Written by Charlotte Thomas
The Amels Limited Editions range has proven hugely popular – have you been surprised by its success?
As a group, Damen’s success is really built on standardisation – constructing different vessels based on a standardised platform – and that’s also what the Limited Editions range is for Amels, for the yachting side of the business. It’s really a standardised technical platform with a full custom interior, and it’s certainly something we believed in from the beginning otherwise we wouldn’t have started it. But I think initially we were aiming, for example with the Limited Editions 180 [which began life as the 171], to build around 10, and so far, we’ve built 34 if you count the earlier Tigre d’Or series upon which it was based as well. So that has of course been absolutely beyond our expectations.
At what point did Amels realise that the original Tigre d’Or series was going to be a suitable idea to develop?
Interestingly, the first-time round we didn’t have that much experience in how to actually do it, because probably one of the most difficult things to do is to design a yacht not for one particular owner but as something that fits a wider audience. We started developing the concept in the mid-2000s but at the time we were a much smaller company. We didn’t really imagine it would be so successful and we probably didn’t think about it in the same way as we do today when we’re developing a new design.
However, the Amels 60 – our latest release, designed by Espen Øino – really builds on some of the success of the 180.
For example, we ‘re keeping the huge sun deck and the folding balcony, and we still have the four guest cabins on the lower deck although we’ve also really improved the platform based on the feedback we got from the market through a combination of clients, brokers, designers, and also our subcontractors. We have increased the ceiling heights a little, we have created an air-conditioned gym area, we’ve added larger tenders, we have direct access to the beach club when cruising, and a larger swimming platform to create more of that beach club feeling. So although we have kept some of the key features of the Amels 180 we’ve also really listened to our clients and to the market to add some improvements.
Most of the Limited Editions range have come from the board of Tim Heywood – is the Øino-designed 60m the start of a new collaboration?
We wanted to do something new, and we always feel that working with a variety of designers is something that inspires us as well. Obviously Espen has done some great work, so we are really excited to be working with him, although it’s not the first time – he designed the 78-metre full custom yacht we have under construction. Of course, we still also build the Heywood designs, so we have a lot to offer there too.
The new 60 metre features Hybrid by Amels technology – is this something that is going to become a feature of Amels builds?
Yes absolutely, I think it’s the future. Definitely in our company the real focus at the moment is on how we can contribute, in our way, to the environment, but it’s also something for which we see a lot more demand from the market. We feel this really is a solution that should appeal to a wider audience and we’re really excited about that.
With the Limited Editions range, Amels defined a new series-custom methodology for yacht building, then the Damen name came forward and redefined the yacht support vessel. What’s next?
That’s a really good question! I think where commercial shipbuilding crosses with yacht building there are still a lot of exciting opportunities to explore. We are playing with a lot of development on our commercial shipbuilding side so we’re really excited to think about how we can apply some aspects of those platforms to the yachting industry. I think one of the key strengths of the Damen group is that we’re operating in different markets in the shipbuilding industry, not only yachting but also naval, offshore transport, tugboats and other workboats, and of course there’s also a lot of innovation going on in those markets. That’s really important for us in how we differentiate ourselves from the rest of the market, and we put a lot of emphasis on research and development, and innovation – in fact we spend between €30 million and €40 million every year on R&D.
Over the next two years we’re planning to spend more than €100 million on innovations related to sustainability.
Is the Asia-Pacific region a market you have managed to break into?
My family on my mother’s side is actually from Asia so it’s a market we feel a strong connection to. But also, I think product-wise there is a really good fit because we are a one-stop-shop. We offer a solution with a short delivery time, a proven design and a proven track record, and I think in Asia – where people work a lot and do not always have time to focus on every aspect of a build – ours is very often considered a good solution. We have a technical platform that is proven but with a custom luxury interior, so clients can really focus just on the fun part of the design.
You come from a boating background yourself – do you still get time to enjoy the water?
I love everything to do with water – in fact, I’ve just got off the beach from an afternoon of kite surfing! But yes, absolutely, I love sailing and my holidays are spent sailing. We also have two small sailing boats within the company that we race as a team, so sailing and being in and around the water is absolutely something that I love. I am also very lucky that the shipyard is located right on the beach.