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Heesen Yachts completed yacht in the water at the yard

Yacht Experience

In the shipyard with Heesen Yachts

The DNA of Heesen Yachts is a matter of innovation, precision, and craftsmanship. Director of sales and marketing Mark Cavendish explores how the Dutch shipyard has become an 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 begins work in Heesen’s Rijnstraat facility. It’s an ideal blend of “innovation, craftsmanship, performance and Dutch precision,” Mark says, a recipe whisked up by founder and nonconformist Frans Heesen in 1978. Heesen took an audacious, pioneering stance on design, and a decade 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

Today, the Heesen ethos—tangible in the day-to-day running of its Netherlands shipyard—reflects its founder’s early mission to create yachts of exceptional standards of engineering and meticulous attention to detail. Despite its relatively short lifetime, Heesen has a groaning awards cabinet that recognizes the shipyard’s innovative progression of 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. 

Yachting innovation never drops anchor, with development propelled by numerous industry parties. Within Heesen, its designers pursue state-of-the-art technologies, while ground-breaking new materials are perpetually analyzed and refined. The buzzword ‘efficiency’ hovers over all naval architects and marine engineers, with conservation and climate a pressing priority. Alongside this, owners want more from their yachts—greater range without any compromise on comfort and luxury. Heesen is only too happy to step up to the challenge.

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 aluminum fast displacement hull, which not only looks elegant and sporty, but slices through the water at impressive 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.

Over 40 years of operating, Heesen has delivered more than 170 yachts. Originally the focus was solely on custom design, but at the turn of the century, demand far outweighed 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-aluminum fast displacement motor yacht powered by four engines connected to two gearboxes with two shafts and controllable pitch propellers.” This requires a dzzling level of innovation, but given Heesen’s aversion to risk, there can be little doubt it’ll be a feat of engineering excellence. Heesen truly is a master of the sea.