VaiVai is one of what owners and brokers close to this fast-growing fleet estimate is about 20 Gunboats in various states of completion around the globe. These G-boats are mostly floating maids in waiting, as the assets of Gunboat International, VaiVai’s original maker, work their way through North Carolina Eastern Bankruptcy Court. For the record, major branding and tools were sold in May of 2016 to France-based Grand Large Yachting, which now claims management of the physical production assets located in Wanchese, North Carolina. Just last month, brokers filed for nearly $200,000 in lost fees, plus court costs. More agony is ahead for those blown out of the water by Gunboat’s demise.
VaiVai first came to our attention through its owner. He hired us a few years ago to develop concept plans for a high-performance ocean cruiser, called the Bluewater 56 — pictured to the left. Over the years, we’ve come to admire this owner’s tenacity and will to make his VaiVai whole. He faced the full spectrum of challenges imposed by this small, but highly visible, failing of the custom and semi-custom yacht industry. VaiVai’s origin story is not pretty.
The original boat, says our owner, was a stock GB55 that came out of production stern heavy, overloaded, and filled with electronics, hydraulics and other fittings that were either too massive, did not work as specified, or were installed without the owner’s consent. As Gunboat International slid into bankruptcy, fixes on these issues apparently ground to a halt. So, our owner rolled up his sleeves, broke out his project-management smarts, and got into the yacht-finishing business all by himself.
He reached out directly to multi-hull designer Nigel Irens, who did much of the original work on the GB55. And to Irens credit, he took on the less than easy task of reworking his own boat. Slowly but surely, this off-the-shelf stock GB55 became a semi-custom “GB57.”
To compensate for the hull trim, 2 extra feet of waterline were added at the transoms. A new cabin layout was designed, a rotating rig was added; there were improvements in daggerboards, rudders, and steering systems, as well as new electrical technology, tramp attachments, hydraulic redesigns, and a new sail package. It all added up to serious weight reduction: We feel safe agreeing with the owner that roughly 30-percent in weight was saved over the original GB55.
With lightness comes speed and safety. The actual performance both cruising and on the race course of VaiVai against other Gunboats is no easy call. The Gunboat fleet varies by length, level of finish, and sail plans. But from the back of our designer’s envelope, we figure the rotating mast, longer waterline, lighter weight and optimized distribution for that weight net out to at least a 5 percent speed advantage.
Definitely not chicken feed for a boat that can touch 20 knots.
Dressed out as she is, as an all-up performance cruiser, VaiVai is ideal for fast-paced island hoping for two couples, or casual racing for a fun group of friends. The modern hardware package and tricked-out running rigging includes soft-loop sailing hardware for all blocks and padeyes. A Southern Spars rotating wing mast flies an ample North Sails package in a Gran Tourismo-style. The sail plan can be shifted like the manual transmission on a Porsche 911. Minimal lines and winches provide easy changes in sail combination between 4 different reef positions and furling headsails; set sails up, or drop them down, and VaiVai slides in and out of high and low gears with little work. Vrooom.
We find the improved layout attractive, in a spare and sleek Gunboat spaciousness. We also like the ample on-water veranda that brings the environment into the boat, with real comfort and safety. Let’s not forget that VaiVai still sports a Miele range in the galley, a first-rate shower, a way-slick stateroom and she‘s rock steady at anchor. Making this boat the perfect entertainment platform that wins both on style and racing handicap points.
Obviously, we are not brokers, but assuming a new custom carbon racing/cruising cat will run well north of $4 million, ViaVia is also pretty darn cheap.
VaiVai is a survivor that, despite the long odds, managed to become something unique. She deserves a good home with those who will love and understand her. We’re happy to answer your questions and connect you to the people who know her far better than we do.
To us, ViaVia is one smart little cat.