Frank Stephenson is best-known as McLaren’s lead designer. Responsible for the shape of the McLaren P1 hybrid supercar, Frank knows fast machinery and exotic, high-tech materials. When it came time to design a boat for his own personal use, though, he chose the most elemental boat building material there is: wood.
“Everyone’s got this white plastic [fiberglass] shell, a big boat maybe, but there’s no romance,” explains Stephenson. “Wooden boats get better with age, they smell nice, they feel nice, every one has its own character.”
This boat, which Frank named Riverbreeze, has more character than most. At 31 feet, it is a larger version of the famous wooden boats that Italian company Riva started making back in 1842. For generations, Rivas were the boat of choice for wealthy sportsmen and beautiful women who played along the shores of the French Riviera. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton had one. So did Brigitte Bardot. Stephenson tells The Drive.
“It’s in the vein of a Riva,” he says, referencing the classic luxury boating line. “But it’s stretched and more dramatic. It’s one of those labors of love, where I just wanted to make something special.”
Stephenson’s boat is made from hardwoods and trimmed with rosewood from Africa and mahogany from Brazil. It started life with 15 coats of lacquer. “We’ve added five more coats every year, so now there’s 35,” says Stephenson. “It looks wet, with a shine that gets deeper and deeper.”
The McLaren designer elected to power his one-of-a-kind craft with a 4,200 watt electric motor fed by 8 lead acid 12 volt batteries with a total of 14.7 kWh of storage capacity. That’s enough to keep his electric boat going for about 10 hours of operation. If he needs to top up the batteries before heading back to his home in Henley-On-Thames, there are electric charge points available along both banks of the river. A full recharge takes about 8 hours.
“For a designer, it’s all about that balance. I’ll get up at 6 a.m. and beat myself up on a high-decibel Ducati all day. So when I get on the boat, all I want to hear is the birds and the water. And there’s no laws against drinking and driving on the river, so we’ll just smoke a pipe, drink some whiskey and chill.”
Photos courtesy of Frank Stephenson.