Click here to enjoy reading YACHT STYLE issue 77

Motoring / Yachts

Aquila, Lagoon Owner: Malaysia’s Nadzmi Salleh Loves Cats

Having bought his first catamaran at the age of 55, Malaysian father of six NADZMI SALLEH now has an Aquila 36 powercat to complement his Lagoon 620

Jun 24, 2019 | By John Higginson

When Tan Sri Nadzmi Bin Mohd Salleh was considering his new Aquila 36 powercat, he made sure it had plenty of space for cooking. After all, cooking has been a passion of his since he was a Boy Scout, camping in the jungles around the Kelantan River in northeast Malaysia.

Tan Sri Dr Mohd Nadzmi Bin Mohd Salleh on his new Aquila 36 at the Singapore Yacht Show

Tan Sri Dr Mohd Nadzmi Bin Mohd Salleh on his new Aquila 36 at the Singapore Yacht Show

Each boy in the troop had his turn preparing meals, but Salleh’s dishes proved the most popular and his friends soon asked him to cook each time as others helped prepare the meals and wash up.

More than 50 years on and little has changed for Salleh, who still enjoys cooking at home and at sea, particularly the fish he and his family catch while cruising the waters of Malaysia and Thailand.

“I love cooking. My stepmother was a very good cook, so during school holidays, she would give me RM20-30 and we’d go to the market to buy ingredients then cook with her, mainly Malaysian food but also Chinese and Indian. Then when I studied in the US, I started cooking Western cuisines including Italian,” says Salleh, Founder and Executive Chairman of Nadicorp Holdings and a Board Director at several other companies.

“These days, I have two chefs at home and sometimes on my boats, but when we go cruising, most of the time they just prepare the food and I cook. Other people do the prep and washing up, and I cook. It’s great.”

Salleh, who celebrated his 65th birthday on May 1, only bought his first yacht a decade ago, but has been intrigued by the water since growing up in Kota Bharu as the son of a District Officer.

“We lived in a large house beside the Kelantan River and I was always fascinated with the water and the boats,” says Salleh, who has six children, four working with him at Nadi and two at university in Melbourne.

Fishing with his sons Omar and Hariz

Fishing with his sons Omar and Hariz

In the US, Salleh became passionate about fishing after winning
a scholarship to study at Ohio University, where he simultaneously obtained both a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Economics and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemistry and Mathematics.

“I did a lot of lake fishing in the States. I was a student and didn’t have the money to buy a boat, and was too busy anyway, doing two degrees with multiple Majors.”

After graduating in 1978, he spent two years obtaining a Master of Arts Degree in Economics and Statistics from Miami University, then returned to Malaysia to embark on a hugely successful career that included separate roles as CEO and Chairman of Proton.


Salleh admits to enjoying “fast cars and motorbikes in my younger days”, but only bought his first yacht at the age of 55, prompted by a friend who owned a Dean catamaran from South Africa.

“A friend of mine, a very successful lawyer, influenced me. He said, ‘Tan Sri, you have money and you never know when you’ll kick the bucket, so you should enjoy yourself’,” says Salleh, who was honoured with the title Tan Sri in 2014.

“At 55, I had already made it in business, made some money. I was a leader in the industry. I had been working all the time and even when I was a student, I was doing four Majors, so I thought it was time for me to relax. I decided to learn sailing.”

Salleh celebrated his 65th birthday this year

Salleh celebrated his 65th birthday this year

Salleh wasn’t sold on his friend’s catamaran, especially as it didn’t have air-conditioning, but his eyes lit up when he came across Lagoon, the world leader in cruising catamarans. He bought a pre-owned Lagoon 390 – then the smallest model by the French yard – through Simon Theseira, Simpson Marine’s Country Sales Manager.

“It didn’t cost much, about RM1 million, but you’re never satisfied with a smaller boat. I wanted to upgrade because for me there’s limited space to cook on the 39,” he says.

“We also like to fish, so you need space for that, especially if you’re then going to cook them on board. If it was just my wife and me, maybe, but we have so many children.”

Salleh remained loyal to Lagoon and initially ordered the next-biggest model, a 45. However, Theseira then showed him a 560, so he cancelled the booking and ordered the larger model.

After later meeting Theseira at a boat show on a 620, he cancelled again and changed his order to what was then Lagoon’s largest sailing yacht.

“When we had a meeting on the 620, I told Simon I wanted a boat of this size, especially because it has such a spacious galley,” says Salleh, whose new yacht arrived in 2011.

Salleh, pictured with his son Omar, enjoys sailing his Lagoon 620 to southern Thailand

Salleh, pictured with his son Omar, enjoys sailing his Lagoon 620 to southern Thailand

“I like Lagoon catamarans because they’re spacious and 
the exterior design is good, so they look good from the outside. Catamarans are not as sexy as monohulls, but the Lagoon design is quite balanced, nice for a catamaran.”

Despite initial problems with an engine that was quickly replaced, Salleh remains enamoured with his 620, which he sails regularly between Langkawi and Port Dickson to the south and Phuket to the north.

“It’s amazing on fuel consumption. From Langkawi to Port Dickson, it costs me less than RM2,000 on fuel. You can’t get that kind of economy on motoryachts,” says Salleh.

“A lot of my friends are excited the first year they get a boat, but in the second year they become conscious of how much fuel they spend each time they go out and get tired of it. It puts them off. For me, it’s the opposite. You’ve spent the money buying it, so it becomes more worthwhile the more you use it.”


Salleh’s reason for ordering his newly acquired Aquila 36 evolved after he built a resort house in Kota Bharu and was looking for a
boat to be based there, a smaller model yet one that was easy to walk around, bearing in mind that he has a limp.

“I enjoy the 620, but you need a Captain and crew. I was looking for a boat that doesn’t need a Captain, yet something still quite spacious especially because I have a problem walking,” he says.

Salleh and his sons at the Aquila 36 handover ceremony with Simpson Marine founder Mike Simpson (second left, also above), Francois Sebire (left) and Simon Theseira (third right)

Salleh and his sons at the Aquila 36 handover ceremony with Simpson Marine founder Mike Simpson, Francois Sebire (left) and Simon Theseira (third right)

“I needed a multi-purpose boat, for cruising, for fishing, for entertaining in the evening near my house. I wanted to invite friends, maybe 10, so it couldn’t be too small.”

As he only plans to be at the house once every few weeks or couple of months, Salleh was initially considering a pre-owned yacht, but was swayed at a boat show when he saw an Aquila 36.

The flush deck and central walkway all the way to the foredeck – rather than narrow, sloping side decks – were among appealing features, along with multiple seating areas, an open galley and two double cabins.

Furthermore, he was able to select the Fishing and Diving version, which replaces the aft seating with bulkheads for live bait, dive tanks and rod holders, ideal for his family.

“I thought this was perfect, then we had a sea trial and I was impressed. The stability is good and it has a great top speed. I was also impressed with the finishing as I’m very detail oriented. When I compared this with others in terms of space, quality and pricing, it’s a smart buy,” says Salleh, whose model has twin 350hp Mercury engines and a top speed of 36 knots.

Salleh with Mike Simpson, founder and Managing Director of Simpson Marine

Salleh relaxing on his Aquila 36 with Mike Simpson

“Then I thought it was quite expensive for a boat I’ll only keep at my resort house, but when I saw the boat again, I was convinced. It’s also easy to dock because of the joystick – I took most of the options. I buy high-spec.”

In fact, Salleh has since changed his plans for the Aquila, which he will keep in Port Dickson or Langkawi and use alongside or instead of his 620 on occasions.

“I don’t really have the facility to dock this by my Kota Bharu house. I’m not there most of the time and my children have said they want to use the boat as they go diving a lot. When we take it out, my kids will do most of the work, but I’ll drive.”

However, Salleh is not finished yet with catamarans. Although he plans to continue working for the next five years while mentoring his children in the family-owned business, he’s keeping an eye out for a possible upgrade to Lagoon’s flagship sailing model, which already has two hulls in Asia following its 2016 debut.

“Lagoon keeps improving. I’ve seen the Seventy7, which is way ahead in terms of quality,” says Salleh. “I have interest, but not just yet. I can’t buy a boat every year!”

The original article appears in Yacht Style Issue 47. Email for print subscription enquiries or subscribe to the Magzter version at:

Back to top