Vincenzo Poerio, Benetti: Megayacht News Leadership Series

Vincenzo-Poerio-Benetti-2Benetti CEO Vincenzo Poerio joined the Italian shipyard as general manager in 1993. He brought with him a rich academic and professional experience in naval engineering and technical construction. Promoted to a managerial role, he first became managing director, then CEO in January 2011. He is ultimately responsible for the Megayachts Business Line at the Azimut Benetti Group. Here, as part of our Leadership Series, Vincenzo Poerio explains why the United States is a key market for Benetti, what drives that success, and what new markets are also high on the list.


Megayacht News: Benetti exhibited at the Rio Boat Show. Was that successful for the company, and how do you see the Latin American market developing?

Vincenzo Poerio: The show was very important, and it was fascinating to have such an important yacht displayed so prominently at the show. (Editor’s note: The Benetti Delfino 93 Zaphira was the yacht.) She garnered a great deal of attention, and we were able to cement a considerable number of relationships we made with potential Latin American buyers who we have met in the past at the Miami boat show.


Megayacht News: What are Benetti’s marketing plans to attract more North American buyers?

Vincenzo Poerio: The American market is of vital importance to us here at Benetti, but it is essential that before we try and exploit the full potential, we should ensure we have the right product. Americans want fast boats with shallow drafts by comparison to European buyers. That means the yachts have to be able to achieve 20+ knots without effort and that drafts must be no greater than 7 feet.


Megayacht News: Can you give us an update an update on the Fast Displacement series that was revealed at the Cannes show last year and will debut at the upcoming Fort Lauderdale show?

Vincenzo Poerio: The Fast Displacement series is the line of boats between 125 and 140 feet that we have developed specifically for the American market. The first is a 140 that is nearing completion now in our shipyard in Viareggio. Built for an American client who trusted us enough to buy her on the basis of renderings and plans, she is an attractive addition to the Benetti product range that ticks all the boxes for the American owner. Five hulls were sold in the first eight months following its release.


Megayacht News: Is the U.S. market still growing for Benetti?

Vincenzo Poerio: Without a doubt, it is growing strongly and is one that we are anxious to develop further. Americans, unlike, say, the Chinese, have a strong culture of yachting, fast, attractive yachts fit the lifestyle and aspirations of the wealthy, and it is our job to find many more of that type of client and introduce them to the joys of megayachting.


Megayacht News: How many boat shows does Benetti exhibit at around the world?

Vincenzo Poerio: We attend about 10 megayacht shows a year, which is a lot and even perhaps too many. The fact is that they are an essential marketing tool and have become an important focus for client and company relationships. They build a bond between the two, and while you can never say you sell a boat at a show, being at a show helps us sell boats.


Megayacht News: Would Benetti ever want to build a sailing yacht, like how Perini Navi now builds motoryachts?

Vincenzo Poerio: We have built sailing yachts in the past, but I think it unlikely we will do so in the future. Sailing yachts account for just 10 percent of the megayacht market, and of that Perini Navi builds 60 percent of them. I think it would be just too much effort to bite into that market, and if we did, we would just be hurting a fellow Italian shipbuilder. We have a good, strong brand clearly and well established as a builder of fine motoryachts, and I think that is where we should maintain our focus.

Megayacht News Leadership Series: Burak Akgül, Perini Navi


PHOTO: Frances Howorth

Burak Akgül has been with Perini Navi for the past 26 years. He was recently appointed managing director  for sales, marketing, and design. He has seen Perini Navi grow from a sailing superyacht builder to a group with multiple shipyards. Burak Akgül reports to Enrico dell’Artino, the newly appointed CEO, a role vacated by Giancarlo Ragnetti. Ragnetti steered Perini Navi from its formative years to where it is today and is currently on the board of directors. In this Leadership Series interview, Burak Akgül reveals the new CEO’s strengths, how the Perini Navi Cup is more than just a race, and more.


Megayacht News: What can you tell us about Enrico dell’Artino, the new CEO?

Burak Akgül: He is a man with a huge depth of knowledge gained elsewhere in the Italian industrial world. His time in the defense and automotive industries means he knows and understands far more about larger and more complex projects than the very young superyacht industry has ever had to contemplate in its relatively short 25-year history.  He brings with him a different skill set, and we are keen to benefit from such knowledge.


Megayacht News: What similarities do you see among your sailing-yacht clients and Picchiotti clients?

Burak Akgül: They are two different styles of yachts, yet they share a common heritage of efficiency. The Picchiotti motoryachts designed by Vitruvius with their long, lean hull shapes are so very economical. The sailing yachts can, because of their automatic sail-handling capabilities, be run by a much smaller crew than a more conventional sailing yacht. The two Picchiotti yachts we have built and delivered disappeared for world-circling voyages very quickly and have reported a trouble-free existence. A third is limbering up to go and do the same, but not before the world gets to see her at Monaco this year. I have no doubt that in time there will be an owner of one of our sailing yachts who wants a motoryacht built by our Picchiotti brand as well.


Megayacht News: Is the Perini Cup run with a view to being a commercial success?

Burak Akgül: It takes a lot of time and effort to make it work, and each event has, it seems, eclipsed the last. It has been a marketing success. I can confirm that at least one boat has been sold as a result of holding each event, even the last one. It takes those who organize it here an incredible amount of time to get it right, and getting it wrong would not do anyone any good at all!

PHOTO: Carlo Borlenghi

PHOTO: Carlo Borlenghi

Megayacht News: Will there ever be another Dyna Rig Perini Navi yacht constructed?

Burak Akgül: Yes, there will be another one for sure. It is just that I can’t tell you when! Those who have experienced the joy of sailing aboard Maltese Falcon know that tacking and gybing are in fact huge non-events, and ironically because the rig is so easy to use and simple to control, the more this mega-sailing yacht actually is sailed. The Falcon Rig, as we prefer to call it, is ideal for the larger yachts, and as we all can see only too well, sailing yachts are following the motoryacht trend and becoming ever larger.


Megayacht News: Who are the competitive yachtsmen in the Perini Navi fleet? And what Perini Navi yachts are the most competitive?

Burak Akgül: Oh, you have to put Tom Perkins at the top of that list. He built three yachts with us, and when the second Andromeda was built, he very probably had the Millennium Cup in his mind. The owner of P2 enjoys a competitive edge to his yachting. Those who own a Perini Navi are already competitive by nature, and regattas just bring that spirit of adventure in them out into the fore.


Megayacht News: When Fabio Perini first conceived of the Perini Navi concept, did you ever think you would build more than five?

Burak Akgül: I have known Fabio Perini now for 26 plus years, and even after all that time, I never cease to be amazed at the vision of that man. I find myself time and time again asking myself, ‘How did he know that?’ He is so often right, it could be called scary, but the fact that he made such an early and substantial investment in this company is I think testament to the fact that yes, he really did believe there would be more than five. And I know he is delighted that the number is way over 55 now!

Megayacht News Leadership Series: Ed Dubois, Dubois Naval Architects

Ed-DuboisEd Dubois had an early and innate love of the sea, sailing, and yacht design. This, despite growing up in a landlocked part of England. His choice of career was set from his early teens. Dubois designed, built, and raced his own first yacht, Borsalino Trois, in the late 1970’s. He went on to design many winners in major offshore races around the world. Dubois describes his work as combining seaworthiness and excellent performance with imaginative space planning and beautifully proportioned, elegant lines. Here, Dubois, the managing director of Dubois Naval Architects, discusses design innovation, racing’s influence on cruising, and more. He even shares a strange but true story about a pony and a yacht.


Megayacht News: Do you think large sailing yacht races around the world are becoming the yachting equivalent of Formula One car racing?

Ed Dubois: I would agree that the America’s Cup is yachting’s Formula One, but I don’t think it’s a fair analogy to think of superyacht regattas as Grand Prix events—nor do I think those taking part think so, either.


Megayacht News: Do the owners of large sailing yachts ask you push the boundaries of design? If so, how, and can you give some examples of where they have done that successfully?

Ed Dubois: Owners of large sailing yachts are happy for their designers to push the boundaries in terms of appearance and also speed.  But it is also the designer’s responsibility, I believe, not to allow safety or seaworthiness to be compromised. For example, we are now designing (and have designed in the last six years) yachts with lifting keels, which have required a good deal of research and development with regard to strength. We are also designing larger and larger rigs, which would be perhaps dangerous were it not for safety factors being considered very carefully.


Megayacht News: Have any of the innovative ideas first tried out on cutting-edge racing yachts been of benefit to the family cruising yacht, and if so, can you give some examples?

Ed Dubois: Many innovative ideas first tried out on cutting-edge racing yachts have been of benefit to family cruising yachts.  Perhaps the most emphatic example is carbon-fiber masts and rigging.  Carbon-fiber was first pioneered in the racing yacht world and without carbon-fiber masts, some of the larger super sailing yachts would simply not have been possible or certainly would not have functioned in the way they do.  Other examples are super-strong ropes, which have been pioneered in racing yachts before being taken on by cruising yachts and superyachts.  I think it is in the area of rigs and rigging and sails where racing yachts have had the most central influence on cruising yachts.


Megayacht News: Have you as a designer ever been asked to incorporate an idea that could never work on a fast sailing yacht?

Ed Dubois: We have had some interesting requests. One owner wanted her daughter to be able to bring her pony with her on board the boat. Her idea was to have a rotating, turntable-like exercise machine that the pony would be able to swim off. We managed to persuade them that it probably wasn’t a good idea for the pony’s entire happiness. We’ve also been asked to incorporate a three-ton pizza oven into a yacht. Again, we managed—gently—to dissuade the clients out of this idea.


Megayacht News: Is large-yacht racing becoming much more competitive?

Ed Dubois: Yes! For example, I took part in my first St. Barths Bucket in the year 2000.  There were just four boats and one race around the island.  Recently though there have been over 40 boats competing in three races and many of the entries want to win quite badly.  It is not necessarily a very healthy trait because the yachts are in essence cruising boats that are designed to go faster and faster.


Megayacht News: Are yachts built for speed taking over from the creation of cruising yachts that race? 

Ed Dubois: I think that is the case, and I believe the industry as a whole and designers in particular should be wary of it. When I started racing offshore, in events such as the Admirals Cup in 1973, it was possible to cruise those yachts and race them competitively. Very soon after the sport went professional, in 1985, boats became too extreme and certainly not suitable for cruising. I don’t think superyachts will go that way, but it is something to be reminded of.


Megayacht News: Why is the single-masted yacht the preferred choice of racing-yacht design?

Ed Dubois: Single-masted yachts are generally more popular than ketches or schooners these days. I think most people think the aesthetics of a single mast are more attractive. In past days, before powered winches and automatic sail-handling equipment, sails had to be divided up into smaller areas, hence the square rig on merchant ships and two- and three-masted yachts. Now it is not such a requirement because of electrics and hydraulics. However, I still believe that a ketch rig is more seaworthy than a sloop. In a lot of wind, a staysail and double-reefed mizzen is a very handy rig.


Megayacht News: We have witnessed the canting keel, the movable ballast, the winged keel, and now there is talk of a dynamic stabilizer. What do you think the next big design feature for fast, large sailing yachts will be?

Ed Dubois: We have some ideas for the next big thing—but they’re secret!

Megayacht News Leadership Series: Emile Bilterijst, Moonen Shipyards

Emile Bilterijst Moonen ShipyardsEmile Bilterijst had been trying for years to get the commercial shipyard where he worked to begin yacht building. When he realized they were not going to take his advice, he quit and purchased an established yacht and megayacht shipyard from Rien Moonen. Moonen Shipyards, located in the medieval Dutch town of ’s-Hertogenbosch (a.k.a. Den Bosch), has since then steadily built larger yachts. Here, Emile Bilterijst speaks about Moonen’s growth and focus and discusses a personal passion, his classic tugboat.


Megayacht News: Moonen has long focused on what you call pocket-size superyachts. How did that phrase first come about?

Emile Bilterijst: Interesting question. Actually, it was the journalists first writing about Moonen in 1985 who described what we were building as pocket size. The word superyacht is a very relative one, as is the phrase pocket size. What we called a superyacht 25 years ago is not at all big today. I think the word superyacht does not signify size alone, I believe it firmly describes the quality to which it is built.


Megayacht News: At what size will you ultimately draw the line?

Emile Bilterijst: There is obviously a demand for very big 80- and 100-meter yachts, and there are several good yards focusing on this size of yachts. At this stage I just do not envisage us building one. We have building larger and larger yachts with every build we undertake, and have done so since our beginnings in 1963! Currently we have facilities where we could build up to 55 meters, and with some adjustments we could go even bigger. It is not us that draws the line, it is the requirements of our customers that we need to adhere to.


Megayacht News: Do you envision a time when a 50-meter could be become “pocket size”?

Emile Bilterijst: We deliver at the quality the market expects from us, based on the vessels we have delivered in the past. This means that if we do grow to bigger sizes, it should be in a controlled way. For this reason the most logical boundary would be for the time being the 500-gross-ton mark. Gross tonnage is more important than the length, as it is directly related to regulations, both for building as for operating the yacht. Also the price is more related to gross tonnage than to the length, because ultimately it is the volume that counts. So, if we would have a client that wants us to build a 55-meter yacht at Moonen, we would not say no, because we know we can do it. If we were to develop a yacht ourselves, it would be one with a maximum gross tonnage of 499. Perhaps in today’s world that is still pocket sized.


Megayacht News: You own and have restored a classic tugboat. Do you ever draw on your personal experience?

Emile Bilterijst: I have been sailing since I was 9 years old in all different kind of sailboats. I have studied naval architecture at Delft University with an MSC in ship design and hydrodynamics, and have been working in the shipbuilding and ship-repair industry as engineer, designer, sales manager, product manager, and turn-around manager since 1982. So yes, I know boats, and it is upon all the experiences that I draw when embarking on any new project. The restoration of my 1942 tugboat was great fun. I like to be hands-on, and am not afraid of making my hands dirty. Somehow this philosophy affects my relationship with the people in the shipyard. They know I understand their problems from my own experiences, and thus it makes communication between us easier.


Megayacht News: Moonen yachts have a reputation of globetrotting. Is there anywhere in the world they have not been seen?

Emile Bilterijst: Probably only Antarctica and the North Pole.


Megayacht News: Where do you think the next generation of yacht owner will come from?

Emile Bilterijst: Wherever the money is! Being on the water is relaxing that all over the world and eventually every nation discovers this as a fantastic way to escape from the crowd. In some areas boating is more in the genes than in others, but if there is the money around to buy boating will happen eventually. For this reason its my opinion that the Far East and South America will become the next big markets.


MYN: What can you tell us about your new investor?

Emile Bilterijst: Building a yacht is an emotion-driven process and has nothing to do with rationale. The same, and may be even more, could be said about investing in a shipyard. It is a difficult game with relative high risks and relative low revenues. So it is important for any investor that somehow he realizes it is not simply because of the potential profits, but it is much more about the passion. Having said that, it is important to run the company as a business and not as a hobby! Our new investor has built three Moonen yachts here since 2004. The first was just 84 feet lon,g the second larger at 97 feet, and now the latest, a 42-meter, is a fully custom yacht which he has called Sofia, which was also the name of the first two. He is passionate about his yachts and about Moonen, but at the same time understands the yard should be run as a business. He leaves the day-to-day business to the management, but provides the necessary funds and guarantees to make it happen.


Megayacht News: Moonen is not a member of SYBAss. Is this a situation of your own choosing?

Emile Bilterijst: Actually Moonen Shipyards was one of the founders of the SYBAss group. The original idea was to combine the efforts of several top-quality yards as they organized an event in Moscow designed to reach into the Russian market. We needed a vehicle to organize those practical and financial marketing issues and decided it would be worthwhile to form an association of superyacht builders. Later the group decided that to be a member, a yard should have built at least two yachts of 40 meters and bigger. Our biggest yacht to that date was 38 meters. In spite of Lürssen and several other significant yacht builders supporting our membership, the majority was of the opinion that no exception should be made for us. Although I did not like it at the time, I do understand the thinking behind it.

Megayacht News Leadership Series: Alice Huisman, Royal Huisman

Alice-Huisman-2The 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!