Philippe Fabre 1954 - 2017
Philippe Fabre – 1954 – 2017
A personal memory by David Gray, Mylne Yacht Design.
I first met Philippe and his family in 2007 when surveying a boat in Falmouth with a mutual friend David Cox. We were using a new laser measuring technique, and Philippe was naturally curious about the details, but I didn’t really get to know him till three years later.
In the same year I had also bought the Mylne yacht design business. The financial crash of 2008/9 was not good timing for a luxury yachting brand. Mylne had run a very successful regatta on the Clyde in 2009, but the spin off from this did not materialise and our whole business was in a precarious position.
Around 2010, Philippe had bought the Spirit of Tradition yacht Freya, a race winning Bill Dixon design. He needed a special cradle to support the yacht when she was ashore and this was our first commission for him. As it turned out the fabricator delivered the cradle in component parts, and I travelled to Philippe and Caroline’s Port Grimaud home to spend a few hot and dusty days in a yard happily bolting the cradle together.
During the build of the cradle Philippe had talked of his ideas for a world cruising motor yacht. This would combine the aesthetics of a classic with first class comfort. Philippe recalled halcyon memories of his father’s yacht, and wished this new vessel to have the same slow chugging sound of a large two stroke diesel engine. We put ourselves forward to design this yacht, and at the end of 2010 we were engaged to do just that. The next two years were an exciting challenge.
PF36 became our focus, a yacht which would feature a whisky room, a hold for transportation of emergency relief supplies (Philippe and family had been caught up in the boxing day Tsumani of 2004), a tow capability, two fast tenders, a sailing boat and a sea plane. We explored sail plans and all manner of efficiency saving devices. The original hull design was enhanced with a bulbous bow and a large 1:12 scale hull model was tested in the towing tank at Glasgow University. Our friend, the interior designer Malcolm Duffin was enlisted to bring Philippe’s interior vision to life. Philippe would call us in the morning and explain that he had been walking through the yacht during the night (in his minds eye) and could we check the height of a light fitting, or the depth of a step. Philippe moved from being a client to being part of the Mylne design team bringing PF36 to life. We spent days visiting yards, salvage companies, and other ships getting components and inspiration. It was a truly exciting time. Unfortunately, the budget requirement grew beyond the original limit, and PF36 was shelved.
All was not lost however, a spin off from the project was the Bolt 18 electric yacht tender. An all-aluminium classically styled speed boat which could carry 6 people at up to 30 knots. After a false start we spent a challenging and enjoyable ten weeks in Holland assembling this splendid boat, before towing it to Monaco for the yacht show in September 2012. Philippe’s son Robbie and his friend Sam were in charge of ferrying guests around the show, while the “Mylne” team made their presence known. The Bolt was ahead of its time and still holds the British Water Speed record in its class.
By this time, Philippe had taken a shareholding in our business, and we were in full swing. However reliability problems with the hardware and batteries of the Bolt meant it was never able to be sold as a product.
Never daunted, Philippe found a new alternative to his original dream of PF36, the conversion of some remarkable retired Danish patrol boats. A period of intense design work all round as we kept up with Philippe’s boundless imagination and enthusiasm. My personal highlight from this period was the trip we made on board the Samso to the island of Hel, a few miles offshore from Gdansk. Philippe’s little ship sailed like a dream, chugging away with its original 5 cylinder 2 stroke diesel.
Philippe delighted in sharing a passion with other like minded souls – souls who often benefitted from his very generous spirit. He will be sadly missed.
Philippe died on Sunday 18th June 2017 after a long battle with cancer. Philippe is survived by his wife Caroline, and sons Robbie and Henry.