MAARTEN SCHALKWIJK, DIRECTOR PRINCESS YACHTS

“Princess Yachts' unique selling point is that it is a member of the Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy family. This creates great collaborations with sister companies such as Fendi Casa, Missoni and Armani.” Maarten Schalkwijk, director of Princess Yachts Benelux, explains his passion for boats and how the company has grown into a market leader in luxury yachts. Text: Bart-Jan Brouwer
Image: John van Helvert

Fresh water

“My father was reading the newspaper one Sunday morning and said, 'Come on, let's buy a boat.' We went to the Hiswa with the family, and indeed: a boat was bought. A second soon followed. And for the third one, my father and I made sketches of what it should look like and took it to a shipyard. That's how the passion started. The owner of the shipyard pointed out to us that the port of Heusden was for sale. "Isn't that for you?" That was indeed it: from there you can make perfect sailing routes; the port is located in the middle of the country, accessible to everyone; the boats are sheltered, on fresh water; and all facilities are available.

If we wanted, we could build a complete yacht here tomorrow. After a year the port was full and it was no longer possible to get any returns from it. That's why I wanted to do sales on the side. At that time, 2004, the shipyard stopped the Dutch representation for Princess. My father had a Princess yacht in Spain. We were familiar with the quality, the styling, how things work at the yard in Plymouth. We started talking and it was settled immediately.”

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Market leader

“Since we represented Princess for the Benelux, the shipyard has undergone enormous development. It employs almost twice as many people and four to six new models are added every year. In 2018, Princess had a turnover of £340 million and has another £700 million in the order book. The yard is full for the next two years. We responded to this by ordering from stock. Princess has become the market leader in the luxury motor yacht segment. What helped is that we switched to lean production about ten years ago. In the past, a hull was put down and a motorman, plumber, electrician came: that's how the boat was built.

Nowadays the models have their own production line and each model is constructed modularly. This way we can build efficiently and offer very high quality, with the same people on the same job, from kitchen builders to ceiling cladders. Almost everything is made in-house – that is a real differentiator. Another unique selling point is that Princess is a member of the Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy family. This means that we can collaborate with sister companies such as Fendi Casa, Missoni and Armani. Owners of a Princess, especially the larger models, can design the interior of their dreams together with our designers and those of the most renowned design houses in the world.”

G-forces

“We purchase ready-made products, which we can fine-tune to the customer's wishes. For example, they want satellite TV or air conditioning. We arrange everything from A to Z and also have legal and tax knowledge regarding taking ownership of a yacht abroad. The shipyard recently launched a new day boat, the R35: completely made of carbon, with hydrofoil system and twice 430 hp, good for 50 knots. It was designed in collaboration with car designer Pininfarina. The unique thing about that boat is that the dashboard has the Comfort and Sport settings. With the latter you can make the tightest turns, really bizarre.

During a test run with some people from the shipyard, I wanted to find out what that boat could do and started to steer a bit. I didn't think I did anything crazy, but when I slowed down and looked back I saw the others scattered throughout the cockpit, haha. As a captain you don't notice it, but you are turning the corner with a bunch of G-forces!”