At the Cannes Yachting Festival, SYT's Merijn de Waard stepped on board the Cantiere delle Marche Percheron, to interview CdM's Sales and Marketing Director Vasco Buonpensiere.
How did Cantiere delle Marche begin?
It was a combination of lucky opportunities. I was quitting my former job at a big shipyard for steel and aluminium boats. At the same time, a very good friend of mine and a very important player in the yachting industry, sold his company. In 2007, he decided he wanted to start again with building yachts. There was a beautiful, brand new shipyard available in the Ancona area, so everything just combined together. It was just a matter of one month of talking and we had decided to start the company. Since the beginning we had very clear ideas of what to do.
What was the vision behind it?
The vision was based on a former experience we had together with the owner of the shipyard. We started in 2002-3. I was working in the South of France, and I had a client who was looking for an explorer boat. I had it designed by Sergio Cutolo of Hydro Tec and then we started going around the world, trying to find the right shipyard to build it. That was the occasion to meet the Cecchini family in their yard. It was quite a successful venture.
Even if after one year I moved to CRN, I stopped brokering for that kind of boat, but in the end they had sold seven of them. So we already had a very good experience based on a more rough idea of trawler and explorer boats. It was very easy for us to refocus on that idea after all our years of experience in big yachts, and to understand that there was an unbelievable gap in the market. It is actually an almost empty section of the market, which is small displacement, high quality, over-engineered, steel and aluminium vessels. We analysed that, and that was exactly what we were expecting. We called Sergio, and we basically threw away the old project and starting with this idea, we created our own class. Before we started, we wanted to be sure of what we were doing, so we just went out to the market and started asking questions to captains, surveyors and owners. After a while, it was clear that we were answering a lot of their questions, and that’s how we started.
We are on board the Darwin 86 Percheron now. How important has she been in promoting Cantiere delle Marche?
Percheron is really the ambassador of CdM. The owner really embodies the Darwin Class owner 100%. When we met in the United States, he had a clear idea in his mind. He wanted to have a boat, which would allow him to cross the Atlantic, to cross the Pacific, and to go around the world, to go to the Galapagos Islands, etc. To make a long story short, Percheron has done almost 20,000 miles in 24 months, which is basically what a normal owner in the Med does in 10 years, or in the Caribbean in 6. As you can see, the boat is still in an as new condition. I am always receiving Whatsapp messages from the owner with all the latest news. I have pictures from him of the boat in Tunisia with the truck to refuel it sinking into the sand, then after that, they’re on this little island, chasing pigs on the beach, and so on. The explorer experience on Percheron is really 110%, I would say.
You have sold boats to owners located as far as Australia and South America, and you are a very new company. How have you already sold all of these vessels worldwide?
We have a very good sales and marketing director (Vasco laughs). No, I think the first reason is that we build boats that answer those questions. Those questions are in every yachtsman’s mind. I don’t know a yachtsman who doesn’t like an explorer vessel. He doesn’t buy it because of the lines and because his wife doesn’t want it, but they all like it. So it’s quite normal, not having a lot of competition actually, and luckily for the moment. Once you come out on the market, you succeed in communicating properly what you’re doing, your quality, your ship building approach and your ship building vision. Then your boats go on top of your words and they confirm that wherever these people are in the world, they don’t have many alternatives. Sooner or later they come to us. Then of course there is a very good sales network, so having the right people around the world flagging any opportunity for me, but this is what I’ve built along the years. It’s quite normal. This language is absolutely international. A trendy, modern boat or a super fast boat are nice and some markets will appreciate it, some markets will not. You will need a lot of people for the production of a boat, but for us, we only build a few units. There are not many doing the same. If you for example are in Argentina, Australia, Mexico, Germany, England, Asia and if you’re looking for a serious, over- engineered, seaworthy, great quality and great value for money boat, then you don’t have many choices.
This year CdM also launched the first Nauta Air 86, how did that series start?
The Nauta Air concept in general is based on what I was saying before. Every yachtsman enjoys an explorer yacht, but many of them don’t buy it because of the look of it. They’re all interested in the quality, but then they stop. That’s typical of the luxury world; what will my friend think? I will have to explain why it’s so different. So first of all the Nauta Air line started because we needed an answer to this, and give the opportunity to clients to have an explorer yacht anyway. With Nauta we designed a range of boats, which have a more contemporary, stylish and yacht kind of style. The Nauta we’re presenting here in Cannes, the Nauta Air 86, again, is another step towards the market. That’s the way we work. We listen to the market and then we try to give answers. What we have seen this summer is that a lot of owners of planning flybridge yachts were cruising very slowly from island to island. Ten years ago you would have only seen these white things flashing around. Secondly, want a lot more value for money these days. When they spend €5 million or €6 million, they start to ask themselves is it fair that I spend so much money and I have something that is exactly the same as so many people? I can change only the colours. If I want a bigger window, I can’t do it. Another thing that which is most tragic commercial wise, is we were risking to lose a part of the market, which was between the 65 and 90 feet, which are not ready for a big displacement three deck boat, in terms of crew, in terms of dimension of the boat, in terms of speed. The risk is that once you lose them in that passage, they stay with a family they met. So we introduced the Nauta Air, which embodies all of our principles. It’s a fully custom, semi-displacement aluminium boat, cruising speed of 16 knots, 72sqm of flybridge, so even in the 35 metre segment, you can’t find a flybridge as big as this one, and that worked very well.
Next to the Darwin Class and the Nauta Air, are you looking at other lines already?
We have started thinking about something to be presented in the next two years as an evolution from what we’re doing now. It’s nothing too far from this, we ’re not going to build offshore powerboats, but in 2016 we will launch the new line, and we’re talking about 2018 deliveries. Something not radically different, but again, another upgrade.
Are you going to get a lot bigger in size as well? What is your outlook on that?
We’re not going to make the mistake that a lot of us did when we were in the bubble market. I learned a very important lesson, not because of the yard I was working with, but looking at the market. I think everybody should do what they know how to do very well. Our strategy is to go exactly as we started, to go up to 42 metres and a maximum of 45 metres. At the moment we are focused up to 35 metres, we just sold another boat which is 35 metres with an 8.20 metre beam, but that’s it. We’re not interested in the 40+ market, we don’t want to go in the terrain that does not belong to us.
What are you building now?
Now we are building a 86 Darwin, 102 Darwin, 107 Darwin, another 102 Darwin, and we’re going to start the 115.
How is the company doing after being in the business for around 4 years?
The value of production is increasing, the turnover is increasing, and we now have very interesting numbers after 4 years. We have increased the value of contracts this year by 50%, so that’s very good. The value of the production has increased and turnover has almost doubled. But until 2017 we don’t want to deliver more than three or four yachts per year. In 2015 we are expecting a turnover of around €22-€25 million.
Are you also looking at doing refits as part of the business?
No, we ‘re not interested in that because we want to just consolidate our quality. We are now quite known for our quality, and keep our focus on building new yachts. If orders are going to slow down and we have empty sheds, yes, we’ll probably start a refit. When a shipbuilding yard is doing refits, it’s always because you have to keep people busy.
Do you see more interest from the US market?
Absolutely. We just signed a contract with Denison Yacht Sales to represent us in the United States and they have just brought us a contract and a letter of intent. I think it’s having a good representative and having someone who can network for you. Alex Clarke is the shipyard in the United States, not the broker of the shipyard, which for us is very important, because we need someone there on a daily basis. Hopefully during the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show we will introduce a new Darwin vessel, which is especially dedicated to the US market.