Ed Dubois was a good friend of Practical Boat Owner magazine contributor Peter K Poland and this was probably the last and most up-to-date profile on him. As published in the February 2016 issue of PBO.
But perhaps his most important new design commission, Dubois says, was the 37.4m (123ft) yacht Aquel II in 1985. She was the first big Dubois boat to be built in New Zealand – and she revolutionised the look and interior comfort of the so-called superyacht.
Dubois told me ‘The owner, Bob Milhous, gave me free rein. He wanted something different – with an interior more along modern motorboat lines.
‘Externally, he wanted a sleek sailing yacht with clear decks. All the hydraulic winches were hidden. The interior was more open-plan, and a pilot house accommodated split-level living areas.’
Aquel II reinvented the genre and catapulted Dubois into the exotic world of superyachts. He never looked back. Now there’s even a thriving biennial regatta for Dubois-designed superyachts
held in Porto Cervo.
Aquel ll’s striking modern looks also attracted the attention of Neville Crichton, who commissioned Dubois to design him a new 106-footer. Esprit was the first of 23 successive projects designed by Dubois and built by Alloy Yachts.
Indeed, Dubois brought so much work to New Zealand yards that in 2005 he became the first person to receive the New Zealand Industry Award. This was in recognition of the US$400 million worth of Dubois yachts (sail and power) that had been built there. Now this total is up to US$800 million.
This breakthrough into the superyacht world did not, however, distract Dubois from designing pure race boats. His 8 Metre design Gefion won the World Cup in 1988 then continued her magical victory tour on both sides of the Atlantic, taking the honours at six more World Cups.
The 1989 and 1990 Dubois-designed 8s Sarissa and The Natural also won World Cups.
Another pivotal point in Dubois’ ever-widening sphere of influence occurred in 1987. Up to then, all his designs had been for sailing boats – from quarter tonners to superyachts. He was commissioned to design a 21.3m (70ft) motorboat, and this was built in New Zealand.
In 1989, he graduated to 50m (164ft) and Turquoise was the first of many large motorboats to be built by ex-NATO suppliers Gurnay – renamed Turquoise Proteksan. Since then, they have built several more Dubois-designed motor yachts.
Nowadays, motor yacht designs represent about 30% of Dubois’ turnover in value, and 20% in numbers. But he qualified this by saying that any sailboat over 40m has to offer motor yacht comfort and facilities.
Pick of the yachts
When I asked Dubois to single out a few memorable superyachts, he said: ‘The more notable in recent years include Nirvana, launched in 2007. She won the “Yacht of the Show” at Monaco in 2008 – the best boat in any category (sail or power).
‘This was quite something as it’s very rare that a sailboat is chosen, there being so many more motor yachts.
‘Nirvana (53m/174ft) is unusual in that she has a centreboard and a minimum draught of just 3m. The boat sails upwind beautifully and reaches well. The interior design by Josep Juanpere Miret is exceptionally attractive and complements our layout perfectly.
‘Since then, the 2011 Aglaia (66m/217ft) ranks highly for her size and speed. The 2013-launched Ganesha (46m/151ft) is also a special boat for her speed and grace.
‘On the motor yacht side, Como (46.2m; 166ft), built by Feadship, is a very special vessel. She won practically every award going in 2014 – Feadship told us that no boat has ever won more awards in the history of yacht building! Of course, the awards thing is a little bit subjective – but it’s much better to win than not!
‘Como is different because we had to grab the owner’s attention (in 2011) to get him to build something in what were still the recession years. She has a sweeping inflected sheerline and a more upright stem to look both eager and stylish, giving a feeling of movement even when stationary. The shape is practical and has a harmony of line, matching function with form.
‘As a side note, 10 years ago our two large sailing yachts Drumbeat and Tiara (both 53m/174ft) were first and second in the Rolex Transatlantic Race from New York to England in 2005. This had a huge impact. It showed that large yachts like these could be raced safely and successfully.’
And as a crew member on Drumbeat, Dubois won another Rolex watch to add to his collection.