It’s not every day you’re presented with the opportunity to visit the headquarters of one of the world’s leading super yacht builders so when the kind and very exciting invitation to join the team at Heesen Yachts landed in our inbox naturally we jumped at the chance. Join The Luxury Editor’s, Chrystal, as she ventures behind the scenes at Heesen Yacht’s impressive shipyard. Read on to discover more.
Established in 1978, by Frans Heesen, Heesen boasts one of the world’s most impressive shipbuilding legacies, with an unrelenting focus on quality, craftsmanship and innovation which produces some of the finest superyachts in the world.
Based in Oss, Holland – the home of yacht building – each Heesen superyacht is built in either aluminium or steel and uses proven engineering to deliver speed, style and fuel-efficient cruising.
The Heesen portfolio consists of three build concepts; i) Series ii) Smart Custom and iii) Full Custom with the owners’ preference in delivery time and level of personalisation dictating which concept is best suited to their needs.
- Series: these yachts are fully engineered and designed ahead of time and available for sale during their construction. As they are built on speculation, delivery times are shortened however this means that customisation is limited and only possible for the interior and decks.
- Smart Custom: these yachts are fully engineered above and below the main deck but can be offered with a custom designed superstructure and many other elements.
- Full Custom: as the name suggests the owner is involved from the very start of the design process resulting in a truly unique yacht.
The Heesen client profile tends to fall within one of three categories:
- Hospitality: larger yachts primarily used for parties, entertainment, corporate events and operated with a full crew. They tend to spend less time at sea than the other two client types.
- Family: mid to larger-sized yachts, with a lifestyle focus for all the family. Spends quality time at sea.
- Adventurer. This client buys a smaller super yacht, they visit far-off lands, and the yacht is used frequently. The owner tends to be an accomplished sailor and is younger than the other two client types. As the name suggests he/she enjoys an adventure.
Regardless of owner type or which build concept an owner chooses, with Heesen they are guaranteed a design that combines power and beauty as well as confidence and performance.
A yacht is a vessel that has been designed for pleasure and is not linked to how it is powered which until recently I’d always thought was by sails. I suppose this is because my sailing experience was limited to the decks of a 42-foot Jeanneau sailing boat, winching the sails under my father’s command!
Officially, a super yacht is a yacht that is 24 metres or more and a mega yacht 80 meters or more in length – with Heesen delivering its largest to date at 70 metres. The Galactica Super Nova is famed for its advanced technology, design, and speed – it is one of the fastest superyachts in her class in the world. This nautical beauty also enjoyed life in the limelight when Beyonce and Jay-Z celebrated their birthdays onboard her predecessor, Galactica Star 65m.
The super yacht market is a niche one, as indicated by Heesen’s entry-level price tag of 100 million euros. With approximately only 7,068 people of the global population of UHNWIs having more than USD 500m net worth (2021), the pool of eligible candidates remains quite small. Following studies made by SuperYacht Times there are approximately 5,396 yachts within the global super yacht fleet (of 30+ metres) in operation (2021) – although the growth rate since 2012 is 12%.
Source: The State of Yachting 2022, SuperYacht Times July 2022
These are impressive facts and figures which were about to become even more meaningful as I ventured on my very own Heesen experience.
The Heesen Experience
We (six journalists) arrived at the impressive and expansive shipyard in Oss (approx. 1.5 hours’ drive) from Amsterdam and made our way into the sleek reception area we were greeted by the team, issued a safety briefing guide and fitted with our safety shoes (more on this later) before making our way to the equally sleek board room.
We received a warm welcome from Arthur Brouwer, CEO at Heesen Yachts, who introduced the company and some of his senior team members. The board table was laid out with Smythson notepad, premium welding gloves and a selection of handmade chocolates. A considerate and quality touch.
Following a fascinating presentation on Heesen and the superyacht market we were then given the opportunity to take a seat at the design table where we joined Frank Laupman, Yacht Designer and Founder of Omega Architects. Frank spent much of his career (20 years+) working alongside Heesen and is now an independent designer who collaborates with many shipyards. Frank’s attention to detail and intuition for design, quality and nautical expertise are exceptional. He is a true master of his trade!
To gain a deep understanding of how the design process works, as well as a full appreciation for the capabilities of Heesen, we were asked to take part in a workshop where each of the group members were given a persona from part of a wealthy family and asked to design a yacht that would suit everyone’s whims. Each member had their own requirements – all of which had to be factored into the overall design and build. For example, I was the ‘daughter’ who had just achieved her pilot licence so needed a place to land a helicopter, my father was an ex-Olympic swimmer, so a pool was on his wishlist, whilst my brother was a fashion designer who demanded a catwalk; to name just a few. Although this role play activity was super-fun the key-takeaway from the process was simply anything is possible! The team are so knowledgeable, experienced and innovative that they can make their clients’ sea-faring dreams a reality.
This was followed by a masterclass in seaworthiness and how to test the design to see how it would fare on the water. It starts with a beautiful, handcrafted model of the vessel which then undergoes stringent tests and analysis around weight, displacement and many more technical aspects that I won’t even begin to describe. It was mind-blowing!
Work in Progress
Heesen produces only a few fully custom yachts at a time and after a tour of the shipyard, it is clear to see why. The level of planning, detail, manufacturing and manual resources that goes into the production of a super yacht was, for a layman such as me, beyond comprehension. Each piece of the super-size jigsaw was given the utmost care and attention.
To keep the team on track each project has a clock counting down the number of years, months, days, hours and seconds until delivery.
We then met some of the welding team, who talked us through their part in the construction – again the passion and pride they take in their work was more than obvious. We even attempted to master the art ourselves; best is to say I won’t be giving up my day job!!
After the manual work was over, we met with Perry Van Hirtum, Manager of Interior Design at Heesen. What a job! Perry led us through a visit of a completed semi-custom yacht that is due to be delivered to a client. With our shoes securely covered we were guided through this unique vessel for a special preview. It was a truly breathtaking experience.
For privacy reasons, we couldn’t take any pictures on-board but take my word for it – everything from the owner’s suite to the crew cabins (and every detail in between) were of exceptional quality, style and design.
Super by Name. Super by Nature
Our visit to the shipyard was a truly memorable experience which has given me a full appreciation of why these stunning sea-faring vessels hold the title of super yachts.
Friends of Heesen Yachts
The day before our tour of Heesen, we enjoyed some leisure time in Amsterdam, all kindly co-ordinated by our hosts at Heesen Yachts.
Our rendezvous point was the lively and hip area of Nieuwmarkt en Lastage where we received a warm welcome from the team including Mark Van Heffen (Marketing Director) who has been working at Heesen for more than 15 years. Despite his length of tenure with Heesen he still possesses a freshness and zest for the brand which was matched by his knowledge and experience.
As we were unable to take to the waters on a Heesen Yacht (in our dreams!) the team had arranged for us to experience a tour of Amsterdam on a Wajer-38. Named Chill Out, she is a sleek looking 38ft day yacht that can easily power across the water at 45 knots. With a spacious walk-in aft, large three-person sun deck and a uniquely designed cockpit that gives the helmsman a perfect 360-degree vision.
Wajer and Heesen often collaborate together as they have similar values and clientele. Many of Heesen’s clients opt for a Wajer tender or day boat to run alongside their bigger pleasure boat.
Link to brand spotlight piece.
After our adventures on the Amsterdam canals had come to an end, we then took a short car journey to MOS Amsterdam – a fine dining, Michelin Star restaurant, located at the tip of the IJdok. With stunning views across Amsterdam and a bright and modern interior, it is a superb place to enjoy a refined yet relaxing dining experience. The restaurant was founded by partners Henry Pattiwael van Westerloo and Egon van Hoof in 2015 and it’s easy to see why it is such a popular choice with both regulars and new visitors to the city. The food, the service and the ambience is first class.
We enjoyed a tasting menu, that comprised five courses and show-stopping hors d’oeuvres, with delights such as; ‘Dutch asparagus with kohlrabi, cockles, razor clams and a light fenugreek hollandaise’ and ‘Lamb saddle and neck with a cream from Pierre Robert, muhammara, turnip and gravy with magnolia’. Each course was beautifully presented (in fact some looked too good to eat but we did!) and their beauty was only outshined by their flavour.
The two days I spent with the Heesen crew were absolutely brilliant – a hugely interesting, memorable and privileged experience!
Find Out More
To discover more about this internationally renowned superyacht builder visit their website.