Put a few hundred people into a large ballroom for a long evening’s event, and chances are at least a few dozen of them will end up talking through the presentations on stage. Now gather those people during a boat show, where everyone in the room has spent the past 12 hours or so meeting with potential and current clients, and the attention span is harder to keep focused, mostly because they’re tired.
But last Thursday evening, during the annual International Superyacht Society awards gala, everyone in the room snapped to attention–and many even rose to a standing ovation–when Alice Huisman, managing director of Royal Huisman, received the Society’s Leadership Award.
The Superyacht Society bestows the award on an individual (sometimes a company) who has helped grow the megayacht community worldwide through distinctive work and commitment to the industry overall. Alice (pictured, with Eric van Hulst, the yard’s technical director, at left and Bert Loof, the yard’s finance director, at right) has certainly done that. The fourth generation of Huismans to run the yard, Alice not only has kept it competitive and steadily grown it as one of the most well respected megayacht builders, but she’s also done so in just four years as the managing director.
From the restoration of the famed J Class yacht Endeavor to the construction of famed sailing yachts like Juliet and Hyperion, Royal Huisman made a name for itself building some of the finest superyachts around. Alice’s father Wolter, the grandson of the yard’s founder, was largely responsible for this, growing the yard from a staff of a few dozen to a staff of a few hundred and additionally growing its expertise into Alustar (a lightweight aluminum) and advanced composites.
When Wolter retired in 2004, Alice became managing director. She’d spent 24 years at the yard, and because it was a family-run business, she was a natural choice. Still, there was some concern when Wolter died a year later: What would happen to the venerable Royal Huisman?
Alice was more than up to the challenge of quelling any fears. Besides the years she put in, she knew the yacht world inside and out. This was a person, after all, whose normal family dinners included the likes of famed designer Olin Stephens.
Since becoming managing director, Alice has overseen some 29 yacht projects, including the completion of the 295-foot schooner Athena and the 118-foot classic motoryacht Arcadia. “Wolter’s spirit prevails through Alice and her team,” George Nicholson, the founder of Camper & Nicholson who received last year’s Leadership Award, said in a statement that was read during the presentation.
When Alice approached the podium to accept her award and speak, it was clear even from the back of the ballroom that she was moved. “I’m stunned, I’m thrilled, I’m excited,” she said, with a bit of a tremble in her voice. “With the list of people who’ve won this award, I’m honored.” She thanked the yard’s craftsmen and clients like Jim Clark, the owner of the 295-foot schooner Athena and 155-foot Hyperion before that, for believing in her.
And we all have Alice to thank for believing in herself. This is a well-deserved award.