New models and brand in the pipeline for UK builder

It’s been an eventful and fair to say productive 18 months for UK boatbuilder Discovery Yacht Group, which is launching its new Discovery 54 and Southerly 435 at the Southampton boat show this week, since the group acquired the assets of both brands 18 and 14 months ago respectively.

With managing director Sean Langdon at the group’s helm, the builder has embarked on an ambitious expansion programme, recently announcing the introduction of new models and a new brand in the shape of a retro-styled classic line, Britannia.

In a move that raised some industry eyebrows earlier this year, the Group took to crowdfunding to help raise around a £1m to fund developments: “Eight days after going live we’d raised £2.3m,” claimed Langdon, speaking to gathered press on Friday at the Southampton show. “It was humbling so many people believed in the product,” he added.

Langdon sees the new group as very much offering the best of both worlds when it comes to the Discovery and Southerly brands. Its product offering is geared around the deep water, ocean-going Discovery brand with its fin keel, and the lifting keel/variable draught characteristics of the Southerly. Models will be available in both guises – so the new Southerly 480 and 540 can be acquired with a fixed keel in the shape of a Discovery 48 and 54.

According to Langdon, seven Southerly 480s have been sold so far, with two orders placed for its Discovery 58 and another for a Discovery 55, a model that turns 21 this year, bearing testimony to the lasting appeal of these bluewater cruisers.

As well as developments across its two core brands, the builder has also rebranded its one catamaran offering (formerly the Discovery 50), Bluewater. Four Bluewater 50s have been sold in the last 18 months and another two are on order. Monies raised through its crowdfunding endeavour are being used to develop a new 60ft Bluewater cat, as well as the new flagship Britannia Yachts brand. Of the latter, a 74-footer is on the drawing board with the aim to start production of the first hull later this year, with the prospect of a launch at Southampton 2019. A ‘classically-styled’ yacht, offering the practicalities of modern day construction, Langdon sees the range sitting somewhere between its modern cruisers and the sleek, retro-styled ‘classics’ built by fellow UK builder Spirit Yachts.

Unusually the group is offering a syndicated ownership option on the Britannia 74 – Discovery has in place all the necessary agreements to set up a tax efficient limited company for a six-year period, allowing part ownership of a fully crewed yacht for £600k.

It’s hoped that other sizes will soon join the Britannia portfolio.

As well as new boat models, the group has launched its own yacht charter division Discovery Time, and Discovery Brokerage, the latter reportedly having sold three boats in three months. The dealer network is being expanded too. Small wonder recruitment remains a focus: “We’ve just taken on nine apprentices – we want apprentices to represent at least 10% of the production workforce going forward,” Langdon said. 18 months ago the group employed 35 staff – today that number stands at 160, and needs to swell by another 20 or so, says Langdon.

Langdon, a former sales and marketing director at Elan Yachts, before being named MD of the UK builder in August 2016, led an MBO of Discovery Yachts, following retirement of the company’s founder and chairman John Charnley back in April 2017.

Charnley and his wife Caroline founded Discovery Yachts 19 years ago with the ambition to build a range of luxury cruising yachts for bluewater sailing enthusiasts. In collaboration with superyacht designer Ron Holland, the couple developed a range of monohull ocean passage cruisers including the Discovery 55, the flagship Discovery 67 and the most recent launch – the Discovery 58.

Three months after the MBO, the Discovery Yachts Group acquired the Southerly range of swing keel sailing yachts for an undisclosed sum. Southerly Yachts, which had folded back in 2014 after accruing debts of more than £800,000, was once one of the UK’s leading sailboat builders, employing around 165 people at its base in Itchenor and its moulding operation in Havant.