It’s a brave owner who opts for a totally custom cruiser. But this Gilles Vaton designed 60-footer is the second boat specifically built for the Penichou family by the French ‘master of aluminium’ builder Guy Fillon.


Individuality is to be cherished. Without personal taste we’d all be living in similar-style houses, wearing the same clothes, driving the same cars and be attracted to the same people. And imagine all of us wanting to own the same sort of boats. How dull!

Individuality creates vitality, difference, character. But how far would you go to ensure individuality when it came to your dream yacht?

Once you get into 55ft plus territory there are plenty of builders that offer a flexible attitude to specifications, so why go further and have a yacht designed and built bespoke?

French sailor Philippe Penichou didn’t know the exact spec of his dream family cruiser, but he knew exactly who he wanted to build it. Guy Fillon, a fifth generation boatbuilder in Lorient in France now into his seventies, was once the ‘master of aluminium’, building Whitbread boats such as Gauloises III and Disque d’Or III – and he had already built Penichou’s first yacht.

Fillon first built a 44ft aluminium twin-keeler for Penichou and his wife, Olivia, which was launched in Etel in November 2003. In both cases the yacht was quite large for the time it was commissioned (44ft in 2001 and 60ft in 2011) and, despite searching around, nowhere could the Penichous find anything that matched their needs and budget.


Custom 60 Biphoux

The remarkable aft saloon of the Gilles Vaton designed custom 60ft Biphoux

When I received a message from Penichou, inviting me to sail Biphoux, his Portsmouth-based 60-footer, it seemed like the ideal opportunity to find out what he had got for his money, time and effort.

Biphoux was built in two different rented yards, in Lorient and Les Sables d’Olonne over three years. The Penichous had elected to not use a project manager to save costs so had to manage all the sub contractors and suppliers too.

It makes for an interesting study into whether the pain is worth the gain when it comes to ensuring individuality.


See the June issue of Yachting World (out now) for the full report.