INTERVIEW - Rendezvous Beneteau

Presented by
  • Trade-A-Boat

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<I>Trade-a-Boat</I> meets with French giant Beneteau’s man in the Pacific, Yves Mandin, and discovers the company’s love affair with Australia remains a growing commitment

INTERVIEW - Rendezvous Beneteau
INTERVIEW — Rendezvous Beneteau

The world’s largest yacht maker responded strongly to the GFC by hatching many new designs across its range of both power and sailboats, such as creating one of the largest production yachts, the Oceanis 58 last year, and this year the deck saloon Sense range.

Helping oversee these changes is Beneteau Pacific Brand Manager, Yves Mandin, who visited Australia recently; something the affable Frenchman has been doing for 10 years.

Yves not only likes managing the Beneteau empire but also enjoys spending time with owners, so catching up for a chat on the deck of the first Sense 50 to reach Australia at the Sydney International Boat Show last winter was an appropriate rendezvous.

TAB: What’s on your agenda for your visit this time, Yves?

Mandin: I regularly visit our Australian distributors to see what’s happening in this market and check out the competition. Also, it’s an important occasion to meet my dealers and train them on the new boats and launch our new models. We’re launching our two Senses — it’s the official launch of the Sense 50 and 43. We also have the First 30 here, which already launched at Sanctuary Cove this year.

TAB: These two ranges are very different boats, which shows Beneteau’s breadth in terms of market?

Mandin: Yes, the Sense was a great challenge for the company involving around 200 staff, which has helped assure us that it will suit the Australian market, while the First 30 is ideal for twilight racing, but also able to offer comfort below decks for people who want to cruise weekends with a small family.

TAB: The First 30 is a fairly different yacht from previous boats in that range with a much more radical design, thanks to your new liaison with Argentinean designer Juan Kouyoumdjian?

Mandin: Yes, it’s an evolution from our previous work with Farr Design, but there was a need for a fresh approach and with Juan K’s success in the race community, he brought over a lot of new ideas.

TAB: For example?

Mandin: A key point was the position of the mast, bringing it back in line with the keel, which is the normal position for a well-balanced boat. Also, a new generation of rig without backstay and the square topped mainsail.

TAB: Will this evolution of the First 30 continue throughout the First range?

Mandin: Yes, it may happen but we don’t know when, but we’ve carried some of these changes to our new Oceanis range — the 41, 45, and 48. The two smaller ones are designed by Finot and one of the main changes is the position of the mast, to the middle of the boat. This is intended to make a well-balanced boat. We’ve also used non-overlapping genoas. This allows the mainsail to be the same size as the genoa, making a well-balanced and easy-to-sail cruising boat.

TAB:
So, you’re applying a cruiser-racer principal to your cruising range?

Mandin: Yes, we are.

TAB: Looking at the new Sense range, perhaps Beneteau’s most radical departure from a traditional cruising design, how suited are they to the Australian market?

Mandin: They are suited very well for occasions like social sailing in twilights, where you can welcome your friends onboard into an open cockpit and enjoy a friendly race as these boats can use asymmetric spinnakers. The same layout works for pure cruising, with no barrier between the saloon and cockpit and on top, a good bimini for sun protection.

TAB: Deck saloons are increasing in popularity but was there any other reason for the Sense?

Mandin: With the Sense, we want to keep our clientele who have been loyal to Beneteau throughout our ranges, but have simply grown older.

TAB: So, you’re protecting your market share?

Mandin: Yes, because these people are looking at trawler-style boats and catamarans as they expect more space, comfort and safety. But they may also enjoy fast sailing. So, we don’t want to lose these sailors.

TAB: So, you’ve created a range with some of the characteristics of powerboats while retaining good sailing ability?

Mandin: Exactly, thanks to our walk-in cockpits and general space.

TAB: Competitors such as Moody have shown there is a market as well?

Mandin: Yes, they have and there is also a definite trend for this kind of boat generally.

TAB: Is there any particular trends you perceive in the Australian market right now?

Mandin: Yes, it’s growing and we had 35 per cent growth across our power and sail range last year, through our local network. Of course, Australia is a mature, rather than emerging market for us. Also, right now the currency is helping us sell more boats here.

TAB: Any other trends that Beneteau HQ sees here?

Mandin: Well, our First range sells very well here, the First 35, First 40 and now the First 30 is here, so it’s really you guys who expect performance, race hard to Hobart. The First 40 proved that it does well here (the First 40 Paca won its division in the 2010 Sydney Hobart).

TAB: So, looking at the future, what can we expect from the world’s largest yacht builder?

Mandin: One of the strengths with the size of the Beneteau Group is our capacity to renew and innovate. So, for example, our electronic docking system, Dock&Go, is an exclusive system to Beneteau. This comes from our constant investing in the company to keep development moving fast. So for example, we’re now in the sixth generation of the Oceanis range for our traditional customers and currently renewing half this range.

Photos:

1). Beneteau Pacific Brand Manager Yves Mandin onboard one the boatbuilder’s new Sense range.

2). Mandin on the bow of the new Sense 50.

3). The latest Beneteau Oceanis 41 is launching in Europe as we go to press and features a hard chined hull and centred rig.


 


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