Italian yard Cantiere delle Marche has gone from strength to strength since its foundation in 2010, building a reputation as one of the world’s leading builders of explorer yachts. We recently sat down with co-founder and CEO, Ennio Cecchini, to discuss the secret to their success, plans for the future, and just what an explorer yacht really is.
Having been building yachts and ships for nearly 25 years, Ennio Cecchini is just as passionate about yacht construction as he was in 1993 when he delivered his first project. Cecchini has owned a number of yards throughout the years, gaining experience in building a wide range of vessels, from tankers and passenger vessels to luxury superyachts, and this experience has translated to ensure the huge success that Cantiere delle Marche (CdM) has proved to be.
“My first yacht in steel and aluminium was a 26 metre full displacement Navetta and at the time she was a real one off, as the market wasn’t ready for full displacement yachts,” says Cecchini. “That was my first experience in yachting.” That first build, at his family yard CNC, was quickly followed by a 23 metre sloop sailing yacht in aluminium in 1994 before the yard’s focus then shifted to the commercial sector between 1995 and 2005, with the Cecchini family also buying Cantiere Navale di Pesaro (CNP), which specialised in commercial vessels up to 125 metres, in 1999.
In 2004, Cecchini first met Vasco Buonpensiere, now Sales and Marketing Director at CdM. Working on a new expedition-style project Buonpensiere urged Cecchini to get involved, following a gut instinct that explorer yachts would be big in the yachting industry in the foreseeable future. “He told me, ‘Ennio, we have this special project that’s like a tug, but it’s the future. It’s an expedition boat,’ and I told him my answer was no. I had just signed a new contract that would keep me busy for the next four years.” But Buonpensiere was not to take no for an answer. “After five meetings we decided to start a new venture: the Naumachos line, which was built at CNP.” Success came fast, with the subsequent quick sale of six Naumachos 82 models. In 2006 the decision was made to sell the CNP yard.
By 2010 Cecchini was ready to get back into the world of new build construction and made the decision to found CdM, having identified a niche for smaller explorer yachts. After developing a range of 25 to 35 metre steel and aluminium explorer yachts, the yard was founded in February 2010 and just two months later the first new build contract was signed for a Darwin 86 model. “When I sold that boat I spoke to Vasco and said, ‘please come with me on this adventure,’ and by September 2010, six months after we had founded the yard, he had joined the team.” Interest in their yachts snowballed and that first sale was followed in quick succession by other orders. Together the duo has built an incredibly successful brand: “After six years in business we have delivered 12 yachts with another six in build,” says Cecchini proudly.
Despite founding the yard in the heart of the fallout of the Global Financial Crisis, Cecchini feels lucky to have always secured enough orders to have kept the yard busy. “Fortunately we have sold every year an increasing number of yachts, delivering a maximum of three custom yachts per year and although we began in a difficult time for the industry we have never felt the negatives of that.” Much of this is down to the popular niche that the yard is building in, and their foresight that explorer style yachts would prove so popular. “At our first boat show, people saw our boats and, thinking they were strange were interested in looking around them,” he says. “Today our brand is in a popular niche market that continues to grow – if you look at other shipyards, lots of them have an explorer model on offer now!”
With so many ‘explorer yacht’ designs now flooding the market, an all-important question posed to Cecchini is what makes a true expedition yacht? Design, the construction quality, and the usability are all important considerations but it’s very difficult to have a definitive checklist. “The naval architecture is the most important thing,” he says. “In my opinion, the heart of the explorer boat is the engine room – for this reason I will always start an on board visit in the engine room – and the quality and design of the hull is also critical.” Ensuring a hull that is sufficiently thick enough to cope with a wide range of environments is key and it is crucial to consider how the yacht will be used and whether it meets all those requirements. Simple things like ensuring enough storage space to support long range trips (a minimum range of 4,500 nm), as well as double ups of all key equipment to ensure sufficient backups if anything should fail when away from yachting hubs.
The yard is always looking to build on the footholds they have in existing markets and continuing to grow their global presence, with one of the latest explorer yacht Darwin Class 102’ yachts being sold to a Malaysian owner standing testament to this. “The first client in a new market is always very significant and then usually our own clients become our best ambassadors.” Cecchini and the team are very proud that so many new orders have come from recommendations from happy customers. “Our clients are all very enthusiastic about our boats,” says Cecchini. “That said, sometimes, for me, the boat can speak for itself.”
While the yard began with sub-30 metre projects, Cecchini has noted a shift in the buying market. “At the moment buyers are asking for bigger boats,” he says. “That’s the reason that we will soon deliver our biggest project to date, the Nauta Air 111’ (Vripack as the naval architect, design by Nauta Yachts) that is currently under construction.” In the future the yard has not ruled out increasing their size range slightly to include yachts up to 45, maybe even 50, metres, as long as the GT stays within a set range (under 500 gross tonnage). “We have a few bigger projects already under negotiation and in the next few months I think a 42 metre project is quite likely,” he says. “At the moment we are developing our facilities in order to build up to 50 metre yachts.”
With six successful years behind them and a full order book - including the recent signing of a new 37-metre Acciaio 118, the future is looking promising for CdM. “Our client list is growing, and a lot of our clients at the moment are thinking of making a new boat, growing in feet, which means our clients trust us,” says Cecchini. “Our target is to maintain our market leadership and to go on in the projectural research. We are certainly looking forward to see what the next few years will bring.”
The full interview with Ennio Cecchini is featured in the SuperYacht Times newspaper. Subscribe now and never miss another issue.
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