Chris Gongriep, whose love of sailing led to not just owning, but building superyachts, died today in his native Netherlands. He was 70 years old.
Gongriep was perhaps best-known in business as the founder of G&S Vastgoed, a successful real-estate firm in Amsterdam. It develops commercial and residential buildings, plus office space. It developed much of the Amsterdam South Axis district, for example. But yachting was both a personal and business passion. Gongriep commissioned a 43-foot-long barge from a Dutch shipyard in 1988. Two years later, he established a shipyard of his own, De Hemmes. The company built traditional wooden boats with flat bottoms. De Hemmes quickly became the now-famous Holland Jachtbouw, when Gongriep decided to construct aluminum sailing yachts instead. He gained traction in the industry by acquiring a yacht-management company from famed naval architect Andre Hoek.
Under Gongriep’s ownership of Holland Jachtbouw, a number of significant sailing superyachts saw daylight. Among them is Windrose of Amsterdam, a 152-foot schooner delivered in 2001. Gongriep himself was the owner. The yacht broke the transatlantic crossing record not once, but twice, in 2002 and 2005. Another well-known build by Holland Jachtbouw is the 203-foot schooner Athos, its largest to date.
While motoryachts were in the mix as well, sailing had a hold on Gongriep’s heart. No wonder, then, he commissioned the J Class Rainbow from Holland Jachtbouw. Rainbow, launched in 2012, is a 131-foot replica of the 1934 America’s Cup winner of the same name. Gongriep still wanted to take advantage of modern technology, though. So, he requested a power system that would be whisper-quiet overnight. As a result, Rainbow features a hybrid propulsion and power system that’s a first for any J Class yacht. It combines lithium-ion batteries, a primary engine, and a variable-speed electric motor doing the duty of a genset. The electric motor can power the full hotel load aboard Rainbow, as can the batteries. The batteries recharge while Rainbow is sailing, too.
Wasting no time to put Rainbow to the test on the water, Gongriep had her compete in the J Class regattas in the UK later that same year. He raced her in subsequent global regattas as well, additionally planning Rainbow to compete in the J Class events coinciding with next year’s America’s Cup finals in Bermuda.
Although Gongriep was no longer affiliated with G&S at the time of his death, the company issued a statement. “With the sudden death of Chris, we lose a special man. An enthusiastic and passionate entrepreneur who meant a lot to many people,” it reads.