Galeon spreads its wings with pioneering designs
With Hong Kong welcoming its first Galeon 640 Fly and 325 GTO this year and Asia’s latest 500 Fly arriving in Singapore, Yacht Style looks at the builder’s 20-year relationship with Tony Castro that has resulted in some of the world’s most innovative production motor yachts.
Popular in Asia, the Galeon 500 Fly features drop-down bulwarks, a bar to port, rotating cockpit sofa and multi-functional, flexible foredeck
Tony Castro has been designing motor yachts for Galeon for 20 years. However, it was the drop-down sides introduced on the iconic Galeon 500 Fly – which premiered at the 2015 Cannes Yachting Festival – that helped the brand gain lift-off and expand into a global powerhouse.
In early 2016, MarineMax was announced as Galeon’s distributor in the Americas. Since then, with the support of the world’s biggest boat dealer, enormous customer demand in the US has been a major part of growing global orders that resulted in Galeon’s total production doubling within four years.
As Galeon’s fortunes soared, the signature ‘wings’ were included on new models including the 460 Fly, 640 Fly and 400 Fly. Furthermore, other innovations such as the rotating cockpit sofa introduced on the 500 and the foredeck door in the windscreen of the 640 have underlined Galeon’s reputation as pioneers and made it an increasingly in-demand brand – including here in Asia.
Tony Castro’s renders of the Galeon 500 Fly show the range of social areas on the ‘transformer’
Asiamarine has sold over 20 Galeon yachts since its appointment by the shipyard in 2016, with the recent delivery of the first 500 Fly into Singapore among nine sales into Asia of Galeon’s most famous model.
Headquartered in Hong Kong with offices around the region, the regional company has also sold multiple units of the 460 Fly and 400 Fly, while the first 640 Fly in Hong Kong was delivered in the first half of this year, with another already in Vietnam through another dealer.
Castro is proud of the impact his designs for Galeon have had and where they sit in his vast and diverse portfolio that ranges from sailing boats to motor yachts, from small boats and iconic one design models to custom-built megayachts.
Interior of the Galeon 500
“Obviously, I feel very happy that this relationship with Galeon has lasted 20 years and will hopefully last a few more,” says the Lisbon-born designer, speaking from his studio within a traditional thatched manor house in Hamble, outside Southampton on England’s south coast.
“I enjoy working with Galeon because they’ve always been really receptive to our ideas. I don’t remember them ever saying ‘no’ when we came up with something new. It was always, ‘yes’, ‘why not’, ‘sounds great’. There has always been a lot of enthusiasm from them to carry out some of the crazy ideas I came up with.”
GALEON AND CASTRO UNITE
Over the past four decades, an estimated 10,000 boats have been built to over 500 designs by Castro, who studied naval architecture and aero/hydrodynamics in Scotland in the 1970s before specialising in designing sailing boats.
Tony Castro pictured attending a client meeting
After working for Ron Holland in Ireland, Castro set up his own studio in 1981, moving to Hamble the following year and quickly earning a reputation for designing successful racing boats. His reputation blossomed as he designed models for some of the world’s biggest production boat builders including Jeanneau and Beneteau, while the Clipper 70 used in the Clipper Round the World Race is among many other notable designs.
Having started working on motor yachts from 1985, Castro has also designed superyachts and megayachts built by the likes of Oceanco, Royal Huisman, Jongert and Palmer Johnson.
Early sketches of the Galeon ‘balconies’
However, for two decades, his work in the 30-80ft motor yacht sector has been focused on Galeon, who first approached the designer in 2001 and arranged to meet at the Southampton International Boat Show.
“Galeon was exhibiting with a couple of small boats, quite basic,” Castro recalls. “Galeon and the local dealer were wondering what to do next and how to compete in the international market. They needed something better and, looking ahead, something bigger. They wanted a good designer to help them achieve this.”
The show marked Castro’s first meeting with Wieczyslaw Kobylko, also known as ‘Janek’, who founded the Polish shipyard in 1982 after a notable career at sea. Castro quickly warmed to a man who understood the importance of safety first.
Innovations evolved to include the walk-through windscreen
“I got on very well with Janek. He had spent many years at sea,” Castro says. “He had a lot of respect for the sea and the way he was intending to build boats sounded very logical. He had a very honest approach to how important it was for the boats to be seaworthy, strong and so on. I immediately took a liking to him.”
Another reason Castro enjoyed working with Galeon was that he was playing a role in not only designing boats but building a brand, helping grow an identity that would grow in the long term.
“I’ve always been very interested in strategy and at that time, I had already started a couple of other companies. I was interested in Galeon’s strategy, the brand, the DNA of its boats. I was mindful of the characteristics the founder had told me about, making strong, well-built, seaworthy boats, honest in every way,” Castro says.
The Galeon 640 was unveiled at Boot Dusseldorf in January 2018
“Once I started designing for them, there was a lot of communication, especially at the beginning. We were exchanging ideas, giving sketches and getting feedback. Little by little, we reached something we were happy with. It has been like this for all the models we’ve done.”
While Galeon is best known for its innovations of the past few years, Castro is proud of all his designs for the Gdansk shipyard over the past two decades.
“I think they were all notable, especially how the designs progressed over the past 20 years,” he says. “Each one we did was important for them and fulfilled a certain criteria to get to the level of the other competitors, be it British or Italian or French, for example.”
The Galeon 640 Fly in Gdansk, where Galeon is based
PRODUCER TO PIONEER
For most of the past decade, Jacek Kobylko, Janek’s son, has been heading Galeon, overseeing the dramatic transition of the family-owned business into a global brand that’s taking on the likes of Azimut, Sunseeker and Ferretti.
Castro says he enjoys the dynamics of the evolving working relationship between him and Galeon, which has rapidly expanded its production facilities while the management has grown in experience and confidence.
“Jacek is young, very dynamic, very interested. He’s very studious and likes to study the competition. He has his own opinions, so we keep exchanging ideas. I sometimes try to come up with the solutions and alongside that, come back with new ideas,” Castro says.
There are multiple units of the 640 Fly in Asia
“Obviously, in recent years, Galeon’s experience has increased enormously and they’ve also started to get into this theme of doing something different, which is why the boats have all these notable features.”
The most notable of these ‘notable features’ is arguably the dropdown sides first seen on the 500, which also featured a rotating cockpit sofa and a flexible, multi-functional foredeck, helping the model earning the ‘Transformer’ nickname.
There are many other notable design features, but it was these that particularly grabbed the attention of luxury yacht buyers across the globe, excited by the new social spaces and views presented on a 50ft yacht.
The port drop-down side on the Galeon 400
“I came up with this idea of having the drop-down balconies, which I had originally drawn on some bigger boats. The idea of applying these to much smaller boats, especially like a production flybridge boat like the Galeon 500, was quite new and innovative,” Castro says.
“Alongside the balconies and the rotating cockpit sofa, there are quite a few other innovations on Galeon yachts. We had patio doors that disappeared completely underneath the floor and nowadays we have sliding windows in the saloon, which not many others do.”
The drop-down sides were included on the 460 introduced at Cannes in 2016 and the 640 Fly unveiled at Boot Dusseldorf in January 2018. However, the latter’s signature innovation was a foredeck door through the windscreen.
The Galeon 800 will be the shipyard’s new flagship
“The reason for the windscreen door was to try to give a new life to the foredeck, to improve the forward part of the boat into a more connected area to enjoy,” Castro says. “We’re still never 100 per cent satisfied. We’re still pushing to improve some of the detailing and how to make these innovations more purposeful.”
Designs have been revealed for the Galeon 800, the brand’s upcoming flagship, but the shipyard’s newest model is at the smaller end of the size scale.
GRAND TOURING OUTBOARDS
Unveiled in the US in January, the 325 GTO is the first model in the brand’s new Grand Touring Outboards collection and the first unit into Asia is scheduled to arrive in Hong Kong in the fourth quarter of the year.
Dramatic image of the Galeon 325 GTO unveiled in early 2021
Powered by twin Mercury Verado 350hp outboard engines, the sporty motor yacht has an overall length of almost 33ft, a nearly 11ft beam and a hardtop with an extendable sunblind. Flexible features include a fold-down platform on the port side and aft bench seating that can face fore or aft, while other attractions include a multi-colour lighting package and integrated audio and speaker system.
The sunken bow area offers a large seating area, where U-shaped seating can be filled in with cushions to create a sunbathing area. Below deck is a dinette that can be converted to a bed, a double cabin and a full-height bathroom with shower, while the stairs can be folded up to create more room.
“The 325 GTO is a little bit different. In my view, it’s more multipurpose and covers a greater market than a lot of these open boats where it’s easy to get wet, which isn’t nice. I think the GTO series will be successful and we’re launching bigger models, which will be quite exciting.”
The Galeon 325 GTO is the first model in a new Grand Touring Outboards series; a unit is scheduled to arrive in Hong Kong in late October
Castro turns 70 next year but remains committed to helping Galeon remain a leader of the pack as the designer-builder relationship moves into its third decade.
“We’ve introduced new features on model after model for Galeon and our relationship has grown organically over 20 years,” Castro says. “Every day we come to work, we are under pressure to design something new, something better, but everyone in the team is very keen to do it. Obviously, we have the ideas and have a few more coming in the future.”
Regional dealer Asiamarine expects the first Galeon 500 Fly in Singapore to arrive in October, underlining continuing regional demand for the innovative builder.