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Like driving a Porsche on the water

Fearless Yachts was started by two go-fast fans who couldn’t find the combination of speed and elegance

Fearless Yachts was started by two go-fast fans who couldn’t find the combination of speed and elegance

Jeffrey Binder describes Fearless owners as just as the name implies: adrenaline junkies who get their fix driving fast cars, fast boats and fast motorcycles. Speed is not all they want from their toys. The machinery must also be a work of art — superbly styled, finely engineered.

A Fearless isn’t just another fast boat, says Binder, though the 44-footer he plans to unveil at the Miami International Boat Show in February should top out at 120 mph (or 104 knots).

“You see a beautiful sculpture when you get into this boat and start it up and take it through its [paces],” says the CEO of Fearless Yachts, of Miami Beach, a year-old entry in high-performance boating. “The people who can afford this kind of boat are looking for a melding of design and performance.”

The 44 — and the Fearless 28 he introduced last year at Miami — are collaborations between Fearless’ in-house naval architects and the Porsche Design Studio, based in Austria and one of the German sports car maker’s affiliates — which designs products ranging from desktop computers to shuttle trains to high-end eyewear to the interiors of private jets.

“It’s one of the top design houses in the world today,” says Binder, a former cruise executive who has built yachts in Japan and raced offshore powerboats for the Benihana team in the mid-1980s.

“We basically gave them a blank piece of paper,” he says. Though the boats are highly styled, “Porsche doesn’t stylize anything unless it adds to functionality,” he says. Nothing is purely decorative.

The Fearless 28’s high styling and high performance turned enough heads that it made Time magazine’s summer 2007 “Style and Design 100,” a listing of the year’s most influential designs in many fields.

The hull and deck of both the 28 and 44 are Kevlar and fiberglass, Binder says, the deck wrapping around the hull so there is no seam — or rub rail — between the two. He says this stiffens the boat and reduces flexing, for higher performance.

“You won’t see a rivet [or screw] on the boat,” as on a windshield, he says. “They’re all hidden underneath. It’s perfect to near-perfect in nearly every aspect.”

The dash on the 44 looks like it’s out of a Porsche sports car, the interior styling reminiscent of the styling of a private jet, he says.

The hand-rubbed, clear-coat finish looks like that of an Aston Martin, and the stern has some of the features of a Porsche GT.

“I really consider it a work of art,” he says.

The 44 will come standard with twin Mercury Racing 700-hp SCi stern drives, or it can be tricked out with a pair of Mercury Racing 1,075-hp SCi stern drives, which Binder says should deliver 120 mph.

The 28 and 44 are built at American Marine Holdings, of Sarasota, Fla., maker of Donzi high-performance yachts, by workers dedicated to building Fearless yachts. The Fearless 28 retails at $300,000 to $350,000. Her big sister will cost $750,000 to $1.2 million, Binder says.

Fearless plans to sell the yachts through high-end boat dealerships — it is selling the 28 on he West Coast though John Beery Yachts, of San Francisco, a luxury and high-performance yacht dealer; at showrooms linked to Porsche dealerships — its first East Coast dealer will be Champion Motors Inc. of Pompano Beach, Fla., the world’s largest Porsche dealer; and at the more prestigious boat shows.

Binder imagines his customer owning a Porsche and a Fearless — with a lot of Porsche-designed accessories to go with both. He characterizes Fearless ownership as both a lifestyle — a very discriminating lifestyle — and an attitude, one that “pushes the envelope” in speed, style and luxury. “We are looking to be the marquis brand,” he says.

He says a Fearless 28 was showcased as one of the “toys” on a 210-foot Shadow yacht at last fall’s Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.

The 28 and 44 are Fearless’s entry-level boats. The speedboats are the first of what Binder and partner Gary Fears envision as a line of go-fasts to 150 feet. The schedule for new models is a 68-foot go-fast with a cruising speed of 52 to 55 mph (45 to 48 knots), this coming September; a 125-footer in September 2009; and a 150-foot high-performance yacht in September 1010, all to be introduced at the Monaco International Yacht Show. The 68-foot and larger yachts will be built by the Italian Fippa Group with all-Kevlar hulls and decks, and Porsche styling.

Binder expects to venture into Europe this spring (in late November, the company announced an agreement with Monaco-based yacht distributor, Spencer Ship, to establish a European dealer network) and find a strong market for these yachts there. “With the dollar at a [significant] discount to the euro right now, what we might consider expensive here in the United States is much less expensive in Europe,” he says.

Binder says his order book for the 28 is backlogged 8-1/2 months, with 35 orders pending. He says the average 28-footer requires about 700 hours of labor and the Fearless 44 some 1,300 hours.

Fearless is a publicly owned company and finances its growth through stock sales. Binder, a former board chairman of the now-defunct Commodore Cruise Lines, of Hollywood, Fla., says he and Fears, a Collinsville, Ill., developer, are old friends who didn’t see anything in the high-performance marketplace that was really new or appealed to them very much, so they decided to do something about it.

“Gary is a passionate person, as I am,” Binder says. “There was nothing out there that we wanted for ourselves. We saw this as an opportunity. This is something different, innovative — refreshing.”