Management shake-up at Ipswich yacht builder

The new top team at Spirit Yachts

From left, Sean McMillan, Karen Underwood and Mike Taylor of Spirit Yachts - Credit: Spirit Yachts

Ipswich-based premium boat builder Spirit Yachts has reshuffled its top team as its managing director of seven years moves into a non-executive role.

Nigel Stuart becomes a non-executive director while remaining a shareholder of the phenomenally-successful brand, which receives orders from around the world for its classic custom-made wood-crafted vessels.

Meanwhile, operations director Karen Underwood and Mike Taylor, former head of group commercial at Oyster Yachts, become joint managing directors.

Chief executive and head of design Sean McMillan said: “This announcement marks the start of an exciting new chapter for Spirit Yachts. 

“Karen and Mike’s combined experience makes for a strong duo at the helm of the company, which has continued to grow despite the pandemic. With Nigel in a non-exec role, Spirit will continue to benefit from his expertise and insight as we move forward.”

Hampshire-based Nigel is taking a step back from his current position at the Suffolk-based yard to work closer to home in a role outside of the marine industry.


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“As many people know, I am passionate about Spirit Yachts and I am delighted to be retaining an active interest in the company,” he said.

“During the pandemic, Karen has shown exceptional management skills and has helped steer Spirit Yachts safely through a challenging period. Mike Taylor’s project management skills and wealth of experience in yacht construction are a great fit to help continue Spirit’s success.”

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Karen said they were “delighted” to welcome Mike Taylor. “Mike and I were colleagues for many years during our time at Oyster and I am very much looking forward to working alongside him again.”

The pair will share the day to day running of the company. Karen continues to oversee the operations side of the business, while Mike — who has project-managed more than 70 yachts — will manage production.

“Having sailed classic wooden yachts from an early age with my family, I have long admired Spirit Yachts’ passion for quality,” he said. “The company has a bright future ahead with a healthy order book, a robust sales pipeline and a highly skilled in-house team.”

This year, the company — started in 1993 —  will launch a Spirit 65DH (deckhouse) sailing yacht, a Spirit 72DH, a Spirit 30 day sailor and a P40 superyacht tender.

Unlike many yacht builders, Spirit Yachts designs and builds its boats in-house at its waterside headquarters in Suffolk. 

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