Image: Facebook

Former workers of Fitzroy Yachts watched the launch of the yard’s last build, Escapade, leave the New Zealand facility yesterday. Some wore red shirts that said “The last Escapade cost me my job”.

The 37.5m sailing yacht, owned by Swiss businessman Christophe Albin, was launched in a “veil of secrecy”, according to the Taranaki Daily News. On a Facebook page established to support the workers, Chris Earp, a former worker, wrote: “It’s a shame that Christophe is trying to keep all the people that worked so hard on that yacht from seeing her off.”  He also described Fitzroy Yachts as the “finest yard in New Zealand”.

Fitzroy, which started operations in the late 1990s, announced in January that the Taranaki facility would close down in April since the yard could find no more work. Escapade was the 11th superyacht built at the facility.

Albin, who is based in Malaysia and owns a large electronics firm, reportedly bought the struggling shipyard late last year to complete his boat. Former workers who had worked on the boat were not allowed on-site for the christening. Many watched from the road.

The Supporting Fitzroy Yachts Workers Facebook page wrote that it was the end of an era. “You should all be very proud of the world-class super yachts that have left the yard over the years,” said the page.  “Your workmanship, dedication and passion for boat building is second to none and should be applauded. This is a huge loss to the workers, their families, and our local community.”

A message to all staff from Peter White-Robinson read, “…the huge feeling of sadness I have for all the staff that have done such a wonderful job over the years and are now having to find other employment. The team can certainly take enormous pride in what they achieved and it is great to think that this was all done in New Plymouth with incredible support from the whole city.”