Wednesday, 21st September 2016
Feadship has made a habit out of surprising the yachting industry with each splendid vessel that emerges from its two shipyards, Royal Van Lent and Koninklijke De Vries. Recently, Royal Van Lent produced shockwaves of its own when the shipyard announced that CEO Dick van Lent would be stepping down after 31 years in the position. His successor, Jan-Bart Verkuyl, tells us about his own pedigree and passion for the company, and how he’ll strive to protect the special family atmosphere.
The story of Jan-Bart Verkuyl’s rise to the helm of one of the most prestigious companies in yachting starts like so many others: as a child on the water. ‘I grew up in the south of the Netherlands on a nature reserve and was always passionate about boats,’ he explains, ‘Some kids get a small motorbike – I had a small boat with an engine.’ His curiosity about boats – and how fast they could go – drove him to study naval architecture; this was followed by a Project Manager role at the maritime research institute MARIN. In 2006, Jan-Bart joined Feadship at De Voogt Naval Architects, moved across to Royal Van Lent in 2011 and found himself on the Feadship board of Directors after just three years.
Chris Cecil-Wright had interacted with Jan-Bart on the builds of TANGO and HAMPSHIRE II: ‘He had stepped into negotiation and management roles in recent years and I’ve worked closely with him on a project for delivery in spring 2018,’ says Chris, ‘He is charming, detailed and proactive and it’s great to have witnessed his career trajectory at the Van Lent shipyard.’
BREAK WITH TRADITION
Royal Van Lent has been run by four generations of the Van Lent family since it was founded in 1849, and Dick van Lent’s decision to step down was part of a well-thought-out plan. ‘Dick was able to take time for the steps to happen,’ says Jan-Bart, ‘He sold the company when he didn’t need to and chose a buyer wisely (LVMH). He focused on whom in the team he valued for the various positions being handed over, and felt comfortable with me taking over his role. It’s quite a responsibility, but I’m honoured.’ Dick will continue at the company as an adviser, which Jan-Bart finds reassuring: ‘He’s seen many more situations than I have and it will be good to have him there.’
The joint passion of the entire team at Royal Van Lent to build the best vessels possible is a motivating factor for Jan-Bart: ‘The family values of the company are something that I feel inside myself. There are long hours, but with the right people it’s fun,’ he says. ‘I have four daughters who all love the water and I engage them in what I do – the clients enjoy seeing them as well. Yachting is a lifestyle and not just a business. Clients respect the work that we do, but it’s always more than a transaction - it’s a personal relationship.’
BUSINESS AS USUAL
The baton has been passed at a particularly busy time for Royal Van Lent. ‘We’re building a new facility and growing the workforce in order to meet the market demand for bigger boats,’ Jan-Bart says of the Feadship Amsterdam yard that will accommodate megayachts up to 160 metres in length and 27 metres in beam. The width of the canals in their Kaag facility is limiting, Van Lent’s largest yacht to date being 101.5m SYMPHONY. In the coming year, Van Lent will launch a 73m yacht and Feadship has a further 17 yachts in the pipeline, one of which is the project with Cecil Wright, ‘I can’t wait for that job to come out,’ says Jan-Bart, ‘I think people will say “I want that too!”’
The challenge, he admits, is to build the bigger yachts to the exceptionally high standards of Feadship. ‘We’ll succeed I’m sure, but it’s a careful step,’ says Jan-Bart of the next chapter in Royal Van Lent’s history.