AYou rarely see them on the Baltic Sea, the boats of Greifswald YYachts. This is because sailing boats, between 70 and 90 feet long (21 to 27 meters approximately), are not intended for ports in this area due to their size out of the water and their draft. A Danish contractor, who will take his new “Y7” home from the shipyard in May, has a lifting keel installed especially for the Baltic Sea.
On her maiden voyage, she makes a stop in Neustadt for the “Hamburg Ancora Yacht Festival”. This offers the opportunity to take a ride with him. On board there is also the shipyard owner Michael Schmidt (73): the owner of YYachts is the best known German manufacturer of sailing yachts. In 2015 he founded his own company in the luxury segment, reaching yacht enthusiasts all over the world. He likes to talk to his customers about the ideal line for hours.
WORLD SUNDAY: These are difficult times in Europe. You can stay all your life on a yacht like the one we’re sitting on and then set sail. Do your customers sometimes reflect this desire about you when they order a YYacht?
Michael Schmidt: The people we deal with tend to think silently about what they intend to do privately and professionally. Apart from that, the war in Ukraine will become a problem for all of us if we don’t defend our democracy.
WORLD SUNDAY: Which clientele did you turn to after founding YYachts? And: have you also achieved this goal in recent years?
Schmidt: Yes, we basically found the audience we wanted to find. We sell our boats all over the world, many in the United States, also in Turkey and in general in the Mediterranean as a whole. We also have many clients from Germany and Switzerland: medium-sized entrepreneurs, family entrepreneurs. From the USA it is above all young technology millionaires, perhaps even billionaires, who want to buy a boat where design and quality play an important role.
WORLD SUNDAY: You can get a high quality German cruising yacht in small series with a length of 40 feet for 750,000 euros. Prices for your 70-foot boats start at two million euros. Then it is above all a question of prestige and money if you order much more expensive.
Schmidt: No, it’s not a question of money. For our customers, it is very important how honest we treat each other, how well we can respond to individual requests, how reliable we are to build such a boat and how we interact with our customers, even beyond the two-year warranty period. in contact. The first customers have already ordered their second yacht from us.
WORLD SUNDAY: How many boats have you sold since YYachts was founded in 2015?
Schmidt: We have built 24 boats so far, eight boats are currently in the order book until 2024. It is doing better than expected. Our concept works. We buy a lot from suppliers who know how to do it. It worked very well. We develop, design, engineer, purchase, coordinate. And of course we do the final assembly.
WORLD SUNDAY: Is there such a thing as a technology transfer from your yachts to the long-term mass production market, comparable, for example, to the transfer of carbon fiber components from Formula 1 to the broad automotive market?
Schmidt: We work with the highest quality materials, starting with carbon for our hulls and masts. Of course, all of these components cost less overall on a smaller yacht than on a Y7, for example. But expensive and high-quality materials remain. I believe that for the Baltic Sea we can assume an average new construction price of 350,000 euros for a yacht. A single high-quality hydraulic lifting keel for a yacht like this could cost 400,000 euros. This is not part of the large series market segment.
WORLD SUNDAY: What specifically do your customers expect when they order a Y7, Y8 or Y9 from you?
Schmidt: They expect as much customization as possible. We have a design and development office in Mallorca. Many of our customers come to Mallorca to try the sails and to see our ships. Then they go to our design office and get advice on what materials, types of wood, and interior and exterior design options there are. This dialogue is very important.
WORLD SUNDAY: Most of your yachts are located in the Mediterranean Sea.
Schmidt: Yes, largely but also in the US. The boats are also transferred back and forth between the cruising areas.
WORLD SUNDAY: Do your clients also take long trips on these spacious yachts, for months or years? Your boats would make it possible in terms of space and nautical comfort.
Schmidt: I don’t really notice it. Everyone has to work. They sail for one, two or four weeks in the summer.
WORLD SUNDAY: Are YYacht buyers younger or older?
Schmidt: They are mostly between 40 and 60 years old, 65 years old. A client of ours is 80 years old and he likes to stay on board for a long time because he doesn’t like vacation homes.
WORLD SUNDAY: Get your hull shells, hulls, from Poland. Are you already noticing the effects of the war in neighboring Ukraine on your Polish suppliers?
Schmidt: Not that far because we don’t have mass production. But of course, supply chain disruptions can affect us too.
WORLD SUNDAY: How long would it take to build a Y7 if you currently order one?
Schmidt: The construction process itself, from order to delivery, takes eight months. It also depends on the availability of the individual components. We have had no problems with supply chains so far because we ordered our materials early last year.
WORLD SUNDAY: The pandemic has made sailing more popular as an outdoor and nature experience. Does this affect your market?
Schmidt: Regardless, things have been going well in our segment since YYachts was founded in the last five or six years, because prosperity and wealth are growing internationally. The pandemic has certainly given a boost to the high-volume market for sailboats and motorboats. And you can see it similarly with mobile homes.
WORLD SUNDAY: German professional sailor Boris Herrmann was one of the most successful participants at the last Vendée Globe, in one of those ocean regattas in which high technology plays a decisive role. Does this also increase your business?
Schmidt: This may have made sailing more popular overall, but it hasn’t affected our business.
WORLD SUNDAY: How long does it take for a customer to decide on a YYacht?
Schmidt: Between 24 hours and 24 months: these decision-making processes are as individual as our boats. There is no regularity there.
WORLD SUNDAY: They sell luxury yachts. What is luxury for you?
Schmidt: For example, luxury for me is being able to work with top-notch employees, materials and designers, such as Bill Tripp. While building a yacht, we once spent hours discussing individual curves, lines and colors with a former Apple chief designer. This is luxury.
WORLD SUNDAY: Who are your main competitors in this very specific segment of the sailing yacht market?
Schmidt: These are mainly Nautor’s Swan in Finland and Southern Wind in South Africa. The Wally company of Monaco, once very strong in this segment, now builds motor yachts rather than sailing yachts. Although the market for this type of sailing yacht is not very large, it is relevant and continues to grow.
WORLD SUNDAY: So what would YYachts be if it were a car brand: Porsche, Lamborghini, Bugatti?
Schmidt: There is no such thing as big as us like a car …
Born in Kiel, he has been building since his youth Michael Schmidt (73) Boats – first as a hobby, then professionally. After 1990, the offshore racing yachtsman created the sailing yacht company Hanse Yachts from a GDR shipyard, which he later expanded with subsidiary brands Moody, Fjord and Dehler to become the world’s third largest boat manufacturer. sailing and motor. After the global financial market crisis, he sold his shares in Hanse Yachts in 2011 and founded YYachts in Greifswald in 2015 as a shipyard for luxury sailing yachts.