the yard and, where appropriate, incorporated into the production boats. I can state without fear of contradiction that the Fleming range of yachts are the most comprehensively equipped with gear specified to hold up and continue working under severe conditions. Our yachts are hand built by craftsmen who care and the consistency of design and build quality has resulted in a product that has proved to hold its value over time.
Power & Motoryacht: How will your products change to meet the needs of the evolving marketplace?
Tony Fleming: Our products are designed to fit the concept of being the Ultimate Cruising Yacht. There are numerous boats which radically change their appearance from year to year, and which have interiors more suited for an apartment than for a boat which has to continue to function under conditions which are similar to a Richter 8 earthquake. We will continue to evaluate ideas and new equipment which we feel will improve our yachts so that they can continue to be the best we know how. Fuel efficiency, seaworthiness, safety, and comfort are the features that count. This means good design and engineering and these are the fundamental reasons we do what we do and why I continue to test our boats under real-life conditions.
I have been associated with boatbuilding and the marine industry for over 50 years and during that time have had the opportunity to observe the advantages and disadvantages of direct sales versus having a dealer network. In my opinion there is no substitute for working through a network of honest, conscientious, and reliable dealers. The emphasis being on the qualities of those dealers. Fleming works with small, close-knit group of selected dealers, most of whom have been with us for decades. They are all enthusiasts for our brand and take excellent care of our clients both before and after a sale. They are the public face of Fleming and they truly represent us in all aspects of what that means. The problem faced by a builder selling direct is that, with the best will in the world, it is almost impossible to have sufficient staff on hand to respond to each client—whether for a sale or for immediate service—in far-flung areas all around the globe. We literally have a market on which the sun never sets and there needs to be dedicated people on hand in those areas who can react swiftly and who understand local conditions.
- Builder: Fleming
This article originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.