Henk de Vries


Feadship – a highly respected co-operation between shipyards Royal De Vries and Royal Van Lent and De Voogt Naval Architects – continues to prove the magic rule of three. Feadship CEO Henk de Vries – also the fourth generation CEO of the De Vries Group – tells us about his love of British cars and why it is that Dutch yachts spellbind us. 

With increasing competition in the shipbuilding industry, why do you believe your clients select Feadship over others?

Henk de Vries (HdV): The competition is actually lessening (see Facts and Figures). The number of clients is substantially smaller than in 2008 and they are looking for established shipyards of high quality. The market is kind to companies of the calibre of Feadship. Yes, we have to work with the image that ‘big is best’ – which is a problem considering all these enormous yards coming out – but we’re still top of the heap. 

What are your thoughts on the demand for larger yachts?

HdV: Chris and I are on the same page about this. Clients might think that companies that are able to handle big boats are going to do a good job, but the complexities are enormous. The notion that ‘big is beautiful’ is like saying a Hummer is better than a Ferrari, or that a Cadillac is better than a Rolls Royce because it’s longer. It’s totally irrelevant. I have a 1963 Aston Martin DB4 – it’s not my longest car, but it is my favourite. There’s a natural limit to the size one can build at the highest quality possible. A ship of 150m built in a reasonable time would never be the quality of a smaller custom-built yacht. 

Can you tell us about your car collection – when did your fascination with classic British cars begin? 

HdV: It was 1998 and it was my wife’s fault! We went to a romantic movie and there was a Morris Minor in it. I found out it had very little horsepower so I got myself a 1974 Jaguar instead. I was bitten by the bug. I now own a Jaguar E type, an XJS, an XJ and a Lynx Eventer among others, but of all the cars I own the Aston Martin is my favourite. It’s the romance, the noise, the smell, the appearance – James Bond is in there somewhere!

Can you explain the enduring appeal of classic British cars? 

HdV: While the Germans correct things with electronics, the British approach is mechanically orientated and I find that fascinating. I appreciate the sophistication of the 1950s and 60s models especially. It’s more than nostalgia – that’s when you throw rationality out the window – the drive is exciting.

Where do you drive your cars?

HdV: Rummaging around the countryside in the Netherlands and the Redman Whiteley Dixon annual car rally from Beaulieu to Monaco. A gentleman’s rally of elegant comfort – we stop for champagne and have lunch in Burgundy.

What parallels can you draw between classic British cars and Dutch superyachts?

HdV: Many of my clients have an interest in classic cars, not just as an investment but also for pleasure. Similarly, the boats that we build at Feadship are a solid investment and, contrary to stocks and bonds, you can enjoy it while you own it. We started the Feadship Heritage Fleet 3 years ago, inspired by the classic brands of cars that actively support their heritage. We welcome Feadship old bangers back at the shipyard for restoration.

In terms of your modern work, which yacht from de Vries yard has represented the biggest leap forward in terms of technology and innovation?

HdV: In recent past, MADAME GU was innovative in size, power and intricacy of detail. Back in time, it was VENUS: all aluminium with complete removal of detail. It’s a naked boat, with really no place to hide. We are the only yard in the world that has the capability to make something like that. A competitor of ours built an owner’s 400ft boat. In the department of fit and finish, of meticulousness of execution and fetishism of how it’s done, it was lacking. My guys really shine. One out of five of our boats is like a leap forward. We move the goal posts and it leaves our competition behind.

What are the future trends of yachting, as you see them?

HdV: Definitely more intimate spaces. There’s a return to a more human size. It’s telling when you put a figure on a drawing in relation to the object you’ve just drawn – the human is tiny and the object becomes vast. Most people feel at home in a certain size ratio, not too cramped or feeling lost. Big is here to stay, but there’s a trend for smaller boats with more potential for customisation. Our challenge is to come up with these future concepts. It keeps my people sharp and hones the skills of the craftsmen.

What’s your order book looking like? 

HDV: Feadship currently has two positions available for 2018 for up to 65m. For bigger boats we’d now have to wait until 2018 and later

Jeff Brown 8184

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