The Zeien Lecture Series Presents G. Bruce Knecht

By Alexandra Wilson ‘16

On April 10, 2013, Mr. G. Bruce Knecht spoke on his book Grand Ambition. This lecture was the 15th in our Alfred M. Zeien lecture series. Mr. Zeien graduated from Webb in 1952 and became one of our most successful alumni.  This lecture series was created to educate Webb students about important topics, not necessarily in the marine industry, but topics that might not fit into our course and classroom schedules.

This particular lecture, delivered by Mr. Knecht, gave us a wide view of perspectives we might not have been able to see as the naval architect “in the real world.” Through the story told in Grand Ambition, we follow the lives of not only the prospective owner but also the builders and the designers of the luxury yacht Lady Linda, a vessel to rival all others. We see how the recent economic crisis so drastically affected such an endeavor. Considering that the economic crisis coincided with a personal economic misfortune, it is amazing that the boat could be completed, especially while maintaining the degree of elegance that it has: $48 million worth of elegance, in fact. 

Through this book, we are reminded of how much work goes into building a luxury yacht.  For some, the process begins with a few keystrokes on a computer. This part, as future naval architects, we know well. Others start their work on the yacht with a jigsaw cutting out lengths of wood to be fashioned into furniture of great opulence. Yet it is those who lay the steel in place and install the pipes, wires, and beams, who finally see the process of construction truly take place.  As Webbies, we know of this experience as well from our winter work internships. This book reminds us of our time in the yards, of the work that goes into the construction of the ships and boats we design.  It reminds us also of the number of people who are directly linked to the boats themselves and who view this boat, among all other boats, not merely as floating platforms, but as the product of people coming together for a common cause.