Written by Diane M. Byrne
Vasco Buonpensiere co-founded Cantiere delle Marche (CdM) at a time when the yachting industry was suffering from the worldwide economic crisis. Despite that, Buonpensiere has helped CdM grow its profile. Here, he speaks on why he chose the path he did, and why CdM wants to build “better and better, not bigger and bigger.”
How did you first become interested in yachting?
I actually do not remember how it happened, but I clearly remember the feeling I used to have as a kid, at six or seven years old, when walking on the docks of the holiday villages I was visiting with my parents. I was so fascinated by boats and all that surrounded them. My parents, with no interest at all in boating, still remember that I was asking to be left there alone while they went shopping, and I stayed just sitting and watching boats for hours.
Have you owned boats yourself over the years? If so, what types, and what did you most enjoy about them?
I owned a few boats over the years. I started with a Laser and a Hobie Cat 16, which I bought with the money earned with summer jobs. At 18 I used the money I had saved to buy my first car instead to buy a beautiful, incredibly well-built and sturdy 1968 Cocaletta, built at Mariver, with which I cruised back and forth from Italy to Yugoslavia, singlehanded. After that, I owned only sailing boats from the 1970s—so well built and with beautiful lines dictated by seaworthiness and maritime culture, and not by the search for internal volumes—and always within the 36-foot threshold. I love sailing singlehanded or with just my wife, and this is the perfect size to do that, in my opinion. The last of these series of boats from the 70s has been my last great love: a 1976 Centurion 32 superbly built chez Wauquiez. It’s probably the best boat I have ever had.
At the moment I have a boat which has been chosen by my family: a Dufour 325 GL. I normally say that the difference between this boat and the former ones is the place where they are built – the Dufour is built in a factory, the former ones were built in shipyards. Besides that, I have to say that my Dufour is serving our needs really well. She is fast with light winds, perfect in the Med summer, and has a huge cockpit. I am probably the only one who has chosen a tiller instead of a wheel to make the most out of the space available.
My next boat—I hope—will be a 45-foot sloop with only two cabins, designed by my friends Mario Pedol and Massimo Gino of Nauta. My wife and I are planning to leave for a year-long sabbatical cruise for my 60th birthday.
What led you to pursue a career in yachting, and how did you first enter the industry?
I had been a lawyer for about eight years, and I realised I wasn’t doing what I really loved. I decided to pursue a career matching my biggest passion: yachts and oceans. I had no clue what the professional roles in the industry were, and I did a lot of research. I was extremely fascinated by the yacht-management world. I left Bologna, my hometown, and I interviewed with some of the biggest yacht-management companies. At the end of the interviews, they all said to me, “you should be a broker.” So I did that, but after a while I realised that the brokerage arena wasn’t really my piece of cake. I started as CRN’s Sales Manager. After a few months, I was named Sales Director of both Custom Line and CRN, and then, seeing the latter brand’s success, I became Brand Manager and Sales Director of CRN only.
What convinced you to become part of the Cantiere delle Marche team?
When Ennio Cecchini asked me to found together a new shipyard where he would apply all his experience in quality shipbuilding and I would take care of product, marketing, and sales, it was an easy choice for me.
It took the time of a lunch, and this was because of the reciprocal trust we have always had in each other, the friendship between us, and the shared attitude. We always work with a smile, and we never forget that the worst day of our job is better than the majority of other people’s holidays!
With CdM, we completed what we had started years before with the Naumachos project: building luxury pocket explorers showing the rest of the world that Italians can build great-quality vessels.
CdM dates back nearly 10 years—to the same time as the global economic crisis. Did you or your business partners ever question the risk you were about to take?
Actually no. The niche we were hitting and the gap in the market were both so clear to me that when I explained the concept to my partners, it was impossible not to understand the reasons why we had to do it. The truth is that the niche we were aiming at was created by the global economic crisis – so we couldn’t go wrong.
How has CdM changed since the early years?
CdM’s DNA and attitude has not changed a bit. We are still the same bunch of crazy guys with our feet solidly on the ground, with a lot of passion about what we are doing and always focused on keeping our boats and their owners at the centre of our attention. This is the secret of shipbuilding, in my opinion. Clients’ satisfaction and quality vessels first. If you keep this in mind, success is granted.
Several shipyards build oceangoing yachts for adventurous owners. What sets CdM’s deliveries, and its customers, apart?
The so-called CdM Experience; this is what our clients call it. Our boats are the result of an enthusiastic joint process where the shipyard, the owner, the designer, the captain, and the surveyor all strive to achieve the same result: the best and most detailed vessel possible, where everything is studied and engineered with the eyes and the hands of the end user. Our customers are mature yacht owners, knowledgeable and experienced, who are first of all interested in contents before form.
They start visiting yachts from the engine room, not from a saloon or a master cabin. They know how powerful oceans are, and they want a vessel that keeps them and their families safe. I don’t want to say that people like that are not buying from other shipyards, obviously, but I love the fact that those who buy from
us have all these characteristics in common.
CdM has just completed one of its largest builds to date, Audace. Do you expect to build even larger yachts in the coming years? And, is there an LOA or volume that your team has set as a limit?
As we always say, we want to build better and better, not bigger and bigger. We have self-imposed on ourselves a threshold of 45 metres or 499 GRT. We are not interested in entering the 50-metre arena, which is not only crowded but also has a lot of shipyards incredibly good at what they are doing.
In interviews over the years, you have stated that the yachting industry is the only industry where customers expect things to break down in the first few months. Have you seen a change occur in buyers’ attitudes, and/or in the industry’s attitude?
What we are witnessing, in our clientele at least, is an increasing awareness and maturity towards this subject, and we are obviously happy about it, trying every day to defeat this myth. I don’t know about the rest of the industry, but at CdM we are very sensitive to the matter, and we work hard day after day to reduce as much as possible defects on our yachts.
What keeps things fresh for you in the business—what makes you want to stay a part of it?
Passion, passion, passion, and never forget that we work in a leisure industry where our goal is making other people happy!