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Jobs lost as Itchenor yacht builder folds

The historic shipyard now faces an uncertain future

The historic shipyard now faces an uncertain future

SOUTHERLY Yachts, one of the biggest sailboat names in British boat-building, based at Itchenor Shipyard, has folded again, this time with the loss of some 50 jobs.

The builder, which once employed 165 people at Itchenor and its moulding operation in Havant, first went into receivership 
last year with reported debts of £1,972,520.

Creditors who met at the Gatwick Hilton Hotel on the eve of the August bank holiday weekend were told efforts to refloat the building arm of the business had failed, and that once three yachts currently under construction for customers were completed, production of the Southerly brand would cease.

Reacting to what he called the ‘deeply-regrettable skilled staff layoffs’, Alastair Spencer, chairman of West Itchenor Parish Council, said: “Itchenor has supported boat-building at its shipyard for over 300 years.

“It has formed an integral part of our village character and the local economy.

“The potential loss of this boat-building company will be detrimental to us, to the harbour and it will permanently change the character of our village.

“We will do all we can to maintain the retention of marine use for this site.”

In May of last year the business, then called Northshore Yachts, went into voluntary liquidation owing close to £2m to a variety of creditors.

The company reformed as Southerly Yachts just two months later in July 2013, taking back around 50 of its former 160-strong skilled workforce.

But efforts to reinvigorate the business have failed and a creditors’ meeting took place at the Gatwick Hilton Hotel on Friday, August 22.

Chris Stephens from FRP Advisory was once again appointed Receiver.

Despite a number of efforts by the Observer to contact Southerly and FRP Advisory, neither were prepared to comment.

The prestigious land and buildings at Itchenor, which have been a major centre for boat-building since medieval times, is owned by Sunchalk Ltd.

The mouldings, intellectual property rights to the Southerly, Fisher and Vancouver yacht brands together with equipment and machinery, are thought to all remain outside the grasp of the Receiver.

Northshore Yachts was formed in 1971, and purchased by Lester Abbott from founder Bryan Moffatt for a reputed £4.5m in 2003.

Abbott invested heavily in expanding the Southerly range, building two new factory buildings – the latest of which was opened by Princess Anne in 2010.

In 2011, Sail Magazine in America awarded the Southerly 57 the title of Best Boat Winner for flagship monohulls.

The company decided to focus exclusively on building up the Southerly range at the luxury end of the market.

But competition for Southerly’s once unique place in the market has increased with the introduction of similar but cheaper deckhouse saloon cruising yachts from bigger French builders.

 

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