John Risley is a Canadian billionaire, owner and founder of Clearwater Fine Foods, an international corporation that is one of the world's largest seafood suppliers. In April 2018, Risley celebrated his 70th birthday. He has been associated with the sea since he was a child. The fishing business is just one of the ways a man maintains this connection.
Risley's other passion is boats and sailing. For him, now co-owner of the 51.1 metre sailing yacht Royal Huisman Meteor, it all started when he was a boy at home in Nova Scotia, Canada. During his life Risley has been on board a lot of different vessels: he participated in autonomous ocean exits on trawlers and research vessels, and in weekend regattas on a 6-meter wooden sailing boat.
A lot of Risley's boats are designed by himself. He is now thinking of a project for a luxury ocean-going autonomous superyacht that will be named Nothern star: this is how Risley calls all his big projects.
This project, however, will be revolutionary for both the client and the industry as a whole. Already now, Risley's new yacht is claiming to be the «most efficient motor yacht in the world.
Superyacht Times journalists talked to Riesley about how a revolutionary project was born.
«It's more - it's better.»
«Sailing is definitely my first love. I have to say, if you are going to spend a lot of time on the water, you have to understand that there are limits to sailing, especially when it comes to long trips and their logistics," says»Risley.
It was his love of sailing that drove him to buy a boat from Palmer Johnson Maysylph (now Axia), a 37.5 meter sailing motorboat that first received the name Northern Star from Risley. The time he spent aboard this boat marked the beginning of two decades of collaboration with the German shipyard Lürssen and an even more fruitful partnership with Moran Yacht & Ship, which became Risley's yacht broker and advisor for many years.
«Now that I'm thinking about moving from the Palmer Johnson to the first Lürssen, it seems to me that my way of thinking, something that is the fault of the whole industry, including me, has caused it. I thought it meant ««more» to me than that. Today I know it's not always true. «It just «»means something else». It depends on what you want to do on the water, so sometimes less «is better». But now I'm still in more «& better mode.
What followed the Maysylph can certainly be described by this formula. «The first Lürssen»mentioned by Risley is of course the 63-meter Northern Star (better known as the Polar Star), released in 2005.
Soon, in 2009, the German shipyard delivered another boat with the same name to the owner. This time it was a 75.4 metre motor yacht which from afar can be easily confused with her little sister. It was on the new Northern Star that Risley and his family rediscovered the oceans. They returned home with the understanding that care for this priceless habitat is a double effort.
«I am a leader among those who make money on the ocean, not only by catching fish, but also by energy and other industries. I was lucky to own a fun boat as a child, to grow up under the influence of the ocean. It remains a huge field for global economic processes, so I want to spend more time at sea and be aware of the changes that are happening there. And the changes are the most dramatic. And they have an impact not only on marine life, but on a much larger scale. I want to be closer to this, to know about this, and at the same time be a responsible ocean manager and all that he has to offer.
Energy efficiency above all
Continuing his dreams of living at sea, Risley embarked on an ambitious new project inspired by decades of working with offshore vessels.
«Industrial vessels have become the prototype (we are engaged in both offshore transportation and deep-sea fishing). This industry has made me wonder why the technology used in it is not used in the development of my boats. Large motor yachts are some of the most inefficient boats in the world when compared to heavy duty commercial boats. It's a fact. With this in mind, when our new project with Lürssen is completed, it is likely to be the most efficient motor yacht in the world.
Risley proposes a complete change in the engine room concept on board his new brainchild.
This means that the way in which the power produced by the engines is used will be rethought, among other things. The days of wasteful generator operation are over. Instead, the ship will provide a large bank of batteries with all the electricity it needs.
«Diesel generators will only be needed while the batteries are being recharged," explains Riesley. - Most motor yachts have two main engines and three generators. There are three, if not four, of these units running at the same time on board. And that's crazy! If they don't do this on commercial ships, why in God's name do we do it on our boats all the time?»
Risley understands that the available modern technology needed to make old-fashioned fossil fuels unnecessary is still not being used at full capacity. But this should not be an obstacle to taking advantage of the opportunities that stunning technology has to offer today.
«Of course, with the development of Tesla in 5 years we will have better batteries than now, but it should not stop before buying Tesla today. Sphere grows like a yeast. There is no doubt that batteries will be better in five years, but this is no reason not to use modern batteries and available technology.
In such an ambitious project, the support and knowledge of an experienced partner is indispensable. Risley's role as such is played by Moran Yacht & Ship, a company with which he has built several vessels and which has already taught him many valuable lessons when he first started building superyachts.
A broker's value during boat construction is one of the truths that Risley clearly understands.
«People very often think that it is possible to do without a chief advisor and not to pay him a commission, as if it is an additional cost which they should not bear. You will pay it anyway. One way or another. Either a commission, or by getting a more expensive and less functional yacht. Or it just won't meet the standard you originally expected. And as someone who has built probably more boats (not just motor yachts) than most owners, I will tell everyone that a broker is the best investment they can make .
The benefits of working with an experienced partner during construction are much more important to Riesley than just being sure that the boat will arrive on time. Especially when it comes to building something the world has never seen before.
«You need an advisor who makes money on building impressive motor yachts. Someone who is involved in three or four projects at once. This is a way to learn from the different examples and mistakes of other people. All data is anonymous, and the question is no longer what «color the bath is in that guy's hands, but»what we can learn from each other in terms of new technologies and construction methods.
«Sea SUV» Lürssen Icecap.
The project «for the most efficient motor yacht in the world», which is being built for Risley Lurssen, is now named Icecap. The 107m Explorer will be launched in 2021 and the new ice class vessel will be equipped with all the «off-road options that»are only available for boats of this size.
The large helicopter pad with its own flooded hangar will allow easy access to the shore. For a more familiar way of observing the scenery, a special room with 180 degree panoramic views will be located right at the bow of the boat. What, according to Risley, will not be absolutely accurate on board is submarines.
«I am claustrophobic and don't want to sink slowly in a glass ball," he explains».
Where to go when all roads are open?
It seems that the most difficult part of the project will be to decide where to go on a new boat when it is ready.
«I want to go everywhere. I don't sly when I say we really don't like popular places. We've been there and we don't feel the need to go back to the same places over and over again. At times when we were in remote places, our guests each time stood in awe of their beauty. This was, for example, in Greenland, which we walked around from all sides, but where we still managed to discover only a little. These are the type of places we want to visit and where we want to take our family, friends, business partners to share this experience with us because it is unique. I do not understand what is unique about the south coast of France. If you keep going there, you will not find anything that anyone else has not seen before you.
«I don't want to cool the fervor of people who keep coming back to their favorite places in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, I just dream of inspiring people to do more with their boats.
The last one is not just about routes. As a man who has remained faithful to this course throughout his yachting life, John Risley certainly has a lot to teach ambitious boat owners who want to use their boats for their own good.
Will he ever go back to building a sailing yacht when the bigger«, better stage is over?
«I don't know. At some point in your life, you realize that you're mortal. And then you say: Hey, how «long am I gonna be here?» Hopefully, I can build boats until I die.