Yacht firm gets royal seal of approval

VIDEO Spirit Yachts, whose vessels provide among the most luxurious sailing experiences in the world, was today presented with the Queen's Award for Enterprise by the Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk, Lord Tollemache.

Duncan Brodie

SPIRIT Yachts, whose vessels provide among the most luxurious sailing experiences in the world, was today presented with the Queen's Award for Enterprise by the Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk, Lord Tollemache.

The award, first announced in April, reflects the Ipswich company's export success in recent years, with overseas sales having increased seven-fold since 2005 to nearly £3.7milion per annum, representing 70% of the company's total turnover.

Spirit Yachts was originally formed in Saxmundham 15 years ago by Sean McMillan, managing director, and business partner Mike Newman, who was killed in a plane crash last year.


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The company relocated to the Ipswich Haven Marina four years ago, as a result of starting to build larger yachts which could not easily be moved from its original site, and it now employs a workforce of about 35, not including the 10 to 15 sub-contractors who are usually also working on-site at any one time.

Spirit usually builds three or four yachts a year - it has built a total of 44 since it started out, and they seldom come up for sale second-hand - with each being crafted from the finest quality hardwoods to the customer's own specifications.

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Although its reputation was already firmly established in sailing circles, Spirit's name became more widely known when one of its yachts was featured in the last James Bond film, Casino Royale.

Lord Tollemache yesterday presented the Queen's Award - an inscribed crystal bowl and a certificate - to Spirit Yachts co-director Jenny Whitmarsh.

“About a year ago I asked the chief executive of Ipswich Borough Council to take me on a tour of Ipswich and in particular the new developments which are so apparent from where we are today,” said Lord Tollemache.

“A memorable part of that tour was to come here to Spirit Yachts and to meet Sean McMillan and his team. I was particularly keen that he nominate his company for a Queen's Award and today we are here to celebrate that splendid achievement.”

He continued: “These yachts have been described as the marine equivalent of an Aston Martin - the high quality, high-tech, craftsmanship construction making them the envy of the yachting world.”

And having paid tribute to the role of Mike Newman as co-founder, and to the “world-beating skills” of Mr McMillan and the Spirit team, Lord Tollemache added: “I believe Spirit Yachts is a wonderful example of what can be achieved by a dedicated team and, in particular, a wonderful example of what can be achieved here in Ipswich, our county town.”

In reponse, Mr McMillan paid his own tribute to the company's workforce. “This is your achievement; this is our achievement,” he said. “I think it is a fantastic achievement, and I am immensely proud of you all.”

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