Gregor Tarjan has been sailing, designing and selling boats –and particularly cruising catamarans—for 30 years. His company, Aeroyacht, based in Long Island, New York, is a dealer for seven brands of cats and runs a successful project management business. MQ caught up with him by phone in early December. (Published Winter 2016)
Multihulls Quarterly: You and your company Aeroyacht are very well known in the world of multihulls. Tell us more about your expertise and company.
Gregor Tarjan: Aeroyacht is a boutique company that specializes in multihulls in all their forms. We cater to buyers, sellers and those who want to undertake custom projects. Our customers get one on one personal treatment which is designed to do more than just sell boats. We offer education, consultation and we always disclose the good with the bad about any boat or project. So, our approach is to educate and consult with customers as they go through the process of discovering what boat is right for them. Unlike other dealerships Aeroyacht has no commission based sales people so we can usually offer very competitive prices in addition to one on one service.
A big part of my business lies in owner representation and project management for some very interesting new builds. Usually we work on larger custom catamarans. Right now we are working with a group that is building what will be the largest catamaran in the world at over 165 feet over all.
On a different front, we are collaborating on and project managing a record breaking attempt by paraplegic sailor John Holt who was the first completely paralyzed person to sail across the Atlantic single-handed on a 60 foot catamaran in 2004. He is now mounting an around the world attempt aboard a 65 foot trimaran. I am working with the Prince of Monaco and the owner of NetJets who are co-sponsors.
So Aeroyachts specializes in these types of unique and interesting projects where all of my experience and expertise as a sailor, trained yacht designer and build-project manager can come into play.
Of course, I am also a dealer for production multihulls such as Fountaine Pajot, Outremer, Sunreef and Neel. But I think my emphasis on education and consultation helps me to be unbiased about the qualities and benefits of a wide range of multihulls. My goal is always to match the expectations of a customer to the right boat, no matter what the brand.
MQ: Tell us about your sailing background.
GT: I grew up in Vienna, Austria and started sailing dinghies when I was 15 on the Danube River. It was there that I fell in love with the art and skill of sailing and have ended up owning a series of very diverse boats. I had a Flying Dutchman and then two Olympic class Star boats that I brought to the North American championships. It was the year Dennis Conner won and I think I finished second to last in the 21-boat fleet. It was a great experience. From there I got involved with the Stars and Stripes America’s Cup campaign and sailed 12 Meters a lot. I worked at Derektor Shipyard in NY as a designer and project manager where we built these amazing aluminum 12s.
Throughout the years I have owned so many different yachts. I got into trimarans and owned several Dick Newick designed tris. For many years I owned an Outremer 43 catamaran which I took transatlantic several times and cruised up and down the East Coast. I owned a custom built carbon tri for racing. And now I sail a 100-year old, 14-foot cat boat with a gaff rig. I love this little thing because it is so simple and pure and it opened up a whole world of gaff rigs.
I delivered boats for a living up ad down the East Coats and from Europe to the U.S. I’ve worked as a yacht designer and was able to get involved in some very high end projects including one of the first big boats with a wing keel that Dave Pedrick designed. So I have a lot of experience with both monohulls and multihulls and can help customers weigh the advantages and drawbacks of both.
MQ: The multihull word is dominated by catamarans but trimarans seem to be gaining an ever wider audience, too. What’s the difference between them?
GT: From the basic feel of the boat, a trimaran offers a gentler ride than a catamaran. Monohulls move a lot in the water and feel even softer. A big cat is the most stable but has a firmer and quicker motion. The tri falls in between by giving a ride that has the feel of a monohull and the stability and speed of a catamaran. Trimarans are more weatherly, too, so you can carve to windward better than a catamaran, in part because the leeward float or ama acts as a kind of long keel that actually helps to provide lift. And a tri will tack more easily and faster than catamaran, more like a mono, and then you get the instant acceleration out of the tack like a light cat. It’s the best of both worlds.
Of course cruising catamarans offer much more living space and the large saloon and cockpit that can be enormous. That and the redundancy of twin engines, and rudders are the great advantages of catamarans.
But the new Neel trimarans are doing something different by adding a platform on top of the main hull that joins with the amas. This creates a large living space like a cat with the master cabin right at the at deck level. Plus, you get a basement or the space inside the main hull where you can have all of your systems and storage in the best possible location, close to the boat’s center of gravity. A Neel 45 recently won the ARC by 6 hours over an Outremer 51 catamaran
MQ: Isn’t Neel the only company building trimarans with full width platforms?
GT: Yes, this is correct. But, right now I am working with my friends at Alibi Catamarans to develop a slightly larger all carbon trimaran which will have a similar platform and accommodation plan. This radical yacht will be more high tech, larger and faster. Think of it as the Gunboat of cruising trimarans.
MQ: You are a great communicator and have a brilliant newsletter. But you also have written several books. What are they about?
GT: I have actually published two books. The first was called Catamarans: Every Sailor’s Guide, which I self published and worked with Charles Chiodi to print it in his magazine facility. The book was such a success that I got a phone call from McGraw Hill who took on the publishing of a revised and much improved copy which they called Catamarans: The Complete Guide for Cruising Sailors. We’re now up to the fourth printing of the book so it has sold very well. I feel humbled as it has become the worldwide reference for all things to do with catamarans. Plus, the book really came out as a piece of art with beautiful photography, layouts, and high quality paper and printing.
My second book, I published in 2009 with Sheridan House. It is called Catamarans: Tomorrow’s Super Yachts. It’s 400 pages, beautifully illustrated with Billy Black’s photos so it is another handsome know-how/coffee table hybrid which focuses on catamarans from 60 feet and up. It concentrates on large, luxury catamarans. This is a big new part of the market and the book is a must-have for anyone who wants to fulfill their super yacht multihull dreams.
MQ: How do you see the multihull market growing and changing in the years ahead?GT: Right now the big players like Lagoon, Fontaine Pajot and Leopard dominate the market and going forward will control even more than they do today. Without down playing their incredible success or their cats –which are brilliant—these mass product main players have close to 75 percent of the market, and that share is growing every year.
The medium and small players such as Outremer, Neel or Gunboat to name a few are on a precarious path. Either they are able to accelerate their growth to the point where they can stabilize production enough to sustain the company, or they put themselves in a risky position. Recently, we have seen many unfortunate incidences of companies which disappeared even though they had great products, name brand recognition and apparent success. This is because building catamarans is extremely challenging and costs are very hard to contain for inexperienced manufacturers. For example, the man hours needed to build a cat or a tri is not double those of monohulls as many might think, it is three or four times the hours!
Sunreef Yachts has carved a special niche and seem to be an exception as they are the leaders of large semi-custom catamaran builds. They are also relatively reasonably priced. I have delivered many Sunreefs to very happy owners. It is amazing if you think that Sunreef has built nearly 100 mega cats up to 114 foot in only 15 years.
Obviously, multihulls are here to stay. We see more ferries and military craft with two and three hulls than ever before. The bareboat and crewed charter industry is now dominated by catamarans because they make such perfect platforms for family vacations. So, the charter industry is driving the market and making the big players who supply boats to the charter fleets stronger every year.
It is difficult for smaller builders to build as efficiently and gain the economies of scale that are possible when you are building 100 boats a year. On the upper end of the scale there are many builders around the world all competing for the niche of the market thatwants semi-custom unique cruising multihulls. We have to wish them well and I will be following their paths closely.
Aeroyacht Ltd. NY, are official dealers for: Sunreef Yachts, Fountaine Pajot, Outremer and Neel. Yacht project management, International brokerage and charters.