A ‘huge step’ for America’s declining yacht-building industry

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The 50-meter Jackpot will be the last yacht completed at the Washington state facility.

The 50-meter Jackpot will be the last yacht completed at the Washington state facility.

The launching this week of the 164-foot Jackpot marks a turning point for Christensen Shipyards. Jackpot is the last yacht to be completed and delivered by the builder’s Vancouver, Wash., yard.

Christensen is relocating to Vonore, Tenn. The move has been part of its long-range strategic plan since 2005, when construction began on new facilities at Tellico Lake. The lake is part of the Tennessee River Authority, which provides deep-water access to the Gulf of Mexico through a series of locks and dams.

“This is a huge step for us but also for American yacht building, which has been in steady decline for the last two decades,” said Henry Luken, chairman of Christensen Shipyards, in a statement. “In our new range we can now compete with any builder in the world in both price and quality, and unlike our existing facility, we can offer yachts virtually unrestricted in beam.”

The move expands Christensen’s construction capabilities and puts the yard closer to East Coast markets.

The yard had been scheduled to start large-yacht construction in 2008, a plan stymied by the Great Recession. At the time, Luken was a 50 percent stakeholder in Christensen, according to the company. Luken and a minority partner purchased the assets of Christensen in 2015 after the company went into receivership.

“We needed to complete the yachts under construction when the yard was shut down,” said Luken about the timing of the move to Tennessee. “We owed it to our clients to give them the yachts they had contracted.”

The Vancouver yard was sold to Vigor, a shipbuilder based in Portland, Ore. The sale is expected to be completed by the end of June.

When the Tennessee facility opens later this summer, it will be among world’s the largest superyacht yards under a single roof, the company said. The 55-acre, climate-controlled shed contains 13 bays, each capable of building yachts to 230 feet. The facility includes a 7-acre marina.

“The old yard was only able to build up to 50 meters in length and 30 feet in beam,” said Luken, who lives in Tennessee.

The move reportedly has stirred interest in new construction. Several former owners are speaking with the company about its new 55- to 65-meter yachts, and a current owner is in negotiations for an LY3-compliant 50-meter yacht.

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