Power & Motor Yacht
With the announcement of a new company—Valhalla Boatworks—Viking is impacting the center console market before Hull No. 1 is even built. By Daniel Harding Jr.
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In a surprise announcement this past February, Viking Yachts announced the formation of a new company—Valhalla Boatworks—to build a line of luxury center consoles. Renderings were released for 33-, 37- and 41-foot models with dual, triple and quad outboards respectively. “This is a culmination of all of our years of yacht building and helping our customers fill a need for a Viking center console,” said CEO Pat Healey in an address to dealers and owners. “These boats are going to be [both] custom and production. We can match [our] big boats to small boats that will all look the same.”
News of the Goliath Viking Yachts entering the already crowded center console arena spread with virality across social media, no doubt sending a shiver down the spine of fish everywhere. We caught up with Healey on a blue-bird day at the Miami Yacht Show to learn more about the Valhalla line.
PMY: It’s amazing how you were able to keep this news so quiet. News of Valhalla nearly broke the internet there for a minute. Healey: Yeah, we kept it very quiet and it’s been in the works since a year ago. We met Michael Peters at this show one year ago—Michael does a lot of work for us on the motoryacht side. We liked the Michael Peters’ hull with a double step and ventilated tunnel. From a safety and stability standpoint it works very well.
But yet, it was a social media sensation that I didn’t expect to be that extreme. We kept it very quiet because we didn’t want it to be a distraction. Our product is going to be for the person who wants to customize a small boat like we do with our sportfish boats.
PMY: Who do you see as the Valhalla buyer: a current owner looking for a second boat or maybe new boat owners looking to get into the Viking family?
Healey: I think in the beginning we’re going to get a big vacuum of Viking owners. Between the dealers and the customers, we’ve got 40 boats already committed. And we’re going to go global with the boat. We have great distribution. Not only will we be in North America but we have dealers in Japan, Italy, throughout the Med, the Far East, the Middle East; this
[Valhalla brand] will be in our extended family of companies.
PMY: Besides the dealer network, are there any other advantages that you’re bringing into this segment?
Healey: Well, we have our facility in Mullica that we acquired a few years ago. That’s where we’re going to build the boats. We’re going to move some of the convertibles that we were building in Mullica back to New Gretna [New Jersey]. We have the labor force.
And we think we’re going to fill a niche at the really high-end level. There’s a lot of builders that do an excellent job. But what we can do is do it differently. We can do it the way we’ve done things. We’re going to jump in and build 70 boats in our first year. The first boats will be finished in July.
We move quickly. This was a project that was in a discussion stage a year ago, a meeting stage after that and we really got going on it last summer. And now [in February] we have 60 percent of the molds built for all three boats.
PMY: You’re making a big splash by launching three models at one time. What’s the thinking behind that?
Healey: That’s just our way. And that’s also why we kept this project so quiet. We probably could have had a boat ready for this show if we only did one model. But I didn’t want to come out with a boat and say, ‘Well, the next one’s going to be a foot longer here and a foot longer there and we’re going to have three engines on this one and two engines on another.’ No, no. At the Ft. Lauderdale boat show, all three models will be there.
PMY: Your customers have been asking for a Viking-made center console for a while. Why is now the right time for you to enter this market?
Healey: We did it for all our younger team members and for our dealers; they’re being pushed hard to sell other boats. There’s more than a dozen good builders in this segment but we can do it our way and we can control it with our dealers.
PMY: We understand that your sons Justin and Sean are playing a major role in this new company?
Healey: They’ve been involved from the very beginning. I may have missed a couple meetings, but they’ve made every single one of them. They’re hardcore fish guys just like I was at that age, from fishing on our big boats during our demo-tournament schedule all year. This is a natural fit for them and part of their education. It’s a great stepping stone for them.
This is really no different than what my father and uncle did 25 years ago with me. You gotta have these young guys like my sons and [longtime company captain] Ryan Higgins. Having their enthusiasm is a great thing. What it all comes down to is: Why not? Why not us?