Andrey Lomakin, owner and CEO of West Nautical, talks through his first commissioned project, a Mulder 94 Voyager named Firefly.
Yachting was, for so long, the preserve of ‘old money’ – a marque of lineage and an affinity with the ultimate gentleman’s pursuit. However, with the collapse of communism at the beginning of the 1990s came an explosion of new wealth across the world, most notably, perhaps, in the new democratic state of Russia. This seismic global shift created a myriad of new markets for the various luxury sectors that had, until then, been reliant on the traditional territories. The superyacht industry was one of the major beneficiaries of this change, experiencing a corollary surge in fleet numbers from the mid-1990s until the financial crash of 2008. The hugely positive impact of BRIC superyacht adoption should not be underestimated, and the demands and expectations of a new group of clients have forced the industry to develop at a rapid rate. While some owners have epitomised ‘yachting as conspicuous consumption’, there are others who have it so deeply engrained in their psyche that it becomes a part of them. Andrey Lomakin is one such person. His lifelong passion for sailing has informed his career path and, as a result, his path to superyacht ownership.
The founder and CEO of full-service yacht company West Nautical, Lomakin first fell in love with yachting as a child. “When I was a young boy, my mother took me [on a three-day trip] on one of the biggest lakes around Moscow on board an old commercial vessel that had been refitted for passengers, and it was really fun,” he explains.
With his love of the water firmly established, Lomakin’s personal route to superyacht ownership began in 1999 with his purchase of a Maxum 19. This incremental path continued two years later when he upgraded to a Regal 2100, followed by the purchase of a Fairline Targa 40 in 2003 and then a Fairline Phantom 46 the following year. In tandem with his own experiences as a yacht owner, Lomakin was establishing himself as one of Russia’s top yacht dealers, firstly for Regal, and then for Sea Ray and Fairline, the success of which was based on both his own natural acumen and a burgeoning class of Russian yacht owners. “During this time, we were selling yachts of 30 metres, which was new for Russian customers.”
As his business empire grew, so too did the scope of his own voyages. “It was on the [Phantom] 46 that I did my first big voyage,” he says. This 400nm river voyage led Lomakin to secure his Coastal Skipper course at the Royal Yachting Association in Southampton. “I brought a 58-footer to Moscow for private use, and when I sold her, the next boat I bought was to use in the Mediterranean – a Fairline Squadron 78. I started in the Balearics and finished in Turkey.”
Lomakin has fallen in love with the Mediterranean, especially the uninhabited Balearic island of Cabrera. “From Cabrera you can go to Ibiza or Formentera; they’re fantastic places.” He is also a regular visitor to Portofino, Forte dei Marmi and La Spezia. Of the latter he says, “You can go from anchor to Palmaria, where there is a castle [also a UNESCO World Heritage Site]. Porto Venere is a nice bay because you are always protected. There are some lovely restaurants with pleasant views and you can take a tender to the quay.”
Fast-forward a number of years, and the culmination of his figurative journey came when he took delivery of a Mulder 94 Voyager, named Firefly, last year. This was his first commissioned, hands-on project and he admits it wasn’t easy at first, despite choosing an esteemed shipyard. For one, the yacht had to be built to class, and he recruited Dutch experts Vripack to provide the engineering and naval architecture for the project, which was designed by Frank Laupman.
In Lomakin’s educated opinion, this triumvirate of Dutch expertise exemplifies the country’s stature as the leading industry hub. It comes from an emerging trend he identified among his clients around 2010 when relatively new yacht owners were entering the market higher up, at around 50m. As part of his service, as well as his own interest in yachtbuilding, Lomakin spent time onsite during the course of these projects, representing his clients and gaining an insight into what worked and what didn’t.
This experience stood him in good stead to oversee his own project, although that is not to say it wasn’t a steep learning curve. “With GRP boats, you just pay the money, turn on the engines and go swimming. We started [Firefly] in March 2012 and the design process with Omega [Frank Laupman] was completed around July. To design a complete boat is a very complex thing, and one element can completely destroy the whole look of the boat.
“Frank Laupman did some fantastic initial sketches and then we worked a lot on making the yacht look harmonised. There was one element that took me three weeks [to rectify].” Indeed, when Lomakin walks you through the process via a series of photographs, his attention to detail and interest in the minutiae come to the fore, with his logic being that quality, symmetry and consistency are the hallmarks of a classic yacht. And even with Firefly being at the bottom end of the superyacht size spectrum, it is impressive to hear of Lomakin’s meticulous approach to the project.
It is, therefore, somewhat surprising to hear he sold Firefly so soon after taking delivery of her, but Lomakin says Firefly was only ever intended to be conceived as the ultimate commercial proposition. “The original idea was for her to be part of a series. We, as West Nautical, bought the design from Frank Laupman and we now own the design rights … And already, I am going to two shipyards with clients this summer to, hopefully, sign one or two more boats.”
The sale of Firefly comprised a part-exchange that saw Lomakin take ownership of a Sunseeker 80 which, at the time of writing, was still to be collected by him in Malta and then taken to Monaco under her own steam. So is the allure of yachting as much about the business side of it as it is a pastime? “Sure … but for me, even more [than business]; while some people enjoy having a glass of rosé in the cockpit, I like driving and navigating.”
When it comes to yachting, Lomakin is clearly happiest at the helm of his vessel. He says he is unsure if he will ever go beyond the 30m level, firstly because he wants to retain the independence to operate his yacht himself, but also because his family are young and long passages would not be practical. It seems that for this experienced owner, who has moved through the size spectrum as his demands have dictated, ‘30’ may well be the magic number. – END
Words by Will Mathieson