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Heesen Yachts completed yacht in the water at the yard

Yacht Experience

In the shipyard with Heesen Yachts

Innovation, craftsmanship and precision are part of the Heesen DNA. Director of sales and marketing Mark Cavendish explains what makes the Dutch shipyard the undisputed master of the sea 

Words by Patrick Tillard

Mark Cavendish, director of sales and marketing at Heesen Yachts, does not believe in risk. “When we make decisions,” he says, “every single element is meticulously measured, calculated and quantified. To take risks is to not know the outcome. Despite each of our yachts appearing to have a unique design, they all share one key ingredient: the Heesen DNA.”

As a result, the outcome is always assured once the construction team set to work in the Rijnstraat facility. It’s a perfect blend of “innovation, craftsmanship, performance and Dutch precision,” says Mark, a recipe whisked up by founder and nonconformist Frans Heesen in 1978. He took an audacious stance towards design, wanting to go where no others had been before, and 10 years later had the yacht industry picking its jaw up off the floor with the launch of Octopussy, the first luxury yacht to break the 50-knot barrier. It was to be the first of many groundbreaking ‘firsts’.

“…to build yachts with exceptional standards of engineering and meticulous attention to detail is intrinsically woven into the very fabric of the Heesen ethos…”

Mark Cavendish, Director of Sales & Marketing at Heesen Yachts

Frans Heesen’s early mission to build yachts with exceptional standards of engineering and meticulous attention to detail is intrinsically woven into the very fabric of the Heesen ethos, and hugely evident in the day-to-day running of the Netherlands shipyard. In their relatively short lifetime Heesen have scooped a swarm of prestigious awards, celebrating the inroads they have made into superyacht efficiency and capability.

A Shipyard of ‘Firsts’

“We have always invested heavily in R&D,” explains Mark, who joined Heesen Yachts in 2008, “and continue to do so. Thanks to our cutting-edge technology, we were the first to implement the fast displacement hull form with Galactica Star. Another first was the Hull Vane, an underwater foil that harnesses the power of the waves and transforms it into kinetic energy. And then 50m Home, the world’s first superyacht to combine this highly-efficient hull with the hybrid propulsion system, able to cruise in silence up to nine knots.” At the 2017 Monaco Yacht Show, Home received the RINA green award for being the most environmentally-friendly luxury yacht. 

Innovation in yachting never drops anchor, and development is fuelled by many factions. Inside Heesen, designers pursue state-of-the-art technologies, the newest materials are constantly analysed and refined, and naval architects and marine engineers must be acutely aware of conservation and climate change – ‘efficiency’ is the new buzzword. Added to this, owners are wanting more from their yachts – specifically they want to take them further afield, for longer periods of time, without having to compromise on luxury and comfort. Heesen are only too happy to oblige.

Balancing Form and Function

“The unlimited imagination and creativity of clients and marine architects has led to several breath-taking Heesen designs,” says Mark, “including the race-car-inspired Aurelia in 2011, the revolutionary Galactica Star, and our flagship Galactica Super Nova.” The latter features an aluminium fast displacement hull, which not only looks elegant and sporty, but slices through the water at remarkable speeds of up to 30 knots, making her one of the fastest superyachts in her class. She is a masterpiece of speed, space and style.

“Aesthetics are important and are often what single out a yacht from the competition, but function must always come first, form second. At the heart of every design is the lifestyle of the owner – how they wish to use the yacht, what their hobbies are – but to be a true success, a yacht has to balance its beauty with performance.”

Heesen’s fresh approach to the yacht industry goes beyond design, spilling into their sales and marketing, too.

Since launching almost 40 years ago Heesen has delivered more than 170 yachts. Originally the focus was solely on custom design, but at the turn of the century, demand was far outweighing supply and a market opened for yachts with a shorter construction time. “So to meet demand and to avoid compromising on quality,” says Mark, “we created a platform based on proven design and tested technology, reducing the standard delivery time of three to four years by approximately six months.” Uptake was strong, and remains so: their current order book and speculation pipeline consists of 12 yachts under construction, with deliveries that span to 2022.

As expected, there’s plenty more to come. “For Heesen to continue growing and developing it is inevitable we will start to build larger and larger yachts,” says Mark. “In 2017 we opened our new state-of-the-art 85m dry-dock and are now working on an exciting, radical new design with Clifford Denn Design called Project Maximus, which, at 83m, is the largest yacht we can build.

“We are also working on a highly-sophisticated 80m all-aluminium fast displacement motor yacht powered by four engines connected to two gearboxes with two shafts and controllable pitch propellers.” This requires a mind-boggling level of innovation, but given Heesen’s absolute aversion to risk, there can be little doubt it’ll be a feat of engineering excellence. Heesen truly are masters of the sea.