WHEN Mark Stothard was laid off as an aircraft engineer 35 years ago it was a blessing in disguise.
The Bicton resident decided to turn his passion for boats into a full-time career, and landed a job as a sales manager with Riverfront Boats Builders, before going onto sell cray boats.
“I love boats and have always had one, the first when I was 18,” he says.
It’s been a helter-skelter career over the last three decades, including setting up Image Boats with his mate Bill Plug in 1985.
The company was so successful it was bought by Austal Ships, who kept Mr Stothard on as an employee.
Then he was headhunted by a Macau casino to oversee the building of a series of ferries, and went on to win a contract to build water taxis for the Trinidad government.
Never one to do things by halves, when Mr Stothard discovered the thrill of skydiving he became so proficient in the sport he was invited onto a free-fall demonstration team, and founded Skydive Express in 1998.
In 2003 he bought a share in True North Adventure Cruises, before setting up Echo Yachts in Henderson, which started with six staff and now employs 200.
In a coup for local boat building last Saturday, Echo Yacht launched Australia’s largest super yacht, White Rabbit, which is also the world’s largest tri-hull yacht.
“It has injected a serious amount of money into the WA economy,” Stothard says.
Designed by Sorgiovanni Design, it’s a whopping 84 metres of pure luxury, including a lift to whisk guests up and down four levels.
There’s a crew of 30, who will live on board, including a couple of chefs.
Echo Yachts also built the Rabbit’s “shadow vessel”, a 46-metre boat, with 22 crew, to carry the larger boat’s decompression chamber, helipad and other bulky toys for luxury yachting.
WA senator Linda Reynolds is lobbying for more infrastructure to increase maritime services in Cockburn and has met regularly with Stothard for advice.
He says the Queensland government invested in their maritime sector years ago and it’s now a $60 million business.
by JENNY D’ANGER