Retro motor yacht style creator dies

STUART, Fla. – Tom Fexas, the innovative motor yacht designer whose famous Midnight Lace design inspired a shift to retro Italian styling for modern luxury boats, died Wednesday in Stuart, Fla., the New York Times reported in a story yesterday. He was 65.

The cause was not yet known; he had been hospitalized with an unidentified illness, the New York Times said.

Inspired by the music and styles of his youth during the 1940s and ’50s, Fexas created Midnight Lace, in 1978, the New York Times reported. The 44-foot shapely black boat, modeled after the pre-World War II commuter boats and rum runners of Long Island Sound, was an immediate sensation when introduced at the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show that year.

Unlike other designs of the period, Midnight Lace and its progeny had fine wood detailing, a clipper bow and low raked-back cabins, and were narrow like the old commuters, the story stated. Other recreational motorboats of the time were focused on sharp, contemporary lines and had little exterior wood.

His early triumph with Midnight Lace led to extensive work for European clients, for whom he designed modern motor yachts that echoed traditional luxury motorboats of the past, the newspaper reported. Fexas’ signature style became known as Italian styling, and is still in vogue today. It shows up in boats from 17 to 150 feet long and is seen in $1 million day boats from companies like Hinckley and Alden.

An updated version of Midnight Lace was introduced at this year’s Fort Lauderdale Boat Show.

Tom Fexas Yacht Design opened in 1966, the New York Times said. Since then, more than 1,000 of Fexas’ designs have been built at some of the world’s top boat builders, including Palmer Johnson, Mikelson Yachts, Grand Banks, Abeking & Rasmussen and Cheoy Lee. He was also a sought-after writer on yacht design and had a monthly column in Power & Motoryacht magazine.

Fexas was born in Queens, N.Y., the newspaper reported. He attended the State University of New York Maritime College and earned a bachelor’s in marine engineering. He later graduated from the Westlawn Institute of Yacht Design and, from 1965 through 1977, worked for the Electric Boat division of General Dynamics as a nuclear project engineer for Trident Class submarines.

Throughout the 1970s and ’80s, Fexas introduced light-weight fiberglass construction to the recreational motorboat industry, the New York Times reported. He is said to have calculated every construction plan down to the nuts and bolts so the boat would rest properly in the water.

Through the marine industry’s tough financial times during the 1990s, Fexas was one of the few businessmen who refused to lay off any of his employees, the newspaper said.

Fexas is survived by his wife, Regina Fexas; his mother, Antonia Fexas; and his sister, Penelope Casas.

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