Cantiere delle Marche may have opened its doors in 2010, but it has quickly tapped an underserved niche in custom-yacht construction. From its Darwin series to its Nauta Air series, Cantiere delle Marche focuses on ocean-crossers that are as aesthetically striking as they are strong. Even the choice of “Darwin” for its first series conveys that. As Vasco Buonpensiere, the sales and marketing director, explains, “It’s not the strongest, but the fittest.” In this Megayacht News Leadership Series interview, he explains why Cantiere delle Marche is so focused on this idea. He conveys how some of the clients have pleasantly surprised the build team. And, Vasco Buonpensiere he shares his thoughts on why yacht buyers should no longer expect things to break down after a few months of use.
Megayacht News: What drives your passion for yachting? Is it a personal experience, perhaps from childhood, or is it purely business?
Vasco Buonpensiere: It’s definitely passion that has been growing since I was a child. My parents, absolutely not sailors, always remember that when we were on summer holidays, I just wanted to spend my time in harbors or marinas looking at boats and sailors, while all the other kids were on the beach. I started sailing by asking people to bring me with them, and I fell in love with boating. I cruised all over the Med, I was in a lot of regattas (not my passion, but a great way to sail without having your own boat), and I have always preferred single- or double-handling instead of racing/cruising with a full crew. Business was only involved in the professional choice I had to make. Even if I am a keen sailor, I decided to work with motoryachts, being the best choice in terms of the market.
Megayacht News: The Cantiere delle Marche team did a lot of research before opening the shipyard during the economic crisis. Now that you have been in business for a few years, do you see any changes in the clients you are targeting? Or, have some unexpected clients coming to you?
Vasco Buonpensiere: I would say that today’s market is the real yachting market. It is made for the great majority of real yachtsmen for whom boating is part of their lifestyle, and not an accessory to complete their luxury setup. All of our clients are mature yacht owners who, after having experienced different types of boating, have summed up all their needs and way of cruising and are looking for vessels which allow them to enjoy life onboard in full. The majority of our clients come from planing white yachts (Sunseeker, Sanlorenzo, Ferretti, Azimut, etc.). This is a natural evolution (Darwin, again…), starting from the will to have a luxury car that goes into the water and becomes the desire for living the sea on a luxurious, safe, moving house on the water, where they can enjoy every single second of the experience also during navigation. We also have two clients coming from displacement yachts: one from a Dutch-built yacht, and one who has a 70-meter-plus German-built vessel. This overall scenario was slightly surprising, as we thought in the beginning that the majority of our clients would have come from trawlers or even big sailing yachts.
Megayacht News: Some time ago, you used an interesting analogy to describe the yachting industry, saying it’s the only industry in the world where buyers expect things to break down within the first few months. Why do you think yacht owners have come to accept this? How can the industry get them to change their point of view, without making itself look foolish?
Vasco Buonpensiere: That’s true; it is really common to hear clients saying, “I know that the first season, there will be a lot of things to make good after a bit of usage.” But do they say the same of their jets or sports cars? Do they expect to stop on the highway or make emergency landings during the first months of use? This is something we really wanted to change. We are proud to say that the after-sales claims we have experienced on the boats we have delivered are really few. This becomes even more impressive if you think that the Cantiere delle Marche yachts that have cruised less miles in a season have logged almost 7,000 miles. We also have an incredibly small number of issues recorded on Percheron, our Darwin 86, which has cruised 15,000 miles in 12 months. That’s five years of normal use of a yacht. I do not have any secret formula for the industry. The only thing that I can say is that a complete and high standard pre-engineering, plus a team of workers extremely knowledgeable and committed, passionate, and motivated is definitely a plus.
Megayacht News: Some of your competitors are long-established. How do you earn the trust of clients weighing a choice between those competitors and your yard?
Vasco Buonpensiere: Customers are now much more attentive to contents than to brands. They look much more into what you are building and delivering, than to what you represent. They involve professional consultants in order to have a competent evaluation of what they are buying, and this helps us a lot. Our specifications are way more complete and loaded than ones clients are used to, and this also helps. We avoid any hidden extras, and when it comes to change orders, we apply a very transparent and fair policy. This is new for clients who come from quite different experiences which have frustrated them during construction somewhere else. We have sold an incredible number of yachts—11—in just a few years from our start up, beating our long-established competitors, some of them really aristocratic and well-reputed, who probably under-evaluated Cantiere delle Marche as the new kid on the block. It’s not easy in the beginning. You really have to bring the client into the substance of it and let him understand how the market has changed. But, now that our boats are cruising around the oceans, surveyors are talking enthusiastically about us on the docks, clients are doing the same with their friends, and we are also winning awards, being recognized among the best-performing shipyards worldwide, it starts to be easier. Recently, we sold two vessels to owners of yachts built at shipyards which, a few months ago, we would have thought was arrogant to consider as competitors. Another reason of our success in earning clients’ trust is the personal and committed approach they feel once they come in contact with us. We respect clients and their money so much, and they feel it. To understand this better, I suggest reading their words on the CdM Experience website. There you can read their words about us and the reason of their choice, with the ones of the captains and consultants.
Megayacht News: So far Cantiere delle Marche has focused on the “small” end of the superyacht market, though there are some plans for larger yachts. How large do you think you’ll build?
Vasco Buonpensiere: We do not want to go too big. We want to be very good in doing what we know how to do: vessels from 86 to 140 feet max. This is not only a matter of building process—do not forget that our workers come from building ships of 120 meters, like chemical tankers—but also a matter of the interesting market niche where we think there is weaker and smaller competition. On top of that, as passionate builders and entrepreneurs for whom clients are the absolute fulcra, this is the segment where the relationship among clients, builder, and the boat is still very strong. We strongly believe that to build a great yacht, you need this interaction even more than all the rest.