On Watch - Gregor Tarjan

Gregor Tarjan is one of the most passionate people we’ve ever met. The founder and owner of Aeroyacht Ltd. in East Setauket, NY, Gregor has unbridled enthusiasm for designing and sailing fast multihull yachts and restoring and driving vintage race cars.

© Billy Black“I was obsessed with boats as a kid, and I started drawing them when I was five years old,” says Gregor. “I was born and raised in Vienna, Austria, and started sailing with my brother Michael on the Danube when I was six. I read a lot about Magellan and Sir Francis Drake, and built lots of ship models. I became interested in multihulls at age 14, and was the first MULTIHULLS magazine subscriber in Austria. Even before he became my friend, Charles Chiodi, the Publisher and Editor of MULTIHULLS, got me excited about multihulls.” 

“I went to The Landing School in the ’80s, and one of my teachers was Dick Newick,” says Gregor. “He’s my biggest mentor in terms of design. I started racing in monohulls with a Flying Dutchman, and then two Star boats. I restored my second Star, and raced against Dennis Conner in the North Americans…I think he won that year. I met Dennis again when I was working at Derecktor Shipyard in Mamaroneck. I was an assistant designer to Dave Pedrick, and we builtStars & Stripes, the boat that won the Cup back. I was responsible for the on-deck instrument readouts. I didn’t make the cut for the ‘A-team’ that won the Cup, but I got to race and tune that boat.”

“I’ve done three ARC Trans-Atlantic Races on Outremer catamarans and came in second on two of them. I’ve done many Around Long Island Regattas on my Outremer 43, and my most recent race was last year’s Around Shelter Island Race with my friend Carlo Völker. We sailed a Hobie 16, and I think it was the oldest boat in the race. It was missing two battens and it was barely holding together, but thanks to a lucky handicap rule we actually came in first. But I’m not much of a racer. I’d rather cruise with my family.”

“I had a textile manufacturing business in Nepal and India, and I moved back to the States after I sold it,” says Gregor. “My neighbor was an avid sailor, and he saw my Outremer 43, fell in love with it and wanted one. When I contacted Outremer they said, ‘Why don’t you represent Outremer in the United States?’ I founded Aeroyacht in the mid-‘90s, and now I represent 11 manufacturers. Aeroyacht is probably the biggest multihull dealership in the world, and yet it’s also the smallest because I’m the only guy in the company.”

Gregor has written two books. The first, Catamarans: Every Sailor’s Guide, is the definitive reference book on cruising cats. The inspiration for the second, Catamarans: Tomorrow’s Superyachts, came during a sail on a friend’s Farrier F9 XR trimaran. “I tricked that boat out to the nth degree,” he chuckles. “We were sailing to the Multihull Symposium in Mystic and he said, ‘Gregor, why don’t you design a superyacht catamaran?’ I designed the Aeroyacht 110, and my friend Pete Melvin of Morrelli & Melvin did all of the naval architecture and engineering. I’ve always admired the incredibly sexy boats built by Wally Yachts, and I approached [Wally Yachts President] Luca Bassani about a partnership. He was very receptive, and we signed a contract to build the boat. Everything about that project was right except the timing, because we introduced the boat at the start of the world financial crisis. Luca gave me his book, however, and signed it: ‘To Gregor, who showed me the way of catamarans.’”

Gregor’s latest project, the Alpha 42, was designed as the ideal boat for sailing with his wife Flo and sons Philippe, 16, and Victor, 15. “I thought it should be a boat that we could sail around the world someday,” he says. “My friend Marc Anassis, the President of Alpha Yachts in Patchogue, was a big boat builder in Europe. He said, ‘Why don’t we do something together?’ The Alpha 42 is a collaboration: I designed the exterior and interior, trying to combine the best features of all the cruising catamarans in the world into one package, and he did the engineering and hydrodynamics. Marc has an incredible instinct for boats, and that’s something that you cannot learn. You have to acquire it through hard work and experience.”

“My huge passion is boats, but vintage sports cars are only a couple points behind,” Gregor enthuses. “I have a 1925 Stutz 695 Speedster that I raced at Indianapolis last year and a 1959 Peerless GT, but my real race car is a 1973 Porsche 914 GT.” In his very first rally, Gregor and co-driver Peter Archey drove the 914 to a class victory in the 2011 Targa Newfoundland. “We won the prestigious Targa Plate for completing all 65 sections within our time limit,” he says. Not bad for a guy who’s “not much of a racer!”

On the subject of cats in the Cup, Gregor says, “I think it’s great. The America’s Cup is still match racing, it’s still tactics and it’s still teamwork, but everything happens so much faster. The ‘classical’ America’s Cup boats would go 12 or 13 knots at the most, but now skippers have to anticipate closing speeds of 25, 30 or 40 knots. It’s serious business, and it’s so much more exciting. I brought my family to the AC World Series in Newport, and there were thousands of people on the shoreline – it was super exciting. The next Cup is going to be the key to the future, and it’s going to be pretty cool.” A volunteer coach for the Three Village Junior Sailing Team, he’s enthusiastic about opportunities the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup offers young sailors. “I’m more than passionate about multihulls,” he exclaims. “I’m obsessed!”

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