THOMASTON – A partially built yacht, commissioned in 2008 by a British man who lost money in the recession, was auctioned Wednesday for the opening bid price of $50,000 to the boat’s builder, Lyman-Morse Boatbuilding.

The boat, which is 60 percent complete, would cost nearly $4 million if it were finished, Lyman-Morse said.

The 70-foot Deerfoot sailboat, intended to cruise long distances, ended up being auctioned by a U.S. marshal because Richard Lee ran out of money to finish it, according to a lawsuit filed by Lyman-Morse in U.S. District Court.

Lee could not be reached for comment.

About a dozen people attended Wednesday’s auction, but only one bid was made.

Lyman-Morse made the opening bid of $50,000 and that offer went unchallenged. Lyman-Morse had the right to bid as much as $500,000 in the auction, under the court-ordered sale.

“Now that we own it, we can deal with brokers and prospective owners and work on finishing it,” said Cabot Lyman, owner of Lyman-Morse, after the auction. “Brand new, built today, the boat would cost about $4 million. Someone will get it for 40 to 50 cents on the dollar.”

Before the auction, Lee was the owner of the boat and the boatbuilder could not sell it. Now, Lyman-Morse owns the boat and will conduct a worldwide search for a buyer, Lyman said.

Lee invested about $1.5 million in the project, but failed to keep current with the bills, court documents say. As of December, he owed more than $890,000 to Lyman-Morse for work already done, according to the court documents.

The boat needs about 15,000 hours of work to be completed, which would require about eight or nine employees for almost a year, Lyman said. The boat, which now is essentially just a hull, still needs a mast, a keel and interior finishing.

The final price of the boat will depend on which extras a new buyer would request.

“We’re a custom boat builder. The new owner will have lots of say on the finished project,” Lyman said.

The boat’s architect, Ulf Rogeberg, came to the auction from Denmark.

“What I want more than anything else is for the boat to be finished,” he said. “Now, Lyman-Morse owns the boat and can sell it to anyone. … I would like to be part of the project to the finish.”

The fate of the boat was uncertain for several years as Lyman-Morse and Lee fought a protracted legal battle.

In a countersuit dismissed by the court, Lee claimed that Lyman-Morse artificially inflated the hours needed to build the yacht and failed to keep the buyer up to date on the likely final price.

Paul Wren of Georgetown, who attended Wednesday’s auction, decided against bidding after failing to spark the interest of some partners.

“I was trying to get a few people together, but it was a last-minute thing,” Wren said. “The boat still needs a lot of work. For that amount of money, it needs to be the perfect boat. And there’s lots of pretty boats out there.” 

Staff Writer Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:

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