Guidetti at the helm since 1979
Stefano Navarrini interview with Francesco Guidetti
Maiora is deeply rooted in the Italian yachting world. Today it is a prestigious brand and part of – AB Yachts – CBI Navi.
Francesco Guidetti has been at the helm since 1979. He’s well positioned to bring together motor yachting’s past to the present without forgetting to peep into what the future has in store.
Francesco Guidetti greets us with a broad welcoming, sincere smile and shows us into his elegant office in Viareggio: new offices, placed in a modern and elegant building contoured with palm trees In Miami Style overlooking the marina’s quays just a stone’s throw away. Some of his boats are moored right opposite, they’re splendid motor yachts which tell you about luxury and tradition, sober elegance and quality builds which to the discerning eye are recognizable even at some distance. Maiora from Viareggio are all of this and something more too. The company’s name may in fact be new to many, but behind it there’s a long story made up of important mile stones, above all when talking about Maiora, a historical brand name of the group which Guidetti has been at the head of since 1979. Almost from the inception of GRP with which to build yachts, Guidetti, likes to refer to himself as being diversely young, he claims he began to build boats at 9 or 10 years old, yes they were tiny models copied out of yachting magazines and through time he probably put much of the Italian Yachting industry’s know how under his belt.
Passed through the recession, he recovered leadership by basing his success on features the market greatly appreciated. Maiora unites unmistakable style and the most advanced technology with practical reliable solutions, the availability to customize and refit yachts within the Group and pre-owned yacht management. Today there are three superyacht brands within the Group. Each features diverse specifications: Maiora a name which needs little introduction underscores continuity of tradition, AB Yachts instead sports thrilling performance aggressive models capable of more than fifty knots which appeal to young dynamic customers and CBI Navi which is dedicated to building over 30 metre motor yachts in steel and lightweight aluminium alloy. Francesco Guidetti is a likeable lively communicative, easy going gentleman, but let’s not forget that behind his affable simplicity there’s loads of experience and knowledge.
Mr. Guidetti, how’s the company structured today?
Our company today produces yachts in several different yards situated in Massa and Viareggio. There are a number of highly qualified craftsmen who’ve been with us for decades and represent the company’s hard core: in practical terms they’re a group made up of strong knowledgeable individuals but when needed they will work away as only a tight knit team can to meet scheduled deadlines. These factors make it possible for us to customize yachts extensively as we do, even for the most demanding customers. The group is made up of three brands. Maiora is the first, the historic brand which turns out classic motor yachts in GRP up to 46 metres. All the yachts of the brand sport an unmistakable style, even if it is evolving. Harmony is a representative example of the Maiora brand she is a 36 metre which was delivered in the course of 2018. I love that yacht more than others for her harmonious lines and innovative design, where, as per current trends there are plenty of large spaces and large window like ports which fill the interiors with loads of natural light.
AB Yachts instead slots into a special niche of its own because it produces very racy performance models: after all, my idea is that yachts which are under 36 metres long must be capable of doing at least 50 knots. With CBI Navi we’re producing over 36 metre yachts in steel and lightweight aluminium alloy, like Stella Mare a 40 metre motor yacht, more exactly an explorer which we launched last year. Well in reality there is a fourth brand in the group: Intermare that has already been useful for us in integrating our work forces with highly specialised professionals.
Do you work the recreational motor yachting sector exclusively or do you also produce commercial vessels?
I love all of the work and we have also built work boats, which is a sector I appreciate because you straight talk with the owner, you build him the boat he wants, you argue on the price, but once pen goes to paper there are no second thoughts, no modifications whatsoever. Motor yacht owners are much moodier, nevertheless when you create the right feeling they give considerable satisfaction. My preferred customer is one that has marine culture. I enjoy sharing and develop their ideas, possible solutions and I am satisfied when they understand me and maybe recognize the value, prestige, and quality there is in detail. Then there are Russian, Arab, Chinese customers with requests that are all too often singular. Let’s just say that my nautical culture brings me to prefer a client who visualizes his boat as a lifestyle rather than a status symbol. Today so much is given to exteriority, to what is shown. Potential customers coming here have some sea miles under their belts, they know what they want, and I am proud to add that among the many clients I have had there’s not one who’s not been more than happy and satisfied.
Backtracking to professional craft, in the past we built some vessels for the military sector, but it is not an easy one at all, while a special market could be, vessels for charter, which due to their designated purpose requires they possess specific decor and interiors much like the ones on Maiora 36 Classic which we currently have here. Our clients typically consider their yachts something very personal. Of course were they to add up sets of figures in terms of costs measured against the real time spent enjoying their yachts in any given year, their numbers wouldn’t match at all.
You mentioned your capacity and availability to deliver high quality full custom yachts, so which are in fact the limits?
Our yachts’ projects are mainly drawn up by the yard’s technical studio even if at times we seek consultants’ inputs. When a client comes along with his own project designer… no problem when talking about interiors in general, but should there be a request to modify something of the external lines, we’ll sit back to look, see, study and discuss the proposal because it has to be ‘doable’. Broadly speaking let’s say there are no real limits, because every modification stems from a serene and constructive discussion with the client during which we find a way to overcome any problem. The first Maiora WA which is due for launching this summer for example is a project built around the client’s requests, even if with a few original or unusual ones like a small pool installed at the stern end of the fly bridge and a mega garage aft in the stern end of the main deck in which to stow tenders and jet skis.
Another unusual request I’ve come across has been for a sauna to be installed right up close to the sea because the owner liked the idea of diving into it as he came out of a steam bath. Often enough with figures on hand, it is easy to persuade the customer not to go for many of the unusual requests he’s made. There once was a keen customer who really wanted an AB Yacht with dual engines because he wanted to lower fuel consumption. Only after having shown him comparative analyses of the yacht of his choice, based on a cost per mile basis on a given boat speed he realized that with three engines rather than two he was going to save money.
Your yachts are built in both lightweight aluminium alloy and in steel or in GRP, are there any reasons which make you prefer one material to another?
In my opinion there are precise rules. A metal built yacht under 30 metres from a potential client’s point of view is something I would never ask for because there are many problem areas involved and too few advantages. Sturdiness? Not as true as one may imagine, today a well built yacht in GRP has the same resistance to impact, the same performance, same shape and can cross oceans just as much as the metal one. But it has a clear advantage. The GRP yacht will never have to substitute metal sheets, will never have any rust in the bilges which is not something to be taken lightly. The metal is more pliable? well the same can be done for GRP , maybe the costs are different, but with today’s technological machinery and NC mills produce one off moulds easily enough and you then dispose of them, they’re not so expensive at all.
Let’s talk about market share and production: Which are your preferred areas and what’s your annual production?
We’re a really close-knit-group and we’re positioned in a niche market which well responds to our competences. Obviously I can’t compete against series built yachts, but whoever is looking for a full custom yacht which will deliver his requests, will end up coming here where he will find stability of value for money, recognisability, and considerable appreciation from the yachting market as well as great resale value through time.
Furthermore we have no real limit concerning size, even if today I am not keen on building enormous yachts when considering all of the related problems and risks involved that go with that enterprise. To do so I’d have to be certain of the result. For example I’m currently negotiating with a client who wants a 64 metre in GRP, an Arab, and he’s standing out of the chorus line and knows plenty about the sort of problems related to yachting and yachts. He’s very keen, mind you it would be a challenge and that stimulates me, let’s wait and see. As for the market in a general way let me say that the whole of the European basin but more especially the Mediterranean is the area which drives the sector the most, is where the hard core of our production is. This year we’re looking at three yachts, but next year there will be a further two. We’re about to launch a very interesting motor yacht from the Maiora range, that 30 metre Walk Around classic I mentioned earlier.
Have you recently noticed any significant change of trends in the market?
Well after a certain period during which we were selling only over 40 metre superyachts, today the market is turning to smaller yachts, which also cost less to run and are easier to manage. The 30 metre we are about to launch for example, requires a crew of four at least that adds up to a substantial cost if you like but also a certain degree of invasiveness. A yacht of 20 -22 metres requires less crew, the owner will be able to steer, his wife could enjoy exploring new recipes, the boys can enjoy it with greater freedom. In other words we’re talking about a family yacht, where help can be provided by the household’s maid who can ensure the cleaning below decks and if need be lend a hand when mooring. That to me is a further incentive to build better, user friendly yachts where everything is more intuitive.