One of the most successful contemporary sailors will be walking the docks this week at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, but he’ll be there to showcase his powerboats as a well-respected boatbuilder.
Mark Richards’ traditional-looking, Down East-style yachts — the Palm Beach 55 Flybridge and the new Palm Beach 45 — will be display at the Bahia Mar/ Hall of Fame/Las Olas Marina Show B Dock 228,230.
Richards founded Palm Beach Motor Yachts in 1997 and designed his first powerboat in 1999 — the Palm Beach 38. Richards, 46, skippers the six-time Sydney-Hobart race-winning Wild Oats XI.
He has competed in two America’s Cups and in 1995 he was on One Australia, the boat that broke in two and sank. “You're pushing the envelope from an engineering standpoint,” he said. “It’s still recognized as one of those crazy things that happened during the America’s Cup.”
His business philosophy: “I try to keep the building of yachts as simple as possible. We don’t need the sophistication and high-tech level that is necessary with racing boats, such as the boats that I sail.”
Click play for a look at Richards and Palm Beach Motor Yachts.
Richards started building powerboats in his late teens. “I have a passion for it,” he said. “It’s in the genes, mate.”
Palm Beach Motor Yachts, which employs about 65 workers, won Best New Powerboat at the Newport (R.I.) International Boat Show two consecutive years for its PB 50 and PB 55.
Richards said he owes his success to his parents. He was adopted as an infant and raised in the Palm Beach area of Australia (Pittwater), where he began sailing at 6 years old (at a school that taught sailing and powerboat operation).
Richards said FLIBS has a certain “aura” to it. “It has a great reputation,” he said. “It’s one of the boat shows you have to be at. We have sold boats every year we have gone, so it has been a good thing for us.”
— Chris Landry