By Gemma Fottles – from Superyacht Digest | July Issue 2019
THIS YEAR MARKS 170 YEARS OF SHIPBUILDING AT FEADSHIP VAN LENT. HERE WE LOOK AT HOW THE DUTCH YARD HAS BECOME SYNONYMOUS WITH THE BEST IN THE WORLD’S MOST EXCLUSIVE INDUSTRY.
Since its inception, Dutch shipyard Feadship has adapted and evolved, grown and expanded. From modest beginnings building small wooden boats, today, Feadship is synonymous with the biggest and best custom superyachts in the world – and it’s certainly not hard to see why. A long list of boundary-pushing superyachts over the years has firmly cemented Feadships’ status as the pinnacle of high-quality, innovative yacht building. The Jon Bannenberg-designed 46.6-metre Azteca is one such member of the Feadship family, which set design trends for years to come following her launch in 1983. The 78.2-metre Venus, is another, with her extensive use of glass, super tech focus and truly unique exterior design. But it is not just the innovative designs and trendsetting qualities of their fleet that has so firmly established Feadship as one of the leading builders of custom superyachts. Feadship has never been a brand satisfied to rest on its laurels. The heart of the sustained success and ever-increasing prestige of the Dutch superyacht powerhouse is a dedication to quality, to craftsmanship and to – what they like to call – uniquity. Uniquity is at the heart of the Feadship DNA and, as time has told so far, has allowed the brand to not only remain in the game but dominate it. Here we delve into the world of Feadship and explore how the yard has managed to rule the Seven Seas for almost two centuries.
2019: A YEAR OF MILESTONES
2019 is shaping up to be one of the most prolific years of Feadship’s history: a momentous 170-year anniversary celebration of the Royal Van Lent Shipyard – one of Feadship’s founders – the opening of a brand new, sustainability-centric facility in Amsterdam, and sheds full to bursting of secretive superyacht projects that are bound to break the mould upon their respective launches over the next few years. A brand that knows how to commemorate its achievements in style, the Feadship team pulled out all the stops when it came to their 170th-anniversary celebrations in early May. And what better way to celebrate than with the official opening of the most innovative Feadship facility to date? The spectacular opening ceremony was attended by Her Majesty Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, along with 2,500 Feadship employees from across all four of Feadship’s facilities in the Netherlands. Jan-Bart Verkuyl, CEO of Royal Van Lent, addressed the audience at the glamorous event, highlighting the real strength of the brand: a skilled workforce of talented artisans, craftsman, engineers and everything in between.
“As we celebrate our 170th anniversary, our predecessors could never have imagined such an exceptional facility”, Verkuyl said. “Almost everything has changed over the years, but the one thing that has remained consistent is the skills of the workforce. Their constant desire to make things better has allowed Feadship to become the world’s leading superyacht brand”. Measuring 425,000 cubic metres, the new Amsterdam facility will be used in tandem with the Royal Van Lent yard in Kaag to build and refit Feadship yachts up to 160-metres in length. Despite substantially increasing capacity, the aspect of the new facility that perhaps pushes Feadship most into the future is the intense focus on sustainability. Spending thousands of hours planning and paying particular attention to eco-friendly, contemporary design, the new yard has been heralded as ‘the most eco-friendly superyacht yard in the world’. It’s a hard statement to argue with when you take a closer look. Just a handful of the yard’s smart solutions include district heating, more than 2,000 solar panels, LED lighting, a three-tier ventilation system and a double thickness insulation layer.
Commenting on the opening of the innovative new facility in the Dutch capital, Toni Belloni, Group Managing Director of LVMH (the French luxury conglomerate and owner of Feadship Royal Van Lent), agrees that the new facilities commitment to greener construction allows Feadship to stay ahead of the game. “This new facility will allow Feadship to stay at the cutting edge of innovation and continue to build superyachts that will change history”, Belloni comments. “LMVH always prides itself on employing the finest artisans, and it is certain that the best yacht builders in the world are working for Feadship”. The first project is already underway in the new facilities, with the 88-metre Feadship currently only known as Project 816 making progress in the Amsterdam sheds.
EVOLUTION: THE FEADSHIP STORY
The Feadship story as we know it officially started life in 1949. At the time, the European luxury goods market was in a state of long recovery following the devastation of WWII. With a long heritage of Dutch shipbuilding and a pressing need to expand into new, more lucrative markets, the De Vries and Van Lent families decided to join forces. Along with De Voogt Naval Architects and a handful of other Dutch shipyards, they refused to buckle under economic pressure and formed the First Export Association of Dutch Shipbuilders. The aim? To consolidate resources and successfully break into the booming American market. Four members left throughout the 50s and 60s, with De Vries, Van Lent and De Voogt all remaining. Many De Vries and Van Lent family members are still actively part of the Feadship dynasty today, while many of Feadship’s best designs have come from the drawing boards of the De Voogt studio. From the 1950s onwards, Feadship’s success was exponential. Feadship quickly impressed the American market with their steel construction abilities – a material that was rarely favoured over the traditional wood at the time. As their name grew, so did their reputation. It wasn’t long before the yard was hurtled into the limelight, and orders streamed in from influential clients like Malcolm Forbes, Henry Ford II and Arthur Wirtz. The 60s was a period of steady growth for the Feadship brand and marked the beginning of a technological revolution in shipbuilding. Retractable stabiliser fins and air-conditioning were introduced on board Feadship yachts for the first time, and the perpetual race for unparalleled comfort and luxury began. By the 1970s, Feadship was firmly established as the best of the best when it came to luxury yachting. As technology progressed, so did their capabilities. Cue the boom of big boat building, and when Feadship launched the 64.64-metre Al Riyadh in 1978, the yachting world was astounded.
The 80s and 90s saw the superyacht business explode. With this explosion came an influx of talented designers, engineers and naval architects, and a more collaborative approach to the creation of a truly custom yacht. Just some of the iconic Feadship collaborators over this period include Jon Bannenberg, Terence Disdale, Andrew Winch, Tim Heywood and Donald Starkey. Research and Development also took precedence, with the possibilities of complex bespoke design being explored like never before. A series of bold owners helped to distinguish Feadship’s fleet as one of the most innovative out there, including Virginian in 1991 with the introduction of a new layout across four full decks, and the 49.5-metre Sussurro in 1998, with her jet propulsion and top speeds of 46 knots. Since then, superyachts have continued to increase in just about everything: size, capability, comfort and opulence. In 2015, Feadship launched their first 100+ metre superyacht when the 101.5-metre Symphony hit the water, and in 2018, the 110-metre Anna knocked her off the top spot. If rumours are to be believed, Anna will not remain at the number one spot for too much longer.
DEDICATION TO DESIGN
The Feadship DNA is defined by uniquity. This means producing superyachts that make dreams come true by translating the owner’s personality and design DNA into a completely bespoke product. To achieve this, Feadship has long worked hand-in-hand with Studio De Voogt to harness the design office’s creativity and technical understanding. Over the years, this partnership has created the blueprints for some of the yard’s finest yachts. It is at the studio’s headquarters in Haarlem where Feadship’s characteristic traditional lines originated from, while in more recent years the studio has developed along with the rest of the industry, staying ahead of the game to create innovative new concepts for a new generation of yachting clients. Backed up with a heritage dating back over 100 years, it is this depth of knowledge at De Voogt that give Feadship the unwavering ability to design yachts with the liberty and freehandedness that has repeatedly impressed an impressive list of discerning clients all around the world. As Feadship’s in-house design studio, Studio De Voogt is responsible for over half of all Feadships worldwide, a statistic that highlights the vital role the name has played in establishing the design DNA of the brand.
REFIT: PRESERVING PEDIGREE
Feadship means business when it comes to the preservation of pedigree. Feadship owners have been returning to the Netherlands for years to undertake maintenance, refit and serious rebuild projects at their home yards, ensuring their Feadship remains, well… a Feadship. Despite a long list of successful refits, the yard has always offered refit services exclusively to Feadship owners. In fact, they actively encourage their owners to return to their home yards for all major – and minor – modifications. The philosophy? For a Feadship, there’s no place like home. In late 2018, the yard significantly stepped up their aftersales offering. Forming the globally operating company Feadship Refit & Services, Feadship stated loud and clear that they were more serious than ever before when it came to protecting the Feadship DNA. Lead by the ‘My Feadship’ support strategy, the new company combines the refit services previously undertaken by the individual Feadship yards: Feadship Rebuild, undertaking refits in the Netherlands; the Feadship Services Network, a partnership with four yards in the Mediterranean and United States; and the Feadship Authentication Certificate, the Feadship quality standard.
Following the announcement of the new company, the Feadship Refit & Services team wasted no time in welcoming several yachts home. “Whether you wish to rebuild the engine room, have an extension or install a new interior, there’s no place like the home yards, where the obsessive perfection to detail of the Feadship craftsmen secures the uniquity of a Feadship”, commented Pier Posthuma de Boer, Director of Feadship Refit & Services.