This article has previously been published in the 18th edition of PILOT.
In the year 2000 Feadship came up with a new slogan: ‘There are yachts and there are Feadships’. Obvious to those who recognise the truth of the statement, getting this motto accepted by the no-nonsense Feadship directors was not so easy. As a member of the Feadship board then and now, Dick van Lent decided to call a Feadship owner to ask his opinion...
When the slogan ‘there are yachts and there are Feadships’ landed on my desk, my initial reaction was that it was too arrogant. That evening I called my friend Michael Kittredge, for whom we were on the point of completing the build of the 60-metre Feadship Paraffin. Mike was renowned for his exceptional understanding of marketing within his own line of business, and I had seen first-hand how good he was with people and presentations. His answer was clear: ‘If clients don't feel comfortable with this slogan then they’re probably not Feadship clients.’ I was convinced.
I often get asked what the essence of a Feadship is. People expect me to start talking about quality and the ways that Feadship has managed to consistently set standards to which the rest of the luxury motoryacht industry aspires. Or to name-drop some of the many incredible projects with which I’ve been involved since starting at the Feadship Kaag Island yard in 1974. There is, of course, much I could write on these points, but for me the essence of the Feadship experience can be summed up in this story about the slogan.
It was no coincidence that I had become such good friends with Michael Kittredge during a build. Throughout the decades, the Van Lent, De Vries and De Voogt families have struck up some close relationships with many owners. The warmth of the informal contacts between clients, their families and the Feadship directors and project managers is a very important part of the success of any build. Feadship directors have attended weddings, been present at christenings, even gone on holiday with clients that became pals.
I once went to the fiftieth birthday party of one of our clients... In New Zealand!
These first meetings are also a great time to get to know each other. Many of the meetings involved in turning ideas from creative dreams to on-paper reality have happened in our Tante Kee restaurant opposite the yard, as well as at similar venues close to the other Feadship yards in Aalsmeer and Makkum. There are serious benefits to be accrued when multi-million-euro projects are conducted in a convivial atmosphere. I cannot stress enough the importance of owner involvement in a successful project. The more you do together, the cosier it becomes and the more you go on to create. If there are two things that set Feadship apart they are the resources we use – both material and human – and the enjoyment that owners have building with us.
Honest and frank
The Dutch are known for their frankness and you shouldn't believe those who say anything is possible on a superyacht. It's not – we will make sure that a Feadship is comfortable and safe, and if the client’s ideas might compromise that comfort or safety then we’re not afraid to say ‘no’. The same applies to keeping to budgets and schedules: It is part of the experience at Feadship to also know that your boat will be ready on time at the price you agreed.
The fun part of a Feadship build is also that every owner is doing his own thing. Each Feadship benefits enormously from these individual touches. Our role is to build custom superyachts but we cannot do that if the owners don’t have original ideas. Open a yacht magazine and every yard claims to be a bespoke builder: the truth is that there are very few of us left.
There are yachts and there are Feadships.
Building a Feadship is a personal business. The client who was here yesterday said “I always want to make sure that I can always look my clients in the eye.” And I replied that we are the same. We are, of course, quality-driven, but Feadship also prides itself on being relationship- driven and service-driven. People think they can buy everything for money, but it’s very hard to ‘buy’ a truly memorable experience. That is why we put so much effort, energy and creativity into this aspect.
After the initial meeting we spent a good year working on possible designs and features. The owners really took the time to do everything their way and we had an exciting time with lots of social occasions with their children and friends. Once the hull was completed at the Feadship yard in Rotterdam it had to be transported to the yard on Kaag Island. The owners and a party of friends wanted to watch the hull as it passed the locks at Gouda. So we arranged a meeting to have breakfast together with members of the Feadship team in the historic city centre. A truck then arrived containing forty bicycles and they had great fun cycling along to watch the hull arrive and go through the dock.