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Friendship line grows with 53-foot model

When a New England businessman and avid yachtsman saw a new Friendship 40 sailboat while strolling the docks at last year’s Newport International Boat Show, he was taken by the boat’s design. At that moment, he decided that he had to have one for himself — except bigger and with two cabins below instead of one.

“This man is an experienced yachtsman who often sails to places like the Bahamas and the British Virgin Islands. He understands the aesthetic form of boats,” Friendship 40 designer Ted Fontaine says of his new client. “He said to me that he had fallen in true love only twice in his life: the first time when he saw his wife and the second time when he saw the Friendship 40. When he said he wanted a longer version I said I’d love to do it.”

So Fontaine, 48, head of the Fontaine Design Group in Portsmouth, R.I., set to work on designing the larger Friendship 53.

“The Friendship 40 really surprised people. It’s the best built 40-footer I’ve ever seen,” says Fontaine, who worked at the Ted Hood Design Group for more than 20 years. “The Friendship 53 is going to be a stretched-out version of the 40 with a wider cockpit, and will be more comfortable.”

With a beam of about 14 feet, 11 inches, Fontaine says the Friendship 53 will retain the shallow draft of the 40, drawing around 4 feet, 11 inches with the centerboard up and 10 feet, 6 inches with the board down. The cockpit is designed with three deep settees, making for a spacious sitting area, he says. The genoa is roller furling, with lines led below deck and the sheets led to electric winches at either side of the helm. Two buttons at the helmsman’s feet control the in-boom furling main.

Below deck is a fully equipped galley to starboard and a double cabin with en suite head to port. The forward master stateroom has an en suite head with a separate shower. Fontaine has drawn up two optional interior plans for clients who are interested in three-cabin layouts.

“While the Friendship 40 is capable of ocean sailing, it’s really intended for coastal cruising,” Fontaine says. “The Friendship 53 will be capable of doing both and will be great for families.”

The first Friendship 53 is being built by custom yacht builders Austral Yachts of Wangarei, New Zealand. Fontaine expects the first hull to be finished and delivered in June 2006. Fully loaded, Fontaine says the Friendship 53 will cost around $2.3 million.

“Eventually, I’d like to make a mid-60-foot model,” he says. “The market lacks boats that can sail around the world that still have the comforts and aesthetics of some of the smaller boats. I think the Friendship brand will become known for making boats like that. The Friendship 53 is the next stage in the process.”