Perfection with passion

Kate Innes | VOLUME 23, ISSUE 1

Gold Coast-based Pegiva’s Retro Sun convertibles have made a huge splash in the European boating market.

The Pegiva brand is firmly established in Europe, where its sleek retro lines and James Bond styling have impressed the notoriously discerning Italian and French boating communities. In Germany, they’re known as ein kleiner Bentley auf dem wasser – ‘A little Bentley on the water’ – and their sporty mix of speed and style has made them a highly sought-after superyacht accessory.

Despite its international success, founder and designer, Gerry Wyllie, from the Gold Coast in Queensland, says Pegiva came from humble beginnings as a ‘backyard’ project he began with his son, Peter, back in 2001. “I worked for Sydney boatbuilder, Peter Bracken in the ’60s, designing and building 40-foot timber gamefishing boats. Over the years, I’ve built everything from small clinker skiffs to large flybridge cruisers,” says Wyllie.

“I left the boat-building business and moved to Queensland in the early ’70s and although I got heavily involved in building and property development, I always had this passion for the classic Italian handcrafted wooden sports boats from the ’50s and ’60s.

“I came up with a model in the shape I wanted and decided to build it with my son. When we finished, everyone loved it. We took it to the Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show and it proved so popular we went straight into production,” he says.

Their first model, the Classic, was made from Brazilian mahogany, with 22 coats of protective polyurethane, which produced a finish similar to that of a grand piano. It took two men a whole year to finish just one and Gerry and Peter soon decided that manufacturing this model as a commercial venture was simply not viable.

They modified their design to include a composite fibreglass hull to increase durability and reduce maintenance. The trademark Brazilian mahogany insets and timber-laid decks remained to add a touch of nostalgia.

STEADY GROWTH

In the space of six years, Pegiva’s operations have grown to two Gold Coast factories – one houses fibreglass construction and a spray booth; the second is used for fit-outs. Wyllie’s family is heavily involved with him in the business; his son, Peter manages the factory and his wife, Dorothy oversees the office administration.

By the end of this year, their production manager, Lance Silva, along with 14 full-time staff, will have manufactured 12 Retro Suns. Next year, Wyllie confidently predicts that number will double as they begin production of a larger Pegiva sports convertible, the Eclipse, designed by New Zealand naval architect, Grant Robinson.

“The original Retro Sun is 7.5 metres in length, with a beam of 2.3 metres and seating for five. The Eclipse is 9.7 metres, with a beam of 3.1 metres, has a double bunk, shower and head below and is fitted with a small galley. This larger boat can be registered as a commuter for up to 10 people,” says Wyllie. Like its little sister, the Eclipse will be fitted with a convertible roof, which can be folded down and out-of-sight in a matter of minutes.

“The Eclipse will be finished in time for the European season, which starts around the end of March,” says Wyllie, who has already received his first order from a luxury hotel in the south of France.

“The Mediterranean can get a bit wild and we know the Eclipse will travel extremely well in all weather conditions,” he added.

INTERNATIONAL STAGE

Overseas dealers have reported that Wyllie’s attention to detail has made his boats stand out on the international marine stage. Deck fittings are custom-made and cast in 316 solid stainless steel, then highly polished to a mirror-like finish. Interior marine upholstery is imported from Milan, but everything else used in construction is Australian-made.

The helm position provides excellent visibility and protection behind a wrap-around windscreen, and the fully-upholstered sun lounge, recessed over the engine bay, is a feature of the Pegiva range. A burl walnut dash panel houses the instrumentation and the seats swivel aft to create seating around an easily stowed table. The rear swim platform and retractable ladder provide easy access to the water.

Retro Suns are fitted with either a MerCruiser 350 MPI Horizon V8, 300hp engine or a Steyr 256H turbo diesel in-line six, 250hp engine. They boast a top speed of around 45 knots or a comfortable cruising speed of 26 knots. Twin 280hp diesels will provide the Eclipse with a cruising speed of 48 knots.

Wyllie says that Pegiva’s motto is ‘Perfection with Passion’ and he makes it clear he still has plenty of years of passion left to ply into Pegiva’s perfection. “There is nothing quite like them on the market. I’ve spent the last six years trying to get everything just right … perfecting them. The slightest change can make a huge difference to the aesthetics of the boat,” says Wyllie, who, at 69 years of age, has no plans for slowing down.

“I tried retirement once when I was 50, but you can only sit around for so long and there are only so many cups of coffee you can drink. There’s no future in that,” Wyllie says. “And I’ve still got that new boat to finish!”

Piano Man is a Pegiva fan

Pegiva recently shipped a Retro Sun across the Pacific to Florida and into the waiting arms of famous performer, Billy

The ‘Piano Man’ came across the Pegiva website early last year when he googled ‘retro boats’ and made a mental note to check out Pegiva when he toured Australia in November, 2006.

When Joel arrived on the Gold Coast with his entourage, his sound technician phoned the factory and said “Billy Joel asked me to call in and see your boats.” Pegiva’s receptionist quickly called Gerry away from another meeting to return to the factory.

“A van pulled up out the front and out stepped Billy Joel,” says Wyllie. “We had no idea he was coming! We only expected to see his sound technician, and initially, we weren’t really sure whether or not someone was playing a joke on us.

“He told us he liked retro-styled boats with modern fittings and he’d been looking around for about six months before he found us on the internet. He sat in one of the boats in the factory and chatted for about an hour and we invited him for a test ride the next day.

“He was very comfortable handling the Pegiva. He said he’d been around boats all his life and worked on an oyster boat at Long Island before he became famous,” says Wyllie.

Joel was impressed with Wyllie’s boats and left him with a handful of VIP tickets to see his Brisbane show and the promise of an order.

Not only did Joel buy a Pegiva Retro Sun; when he returned to Florida and showed the brochures to his next-door neighbour, he ordered one too, sight unseen. The neighbour, a builder and stone importer, ordered his Pegiva in silver. Joel’s new boat is mist green, with chamois-coloured interiors.

“Billy didn’t want his boat delivered until after the hurricane season, so his was shipped in early October. His neighbour’s boat arrived in August,” says Wyllie. “So, somewhere in the Florida Keys, two of our Aussie Pegivas are moored side-by-side.”

We had no idea he was coming!


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