The Godfather: The story of a serial Horizon yacht owner
There is one owner that has quietly been building boats with the Horizon Group for the last three decades. Some call him “The Godfather of Horizon.”
The series of serendipitous encounters and introductions that forms every long-lasting relationship is often too complex to discern. Yet those relationships that stand the test of time are forged by mutual goals and paved with manifestations often shrugged off as coincidence. Within the creation of these relationships is usually a delightful story that unfolds.
Alec Hammond likes cars. He likes driving them – like roadtripping in his 1965 Ford Mustang convertible through the narrow and winding lanes of Norway. He likes collecting them – taking his pair of 1965 Jaguar E Types out for a spin to a charming English pub in the Cotswolds on a summer’s evening or meandering through the vieux villes of France in his 1937 Alvis Speed 25. He also likes racing them – whether it’s hitting the Daytona International Speedway in his 1965 Ford Shelby Mustang or competing for the Cup in the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.
But Alec has another passion – perhaps one stronger than his affinity for motor cars – and that is his love for boats. Alec’s first boat was a 34ft wooden Storebro Royal Cruiser. “It wasn’t good for going to sea,” he says, “but we did anyway.”
At the time, Alec was building his business, Oxford Products, Ltd. – a leading supplier of bicycle and motorcycle accessories – and was traveling regularly to Taiwan to meet suppliers. Word got out that Alec was keen on boats and he was invited to the boatbuilding mecca of Kaohsiung, Taiwan where, during one exploratory visit, he was introduced to the ex-quality control manager for Ka Shing Enterprises – a young man with a fledgling shipyard named Horizon. Alec struck a deal with the young John Lu to build boats that could be imported into the U.K.
Alec went to a restaurant one evening during his visit and ran into one of the few other non-Chinese patrons – none other than the designer of Alec’s Storebro Royal Cruiser, John Lindblom. More introductions were made and Lindblom penned Alec’s first boat built by Lu.
“We imported the first boat, booked a space in the London Boat Show, and reserved the dock at Chelsea Harbour,” says Alec. “We got the boat in from Taiwan, equipped it in Southhampton, and set off for the passage from east up the English Channel en route to London. It was a gorgeous, crisp winter morning, with a bit of a chop in the sea. My son was below sleeping, I was driving the boat, said suddenly he came running up and said ‘Dad, there’s some water below!’ Sure enough, there was water rushing in from the front. We had hit a 45 gallon drum, end on, like we had been torpedoed. So, our first sail was for an insurance company,” Alec laughs. “John came over, the boat was recovered and refitted and we forged ahead.”
Business between the two continued, and Alec imported and sold several of John’s early builds. One sale happened to be to a dealer in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), who inspired Alec to spend a holiday on a charter boat in the islands.
“I had never been to that part of the world before and it was paradise,” says Alec. It was too good to miss.”
So, Alec asked John to build him a 64ft monohull and send it to Miami, and at the same time asked his girlfriend Barbara to quit her job and sail off into the sunset with him, and the couple established a charter business in the BVI aboard their new Horizon yacht, Virgin Venture.
“The boat came out, we brought it to the Bahamas and we went out on charter. We ran one as crew, then decided to build a second one, Virgin Venture Two, and put crew on the first one so we could run the second one.”
The experience, while exhilarating, was also exhausting, and Barbara and Alec soon decided that they had had their fill of the charter business and sold Virgin Venture One and Two.
“Going back and forth between Miami and the BVI took us through The Bahamas, which we thought were beautiful, so we decided it was time to discover that area of the world,” says Barbara. “To do that, we needed a boat.”
With the BVI being a catamaran haven, Alec and Barbara had come to know Richard Ford, who was selling Africat catamarans at the time. They did a deal with Richard to purchase one. “When we bought the 42 Africat, it was the only powercat that we liked on the market. It wasn’t finished to the quality we liked and indeed the quality we had enjoyed with our Horizons for many years. We wanted more of a luxury powercat, so we shopped around to different builders in America and visited yards in Maine, etc… but the plans weren’t really going anywhere.”
Then an idea struck, and Alec reached out to John Lu.
Armed with design and renderings for the ideal luxury power catamaran, Alec and Richard flew to Taiwan to meet with John and his team. “John could see the potential and the deal was done; the Powercat would be built by Horizon and marketed under the Horizon brand. That was the start of The Powercat Company.”
The very first Horizon Powercat was the Hammond’s own PC60, Blue Horizon. Their second was the PC60 Ptolemy. Ptolemy was Hull 10 of the PC60 model – which by this time was flanked by the PC52 and the PC74 models – and the Hammonds collaborated with Richard to incorporate new technology such as MAN 800hp engines to allow for efficient cruising.
In 2022, the Hammonds commissioned their next power catamaran.
Oasis was christened during an intimate ceremony at the 2022 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. As Hull 26 of the PC60 model, she represents a very special build for the Hammonds, who run the boat themselves and therefor incorporated everything they might want in this latest and greatest powercat build. Equipped with MAN 800hp engines, Oasis is equipped with a Victron Lithium Phosphate battery bank which enables many hours of quiet non-generator time while at anchor – even with air-conditioning running. Large solar panels and alternators allow rapid recharging of the house bank.
Configured with a four-cabin layout, Oasis has been fitted with a dayhead on the flybridge along with a private area that could house crew if desired.
“We wanted a name that represents what the boat is to us – an oasis,” says Alec, who describes his role as the Chairman of the Board of his company as a “semi-retirement,” while his son serves as Managing Director. “It’s our winter home from which we can change our view whenever we want. She’s a sanctuary for us.”
Despite having been involved in the builds of the first three Horizon yachts and having sold the first John Lindblom and JC Espinosa-designed Horizons, Alec carries his nickname of “The Godfather of Horizon” – a moniker bestowed by John Lu – with humility.
“Yes, we were instrumental in Horizon’s story, but really by accident. If you look after people, they stay,” he says. “Horizon makes that easy.”