You can’t beat real world experience, especially when it comes to creating something new and unique, and that must also have strong market appeal. Which is why a partnership that combines six decades building and selling boats in Australia is such a critical factor in the story of a new luxury cruiser called Belize, which has just arrived on our shores.
Anyone who has been involved with the Australian marine industry would have known, or at least heard of, Wes Moxey and Lee Dillon, and particularly of their major roles in the development and success of iconic luxury cruiser brand Riviera.
Moxey started in the boating world as a teenager during the 1970s with the Carrington Slipway in Newcastle, whilst Dillon got an even earlier start by working for Newport Boat Sales on Sydney’s scenic Pittwater when just 12. Wes went on to set up his own business on the Gold Coast and then joined Riviera building the famed Grand Banks trawler-cruisers under licence from American Marine before moving into Riviera management in 1987. He went on to become GM and CEO until August 2008, when he resigned from the board.
Among other accomplishments, Dillon set up his own brokerage in Rushcutters Bay in 1990 and was so successful that Riviera bought it in 2003. He also started the Mariner dealership Seven Seas and operated Riviera Port Stephens and Mariner Southside in Sydney’s southern suburb of Caringbah before he joined Riviera in management as the Retail Director. He later joined the Group Board and worked even more closely with Moxey until resigning in July 2008.
The story of the pair’s most recent collaboration goes back to the 2009 Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show, where Wes and Lee were chatting about how they might get back into the boating industry. Wes’s wife, Helen said: “Why don’t the two of you get together and create something new of your own, instead of for someone else?”
The pair stepped up to the challenge and was soon hard at work on a sketchpad. They began with the premise that they didn’t want to compete with Riviera and set out to design a boat that would appeal to people who had owned production boats, but were now looking for something different; a low volume boat with a look and feel of its own.
Moxey and Dillon worked through ‘must have’ and ‘must not have’ aspects of their creation before engaging designer Anthony Starr, who had spent years working under highly respected boat builder David Warren. Starr produced the first concept drawings for the new boat, while Moxey and Dillon set up two new companies – Luxury Design Motoryachts and Belize Motoryachts – with offices at the d’Albora Marina at The Spit on Sydney’s picturesque Middle Harbour.
Another very experienced designer was brought onboard as the concept phase progressed. Stephen Ford had spent a decade with the internationally-renowned British luxury boat builder Sunseeker, before working for several years with Riviera. His influence with Sunseeker’s edgy styling and his artistic flair also enabled Moxey and Dillon to blend a number of aspects from the motor industry into their design.
For example, a slight curving hipline in the aft topsides of the Belize was motivated by the current Bentley Continental, and the stainless flutes across the transom were inspired by the Audi R8. The helm station also displays automotive influences.
Other design criteria (compared with similar vessels) sought by Moxey and Dillon were a finer entry for the forward hull sections and a moderate vee aft to give a softer ride through rough seas. Strong turned-down chines running through to aft were specified to deflect waters down and away to keep the boat drier than others of its type, while a fine, straight stem and a “moderately substantial” keel were incorporated to cut down on slip and drift when berthing in strong winds and for better tracking in following seas.
The overall aim was to develop a vessel that was traditional in many ways, including sturdy construction and timeless lines, but that was also very contemporary in style. Practical considerations were also foremost, including ensuring there was a ‘home’ for everything onboard to be securely stowed. For example, all the standard Villeroy and Boch crockery and cutlery, along with galley appliances such as the kettle, toaster, blender and sandwich maker, are all housed securely.
By early 2010, the design had progressed quickly and the search began for a company with the necessary experience to build the boat. At the same time, the Gold Coast naval architectural firm, Oceanic Yacht Design began to work on the detailed design of the hull and to develop, with Stephen Ford, a model for tank testing. That took place at the Australian Maritime College in Tasmania in March, 2010. Dillon was present on the first day of testing.
“There were certain aspects of the ride of the hull I wasn’t absolutely happy with – just gut feel, not academic knowledge. Wes did make some small changes, and subsequent experience during our delivery voyage through very variable weather proved those changes to be well worthwhile.”
A month later, after a wide search through South-east Asia, the pioneering pair travelled to Kaohsiung, which has been the centre of boatbuilding in Taiwan for many years, and met with Kha Shing Enterprises. Over a 35-year track record of boat building under the one family ownership, Kha Shing has crafted vessels carrying a number of famous names in the luxury cruiser and super yacht arenas and when Dillon and Moxey visited, there were six 100-plus foot super yachts under construction, in the pond and in their yard – all under cover!
Powerplant of choice is the Cummins QSC 600 8.2lt straight-6 turbo-charged diesel, a pair slotted into each Belize and employing a unique and simple mounting system in which the engines are first mounted on cradles that are bolted to dual cross-rails in the engine room. In the rare instance of engine failure, the entire engine and cradle can be easily unbolted and jacked up slightly to sit on installed dolly wheels. These then roll inboard for easy engine removal without any need to affect the boat’s structure.
The engines are positioned under the front of the cockpit sole for optimum hull balance, and are connected to aft-mounted Zeus drive pods with 1.92m carbon-fibre jackshafts. The pods have integral, programmable trim tabs and run M8 aft-facing counter-rotating props.
Cummins has a policy of only supplying its pod drives for use in approved hull designs and the company’s US-based in-house naval architect, Scott Wildermuth worked closely with Moxey, Stephen Ford and Chris Hutchings, from Oceanic Yacht Design, to ensure the optimum hull shape.
HULL ONE UNDERWAY
With the design finalised, Kha Shing Enterprises constructed a plug to make the hull mould – after which the plug was destroyed so that the design can never be duplicated. With the mould carefully finished, the hull was laid-up with solid resin-infused fibreglass below the waterline and with vacuum-cored panels for the topsides and decks. The entire forward floor is a one-piece, vacuum-bagged moulding for ultimate strength. Underneath are foam-filled areas, plus water-tight bulkheads and compartments forward and around the engine room. A double vinylester outer skin carries a white isophthalic gelcoat, although the hulls can be painted to owner requirements, as was the case with this first Belize. Construction is to CE standards, especially as future boats will be shipped to the US and European markets – dealers from both areas having already expressed interest.
The featured boat was shipped to Brisbane in late September 2011, following successful sea-trials in Taiwan. The boat was then run under its own power down to the Belize facility on the Gold Coast, where the hull was painted by Steve Wicks from Superyacht Solutions, and the electronics installed by Errol Cain from Australian Marine Wholesale. Whilst all the wiring was done at the factory, the electronics are installed locally for more effective after-sales service and to more quickly respond to any warranty matters that might arise.
Dillon was ecstatic with the performance of the boat on its delivery voyage down to Sydney, which included a variety of conditions. “Under the circumstances of the trip down, it was evident that we absolutely got the design just right; everything we aimed for we believe we have achieved.”
There will be a flybridge version of the Belize, which Dillon and Moxey prefer to call a “Daybridge”, but this hardtop model is extremely social-friendly, with a large aft cockpit that blends with a larger saloon through a clever glass bulkhead framed in mirror-polished stainless steel that uniquely curves vertically.
In the forward port quarter of the cockpit is an angled bar, which forms an extension of the galley. The latter was styled by Italian designer Giorgia Drudi, who has Ferretti Yachts interiors to her credit. A large port-side section of the aft bulkhead lifts up so that the cockpit bar and the galley, which runs down the port side of the saloon, conjoin to make it easy to serve refreshments out into the cockpit. The layout also enables the ‘chef’ to be part of the conversational group aft. At the back of the cockpit is a lounge, with a table on a clever hydraulic lift that moves the table away from the lounge as it lowers – to become a coffee table – or brings it closer as it rises to be transformed into a dining table.
A boarding platform runs the full beam of the transom behind a trunk enclosure that looks seamless, until the top is raised to reveal a barbecue and wet bar, while the lower section also lifts on powered rams for access to the garage, in which resides a (standard) 3.1m inflatable dinghy complete with (optional) 20hp outboard. The centre section of the boarding platform can be lowered for the dinghy to be launched, or to be retrieved on its electric retrieval system. But the really clever thing is that all this has been designed so that the barbecue and other social activities can continue, even whilst the garage and dinghy are being used. On many other boats, raising the garage door means just about everything else at the back of the boat has to stop.
Three hatches in the cockpit sole give access to the engine room. Two smaller aft hatches reveal the tops of the pod drives and the protective casings over the carbon fibre jack shafts. The larger hatch has a ladder down into the immaculate engine bay, which has been laid out for superb access. The attention to detail is phenomenal, with even the sight gauges on the fuel tanks being masterfully engineered. Another small detail that captures the care of the engineering installation is that the dual stainless clamps on hoses have their ends sealed in heat-shrink tubing so that there are no sharp ends that might catch on clothing – or flesh! A full engineering diagnostic panel is provided for the Cummins diesels so maintenance engineers can more easily, and more efficiently, carry out their work.
Back in the saloon, an L-shaped lounge is to starboard outside a beautifully crafted timber table, with fold-over ends so it can be sized to suit the occasion. The dining table conveniently houses all the crockery and cutlery neatly stowed in its own fitted drawers. At the aft end of the lounge is a cabinet, from which emerges a 40in Samsung TV screen. Large windows, with optional electric remote blinds and overhead skylights (with sliding blinds) let in plenty of light and provide outstanding visibility, while the front half of the saloon overhead is a sun-roof that slides aft for enjoying afloat the skies on balmy days, or the glories of southern constellations at night.
A curving staircase at the port front of the saloon leads down to the overnighting accommodations. A bathroom is to port, with a double VIP stateroom forward and another double cabin (under-and-over bunks) to starboard. The latter can optionally be an office or study, or be left open so that the area at the foot of the staircase becomes, perhaps, a large TV den. Just aft of this is the full-beam owner’s stateroom amidships, with an ensuite to starboard and a relaxing lounge to port. The superb standards of the accommodations are exemplary.
Another ‘tour de force’ of the Belize is the helm station that dominates the forward area of the saloon. The custom designed-and-built, Walnut-rimmed, stainless-spoked wheel is centrally located in front of a truly superb Italian Treben leather helm seat, with fore-aft electric travel and a hinge-up bolster. A lounge runs out to the starboard side, with a matching aft-facing lounge combining to present versatile, commodious and comfortable seating for crew or guests.
Visibility for the helmsman in all directions is excellent, as is the view of all the information available in gauges and on twin displays. Straight ahead of the wheel are two Smartcraft digital tachos, plus a traditional Ritchie compass, whilst two conventional throttle/shift levers, with flyby-wire connectivity, are close-by to the right. On either side, under elegantly styled cowls with carbon-fibre-look panels and leather trimmed surrounds, are large Raymarine 15in glass display screens. The starboard screen hosts a colour GPS plotter, and to port is a multi-function display of engine readouts, plus two video feeds for the three onboard cameras. One video feed is fixed (in this case, showing the cockpit) and the other feed cycles through the three cameras that are mounted in the engine room, the cockpit, and in the stainless steel stemhead looking down at the water immediately ahead – very convenient for monitoring anchoring activity.
On the far left end of the dash console is the joystick control for the engines and pods. The skipper can stand there with sightlines in all directions and have finger-tip control of boat rotation and movement. No bow thruster is needed as the computerised joystick control enables millimetre-precise positioning of the Belize, which Dillon nonchalantly displayed as he took the boat out of a very tight berth with perfect control.
Time constraints held us to just a short cruise, but even during that it was clear the Bentley Continental had more influence than simply that topsides hipline styling. The same quiet, smooth progression for which Bentley is famous was evident as we loped along. With 1350lt in the fuel tanks, the Cummins diesels were very relaxed at 1380rpm, for 9.5 knots (17.5km/h) at 88lt an hour. Accelerating away, we found a good cruise at 2710rpm and 24.4 knots (45km/h) for 184lt an hour, and went on to 3030rpm, 29.3 knots (54.2km/h) and 247lt an hour. 30 knots (55.5km/h) is available, although speed was not a high priority in the overall design concept. At 22 knots (40.7km/h), the Belize has a range of approximately 400 nautical miles, with a 10 per cent reserve.
There is so much more to the Belize – the use of extra-strong, but friendly-feeling 60 by 40mm elliptical stainless for guardrails; the custom-designed, electro-polished cleats and fairleads; the clever storage for fenders and lines; the Glendenning electrical retrieval unit for the shore power lead (which was optionally fitted to the test boat); the wide side decks with substantial bulwarks rather than diminutive toe-rails; double layers of acoustic and thermal lagging in the engine room; the remote controls for varying onboard electrical circuit applications (at the dock, cruising, servicing, etc); and even the custom designed/built boathook and flag pole.
This 52 Hardtop was optioned up to $1.47m, with standard pricing ex the Gold Coast from $1.395m.
I had one final question for the pioneering pair who had watched over the first Belize as it went from drawing board to water: so where did the name come from?
Well as it turns out, Belize is an island in the Caribbean, and Dillon and Moxey reckon the Caribbean lifestyle is just what this Belize luxury cruiser is all about. This first example of the marque is an inspiration and indication of what can be achieved – with lots of real world experience – and there is plenty to look forward to with more models to follow.
SPECIFICATIONS: BELIZE 52 HARDTOP
Overall length: 16.10m
Weight (dry): 21,000kg
Sleeping capacity: 3 cabins, 6 persons
Fuel capacity: 2400lt
Water capacity: 700lt
Power: Twin Cummins QSC 600 (442kw/600hp each)
Transmission: Twin Zeus pod drives
Props: Zeus M8 counter-rotating pair per drive
Generator: Onan EQD 17.5kw
Price from: $1.395m ex Coomera, Qld
More information: www.belizeyachts.com.au; tel (07) 5582 0000