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May 2004

Article selected from our quarterly magazine dedicated to the largest and most luxurious boats with information, interviews, technical articles, images and yachting news



Yachting catalogue

Navigation tests

Used boats


Video Nautica

Fabio Petrone interviews
Alice Huisman


The Dutch truly have a great tradition where large boats are concerned. Boatyards like Holland Yachtbau or Royal Huisman are among the absolute world market leaders in the sector of non-composite constructions. Royal Huisman have produced a series of incredible sailing boats, from "Pinta I" to "Foftein", from "Hauso" to "Endeavour" but also "Juliet", "Borkumriff" III and IV and many others, boats that continue to amaze, on both a technical level and a "purely" aesthetic level. A boatyard with over a century of "glorious" history behind it, one of the reasons for the "seal of quality" awarded by the queen of Holland, that "Royal" proudly owned by only 130 companies in Holland, merited recognition for the importance they represent for their country. At the Dusseldorf boat show we met up with Ms. Alice Huismann, one of the components of that all-female team of three sisters, who are currently "at the helm" of the yard.

With her, first of all, we tried to briefly run through the history of this brand

The yard was founded in 1884 by my great-grandfather, building wooden fishing boats. This type of production continued until 1925, the year in which we gradually started to build pleasure boats, still in wood. The boatyard was then closed for the whole of the war, starting up again at the end of the war when my father began work there as carpenter at the age of 13.

The first boat in steel was built in 1955 but the sixties were also very important for us. In that period my father was one of the first in Europe to start building yachts entirely in aluminium. Over the years we have produced many of the most important competition boats such as "Flyer I", "Midnight Sun ", etc. Then in 1980 a client asked us to work with German Frers, a great designer of high-performance boats, backed by an architect responsible solely for the interiors, because he wanted the latter to be very luxurious. And so in 1981 our yard entered the world of custom yachts; luxury, fast boats, both sail and engine powered.

How much of your production is represented by sailboats and how much by motor yachts?

Here we have a great tendency towards boats with sails, today representing about 95% of our production, compared to motor yachts. For this reason one of our objectives is precisely that of beginning to build a few more motor yachts, a sector where we feel we are just as strong. Current production also includes a motor yacht, a 36- metre classic ship, with overall design by Tony Castro and interiors by Dick Young. When its owner approached us it was pretty difficult to understand all his needs, because he wanted a motor yacht with a sailing boat structure. The client had the classic sailor mentality and for this reason he asked us for a really technical boat, not simple to build, but with a wealth of content.

Let's go back to the yard, how is it structured today?

Ours is a really big boatyard nowadays, able to produce 25-90 metre boats and as in the past with my grandfather and then with my father, is still a family run business, now by my sisters and me, with each one of us at the head of a specific production sector. Our structure currently houses Athena, an 89-metre boat, completing construction. Then we have another shed used for all the refitting we do on boats, not only those built by us. So there is an area dedicated to cutting aluminium, one for carpentry, etc., and we are also excellently equipped in the planning and design department where no less than 65 people work, including engineers and architects, often in close contact with the world's top interior designers and specialists.

Do you do everything in your own premises?

Absolutely. The concept is that we are totally responsible for the boats we build and this is why we prefer to do it all on home ground, where we can control the whole production process and thus guarantee maximum quality for each detail that goes into each boat. Everything necessary for the construction of the boat is "homemade", including aluminium and carbon masts, which we also build for other boatyards like Nautor Swan and Baltic. Ours is a company undergoing continual development, because our boats are becoming increasingly bigger and with increasingly more complex technical needs. If, for example, a particular winch is impossible to find on the market, we can make up for this shortcoming, by producing one ourselves. Furthermore, we invest a lot in research; we keep up to date on all materials so that our boats today can boast absolutely cutting edge construction standards.

Thanks to the use of special brand new alloys, above all with aluminium, we have managed to build extremely "thin" and therefore light boats, getting lighter all the time. This is a characteristic that is of fundamental importance especially when making regatta boats, where a lighter boat means increased performance. At the moment for example, our innovation aims at the creation of lightweight, watertight doors to be installed on our future hulls, which we are building thanks also to a brand new 6-axis milling cutter we have recently acquired.

You make very technical, modern boats, which often however have a fairly classic line

Classic lines with modern equipment are a tendency on the increase above all over the last two years and which I like a lot. A classic design is a shape that in a certain sense is immortal and will never go out of fashion. The ultra-modern equipment is mainly used to simplify and reduce the crew's work and effort to a minimum, otherwise more hands would be necessary. There is also another class of users who prefer boats that are super-modern even in appearance and we try to satisfy both parties.

Are you anyway continuing to build high performance boats as well?

At the moment we have a client who has commissioned a 32-metre, a steel boat offering high performance but with delightful interiors. This just goes to show that a combination of top performance and absolute comfort is completely feasible. This too will certainly be one of the possible developments for large sailing boats of the future.

Going back to Athena: when will she be ready?

The boat will leave the yard at the end of June. For this journey we have had to build a special pontoon, about 110 metres long, under which we will transfer the boat and thanks to which we will then lower the bulb, which still has to be fitted to the keel. Then at the beginning of July we will transfer the boat to Amsterdam where we will proceed with launching and instrumentation testing; the boat will be ready around mid-September.

How long does it take you to create a boat like Athena?

About three years, with a production process that can be constantly viewed by the owner: from preparation of the aluminium, to interior furnishing, building the hull, the masts, etc. Clients like this as it reassures them and this is the reason they come to us. The boats we build are exactly as the client orders them; we try to make their wishes come true as far as possible.

What kind of clientele do you have?

The owner of the motor yacht is an American, but generally we have many European clients, some Americans and the German market is also very important for us, but we have clients in South America, in France and pretty much all over the world.

And the Arabian market?

No, at the moment we don't have any Arabian clients, because we mainly produce sailboats and they are really not very interested in them. But, with our production of motor yachts growing in the short-term, I think we're likely to see some arrival, showing interest in the quality of our boats.

Who is your main competitor in the sector of sailboats?

Alloy Yacht, in New Zealand, in part Jongert and then many more, competition is very strong.

How is your sales network organised?

We sell directly from Holland, there are two or three people in charge of this, but sometimes also through brokers. We have a representative in America as well.

Do you have any Italian clients?

We've had a couple of Italian clients in the past but not recently.