Though the superyacht business is a relatively small industry, it is packed with international professionals from all walks of life, and it can certainly be easy to get lost in the sea of faces we're presented with at boat shows, yachting events and beyond. In this series of articles, we take a step back from rushed business meetings and hurried networking and sit down with professionals from across the wide spectrum of the superyacht business to learn more about who they are and what they do for the industry. In this week’s episode, we get to know Mikołaj Krol, CEO and Chairman of the Polish yard, Conrad Shipyard.
Tell me a bit about yourself and your journey into the yacht building industry.
My journey started in 2003 at the 'tender' age of 30 - I was completely green! As a learned architect, my father in law (Chairman and co-founder of Conrad Shipyard’s parent company Marine Projects Ltd.) commissioned my wife - as we both studied Architecture together - and myself to design the interior for our first luxury yacht, Escape S, a 27-metre motor yacht designed by Bill Dixon. The board of Marine Projects saw Conrad as an opportunity for the new generation; I guess I was the first in line, so they made me CEO. After being thrown into the deep water, I am happy to say that we still haven’t drowned!
How involved are you personally in the design process from the initial concept onwards?
As an architect, I am very much involved throughout the whole design process as a consultant to our clients. I also lead our in-house interior design department. Ultimately this is my passion, however, it is also in certain ways, it is a conflict of interest. Historically, being a custom yacht builder, every client is quite different and every design process is different and I am always happy to adapt to our clients' wants and needs, whether they come with a particular design in mind, or we start from scratch. The most important thing is to understand the customer and their needs! I don’t necessarily consider myself a designer - I don’t have my own style that I force on people and we are happy to work with other interior designers - however, what is important to me are details and usability. As far as my personal taste is concerned, I like to strive for timeless elegance.
Talk to me through the progress on your largest project to date: the 40-metre, Reymond Langton-designed C133, Viatoris.
The client of our C133 is a repeat client and was, until recently, the owner of our Conrad 66, a 20-metre sloop. In certain ways, he always thought about something bigger and I think he became quite excited once we launched Lunar, a 35-metre motorsailer, which was quite a big step for us as a shipyard. As it usually goes, initial discussions started at 29 metres, then we were in the thirties and then we finally ended at 40-metre with our C133. We looked through many different yachts and designs, and the client ultimately really liked Apostrophe, built by Hakvoort. We reached out to Diana Yacht Design for naval architecture and then to Reymond Langton for exterior design. We visited Reymond Langton, the chemistry was right, and we made the deal on our first visit. For us as a shipyard and for Polish shipbuilding in general, this is a huge opportunity and we don’t want to let the owner down.One of your most exciting projects was the refit of the Malcolm Miller schooner in 2014, where you completely overhauled her interiors, giving her a transformative new look. Can you talk me through this refit, and how you worked with the owner on this?
This was an interesting project because the initial vision of the client was rather simple. He bought the yacht maybe just to save a piece of history. It was a low budget refit, but in the process, when we showed him our vision he fell in love and he let us go with it, increasing the budget several times. The owner was pragmatic, determined and very detailed in letting us know what he wanted. In certain aspects, it was a fight. She had a Juliusz Strawinski exterior and an interior designed by us, and we wanted to make sure there we keep the visual appeal behind the practicality. He fell in love with the transformation and it is the most used yacht by all our owners. He was on it for two years, taking part in the Tall Ship Races. No owner has invested more time on his yacht and he is absolutely happy.What does the future look like for Conrad? What do you have on the drawing board, and how do you see the shipyard expanding in the future?
Sometimes it is funny how things work in circles and come back around. When Conrad started, we built Escape S and now, almost fifteen years later we are finishing on our C133. It has been a tough and challenging road - looking at our fleet of really diverse projects - but I think in certain ways we have paid our dues and I like to think that the best is yet to come. I recently joked with our team, that when I walk by T Central during the Monaco Yacht Show, that my dream would be to have one of those two-storey stands. Who knows, maybe one day we can extend the T Central pontoons and add a stand.