The Royal Huisman yacht-building business in Vollenhove, Holland spans five generations, established in 1884. Alice Huisman has been at the helm since 2004, taking over after the passing of her father Wolter and having spent 24 years herself at the yard. Since that time, about three dozen megayachts have been built at Royal Huisman, and Huisman herself has received the International Superyacht Society’s prestigious Leadership Award. Here, as part of our Megayacht News Leadership Series, Huisman talks frankly about the yard’s sailing vs. power projects, why Royal Huisman’s Huisfit refit division was created, and more.
Q: How does Royal Huisman stand apart from other shipyards when targeting the super-size megayacht market?
A: Foremost we like to think we stand amongst our colleagues, as seen by the formation and our participation in SYBAss. It is a fundamental that we are seen firstly as an industry. Later it is the individual projects that determine where one yard might stand out from another. Broadly speaking, this occurs for Royal Huisman when a project is defined as a true “one off” custom design produced for a client, by an independent naval and styling architect.
Q: Are you happy with the concept that, first and foremost you are, in the eyes of the buyer, a sailing-yacht builder rather than one that builds motoryachts?
A: Yes, we are comfortable with that notion. We are, however, looking to apply our skill sets to the motoryacht market, especially in light of the fact that the motoryacht market is starting to focus on energy-saving principles. We have a lot to bring to the table in this area.
Q How important is the Rondal association to the success of Royal Huisman?
A: Historically, very important. Rondal gave a Huisman yacht a “stem to stern” signature on deck. A signature that admittedly can be bought by others, since Rondal does not solely rely on Huisman for their business. As long as Rondal keeps developing a product range that meets the needs of a Huisman-built yacht, then I see a continued and important relationship.
Q: Do you enjoy the notoriety of being one of the only women to head up a major yacht-building company?
A: Luckily for me there are women at the helm of other yards: Danish Yachts and Beneteau, to name but two. My distinction is only that I’m the first woman to head up Royal Huisman since our founding by my great-great-grandfather in 1884!
Q: What was your rational behind the forming of Huisfit, and has it worked?
A: Huisfit enabled us to formalize our refit business with a brand and high level of service. It also helped us to diversify our skill sets. Typically our refit business was focused on an aging fleet of Huisman-built yachts. We consciously used the brand of Huisfit and the reputation of Royal Huisman to expand our services, reaching out to a much broader audience of yachts built by others. The success of Huisfit is measurable, since we have the larger yachts planning a Huisfit into their long-range cruising schedules. And with five-year mandatory Lloyds surveys in each of these yachts’ maintenance books, we don’t see an immediate decline of inquiries.
Q: Your father was a giant in the yacht-building world. Do you think he would be proud of what you have achieved since taking over from him? What achievements that you have made would he think were well done?
A: Since he passed away, we expanded the work spaces to increase productivity via Lean process management. I’d like to think he’d be proud of this and of the yard as a whole. We have a great group of people, and I’m thankful that they helped to keep the yard moving ahead, particularly in these recent trying times. My father was foremost an engineer and innovator. I think he would be very proud to know that I have increased our research and development program to continue to elevate our engineering standards.
Q: Where (in the world) do you think the next generation of yacht owner will come from?
A: If only we knew. Half of what I read on this subject is in all probability wrong—only I don’t know which half is wrong or right! What is not wrong is that if we do our job as yacht builders properly, the client will come from a plane landing at Amsterdam’s Schipol airport. Where he boards that plane is something best left to economists, writers, and philosophers!
Q: If SYBAss did not exist, would Royal Huisman lobby for an association to be created in order to represent builders, and what would this pressure group do?
A: I would have lobbied for SYBAss and for what it is currently doing. And with growing regulation, I only hope the naval architects do something similar, too!