It's the rare boatbuilder who doesn't have an unusual backstory. The industry is replete with adventurers, thrill-seekers and the occasional rogue. All are gamblers, in their way, betting it all on the perfect boat. Ignacio Vadillo's narrative, however, makes most of these sound like bedtime tales. President of Argos Nautic, this preeminent builder of bespoke luxury RIB tenders has his story of perseverance, grit and the pursuit of excellence, but peppered with a revolutionary dictatorship, kidnapping and 1,400-mile escape.
Yachting courses through Vadillo's blood: his mother went into labor with him while on the family's Bertram 28. Born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, when he graduated secondary school, he was given a Cigarette 28 SS, a distraction that didn't stop him from going on to attain an M.S. in mechanical engineering from the Universidad Simón Bolívar in Venezuela. "I've always loved speed, whether it's cars, motorcycles or boats," Vadillo explained. "But going fast on the water, with the sun shining and breeze on your face, is different. There's a connection with the environment you can't get on pavement, especially when you're with family and friends."
The idea of Argos Nautic began years later when Vadillo, then owner of a Sunseeker 68, couldn't find a tender that met his high standards of quality and reflected his personal aesthetics. "Inflatable tenders and RIBs were unreliable and simply ugly," he said. "In the Caribbean, you anchor offshore and use your tender a lot. Whether you're landing on an isolated beach or tying-up at a restaurant in view of everyone, your tender needs to match the yacht in style, luxury and grace. Like a fine wristwatch, it's something you wear as much as use."
Yet, as the CEO of Perfrica and Cabiperca, two large steel manufacturing and distribution companies in Caracas, Vadillo's pursuit of building the perfect tender was more of an enjoyable hobby than a business at the time. But in 2008, when plunging oil prices spiraled the country into economic chaos, the Hugo Chávez-led government took control of the country's steel industry. Vadillo was forced to sell the companies he had led for 21 years. It was then that the trajectory of his life took a serious twist.
Vadillo decided to reinvent himself in the marine industry by wedding his two great passions: boats and engineering. He began drawing-up designs for his perfect tender. "It was a way for me to be in the boatbuilding business without the serious capital needed to launch a yacht," he explained.
He enrolled at the Colegio Oficial de Ingenieros Navales y Oceanicos de España in Barcelona, Spain, to take an advanced online course in naval architecture and design. It was during this period that Vadillo met famed yacht designer Patrizio Facheris, whose stunning Italian style has an almost cult-like following in megayacht circles.
Vadillo and Facheris shared similar philosophies when it came to design. "I feel there's a direct correlation between car and house and tender and yacht," said Vadillo. "I used to drive a Corolla. It's a fine car. But is it the car you park in front of your multimillion-dollar estate? No. A Bentley is. It fits. It reflects the home's beauty and grace. A tender is no different."
But in 2014, Vadillo's life was again turned upside down. "Three cars and two motorcycles pulled up in front of my house as I left for work. They had machine guns pointed at me as they forced me into one of the cars. They beat me unmercifully." Vadillo's family paid the abductors' ransom, but the scars of the terrifying ordeal would last well beyond his release.
"I fled Caracas with my family to Miami, a place I knew well from my youth," he said. "It's the best place in the world to raise my children." Vadillo and his wife, Andreina, have two young daughters, then 15 and 13. As a Spanish national—his parents emigrated to Venezuela—Vadillo's passport allowed him to flee without government intervention.
After settling into his new American life, in the summer of 2014, Vadillo resumed his passionate pursuit of boatbuilding and hired Facheris. They shared the concept of matching the tender to the yacht, down to the tactile sensation. Vadillo reasoned, "If you have teak and holly flooring, a leather-wrapped wheel and sumptuous, ergonomic seating on the yacht, why not on the tender? The yacht's helm is for the captain, but the tender is for the family. If anyone deserves the best you can provide, isn't it them?" The pair teamed up to create a RIB tender of breathtaking beauty and stunning performance, the outboard-powered Argos Nautic 305 Yachting.
Living in the US introduced new forces to be reckoned with: regulations and certifications. "From the beginning of Argos Nautic, I strove to build a RIB tender that that would be US Coast Guard-approved
and meet or exceed NMMA and ABYC requirements. It was my conviction to quality that drove me," he explained. Argos Nautic is one of the few boatbuilders whose RIB tenders are USCG-approved.
Vadillo debuted his first boat, the 305 Yachting, at the 2015 Fort Lauderdale International Boat show. "We've never taken shortcuts on quality," said Vadillo. "Each of our RIB tenders delivers equal shares of performance, functionality, ergonomics and style. I think that's why the 305 gained such favorable attention so quickly. Our brand reputation is sacred and we would never compromise it for profit."
Argos Nautic has continued to introduce new RIB tenders to the yachting market. In 2018, its 330 Jet was chosen as a Boating Industry Top Product of the Year. The annual award honors the best new or updated marine products that stand out for their impact on the industry, innovation and how they advance their category or create a new segment.
The future of Argos Nautic is unquestionably exciting. It's adding new RIB tenders with diesel power to its lineup and a Light Series that maintains Vadillo's renowned dedication to quality and head-turning design, but in a production boat.
"Few things are as magical as being on the water with family and friends," said Vadillo. "My life has had its share of twists and turns, but there's nothing that gives me so much satisfaction as helping others to experience this same incredible joy."
Contact Argos Nautic, 1572 NW 165th St., Miami, FL 33169. 786-520-4700. http://www.argosnautic.com; facebook.com/argosnautic; twitter.com/argosnautic; instagram.com/argosnautic.