Designer Tom Fexas, born in 1941, began as a nuclear submarine engineer. In the early 1970s, he decided to design an “ideal boat, without any thought to the wants or needs of the marine marketplace.” The Midnight Lace 44 was long and slim with a black hull. Built at Golden Wave Shipyards, which was founded by Hong Kong-based Cheoy Lee shipyard for Fexas’ creation, the Midnight Lace was a standout from the beginning.
The 44 closely resembled boats of the 1920s, with slender, easily driven hull shapes. As Fexas put it, these were “the slippery old hulls that were developed during the age of the rumrunner, boats that were both elegant and fast.” The
Midnight Lace 44 had a fine entry, narrow forward sections and rounded chines to reduce drag. Buoyant after sections reduced squatting at the transom. The Lace didn’t so much plane as slice through the water.
Twin diesel engines were placed well aft to allow more room for accommodations. Tests of the prototype with a pair of 210-hp Renaults showed a cruising speed around 27 knots, using 18 gallons of fuel an hour. Renault called the performance “a tribute to the design of the bottom of this yacht.”
The Midnight Lace debuted in 1978 at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, standing in stark contrast to the beamy, bulky, white fiberglass cabin cruisers of the time. The art deco look featured rounded edges and swept-back structures, a forward station with an old-style crew windshield, and plenty of varnished wood trim. The luxury appointments in the double-stateroom layout were fit for a yacht from the Gilded Age.
Around 20 of the 44s were built over the years. Fexas began a redesign in the early 2000s, but died in 2006, leaving the Midnight Lace 44 behind in her original design only.
This article originally appeared in the August 2019 issue.