Now in his 30th year with Groupe Beneteau, Yann Masselot is happy to be back at the brand where he started, with the Brand Director of Beneteau overseeing exciting new motor and sailing flagships along with the builder’s long-time partnership with Simpson Marine in Asia.
How have you enjoyed your role as Beneteau Brand Director, following two decades with Lagoon and CNB in Bordeaux?
It’s going well. It has been 20 months already. I’m very pleased to be back at Beneteau because I was initially working for the brand when I joined Groupe Beneteau 30 years ago, so it’s like a return to my original brand, which is nice.
In Hong Kong, Simpson Marine hosted the Asia premiere of the Beneteau Grand Trawler 62 this year. What has been the response to the brand’s flagship motorboat, which takes the Swift Trawler concept to a new scale?
People have been surprised because they didn’t expect Beneteau trawlers to be at that level and size. We’re entering a market of larger trawlers that’s essentially a luxury market, where competitors include Azimut with its Magellano line, Horizon and Grand Banks. Nobody expected Beneteau to be in this sector.
The second thing that’s noticeable is our choice to go with a displacement hull. We chose that because we saw the market and customers wanting a longer range, to be able to cruise at nine knots and be able to visit more remote places. That’s very clear now. We worked with MICAD on naval architecture and still managed to put in engines big enough to reach 20 knots with a displacement hull, which is nice for when owners do want to travel faster.
We’ve typically been attracting new customers and only a few Swift Trawler owners because there’s a big price gap from the 48 to the 62. We’ve attracted customers looking at other brands and conventional flybridge motor yachts but who want more range and volume, rather than speed.
What has been the reaction to the Swift Trawler 48, which had its world premiere in Miami in February?
It’s the new flagship of the Swift Trawler range, which have semi-planing hulls so can go up to about 25 knots.
It completes the Swift Trawler family, which now has the 35, 41 (Fly and Sedan) and 48. The 48 obviously offers more volume and range than the 41, but it also has a different layout and an aft galley, which is different to the former 47 and 50 models.
Asia has welcomed its first Gran Turismo 45, the new flagship of Beneteau’s range of express cruisers. What do you think makes this range so appealing?
It’s an excellent model. It’s been doing well in Europe and particularly in America. The GT range is for people who want a platform to have fun on the water. Typically, owners will cruise 30 knots for 30 minutes or one hour, anchor somewhere and then use the boat to do many activities on the water. This could be snorkelling, scuba diving, wakeboarding, jetskis and so on, so you need to be able to carry many toys on board.
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The GT45 is the only express cruiser of its size to offer both a garage and a hydraulic platform, so can carry a tender and a jetski. There’s also the flip-up outdoor barbecue as well as the aft window that can be raised into the ceiling, so the interior can be fully open or fully enclosed when needed.
The Antares range has also been updated in recent years and includes the Antares 11 with flybridge. What type of customer is attracted to this range?
Antares is one of our oldest Beneteau ranges, launching in the 1970s, and has changed a lot. They were initially fishing boats adapted to pleasure boats. It was mainly marketed in Europe, then Asia, especially Japan and Korea, where there’s a real passion for fishing and it worked well.
A few years ago, we introduced Antares in America and it was a ‘home run’ because there’s nothing like it on the market. Today, the US — which makes up about 35 per cent of our total sales worldwide — could absorb the entire Antares production.
The customers buying these kinds of boats went from being passionate fishermen to what I call weekenders. They buy them to go cruising, exploring, do some activities, and can spend a weekend or more on board. The clients are typically couples and older than for the GT and Flyer ranges. We stopped calling Antares pleasure fishing boats and now call them weekenders.
Like new Antares models, the new Flyer models feature dropdown sides.
I’d say the opening side platform is a must-have today, especially from about the 9m range. The Sundeck models are doing well in Asia-Pacific, the Spacedeck centre-console models less so.
There’s a limit to the overall appeal of Flyer models in Asia because of sun protection. In many countries, they want more shelter from the sun, which people like about the Antares range. Right now, Antares is Beneteau’s most successful motorboat range in Asia.
Moving on to the sailing side, Beneteau will debut the Oceanis Yacht 60 at Cannes and a hull has already been sold to Asia, to Taiwan. What’s special about this new sailing flagship designed by Italians Roberto Biscontini and Lorenzo Argento, who also worked on the Oceanis Yacht 54 and First Yacht 53?
The 60 is the new admiral of the Oceanis fleet. We previously had the 62, which was getting old and was a very different design from the rest of the range, so we wanted a new yacht in line with the 54.
It has a master cabin in the bow with a forward-facing bed, which you usually find on much larger yachts, like over 70ft. People like the cabin because it’s better to face forward, the volume feels impressive and there’s good sound insulation because the en-suite is between the bed and the galley outside.
- READ MORE: Beneteau Oceanis Yacht 54: Speeding Beauty
Putting the galley aft of the master allows for a large, full-beam galley and allowed us to include a full-size fridge. The saloon is midships and is also full beam, and offers a spacious feeling as you come downstairs from the deck.
Can you tell us about Beneteau’s collaboration with Roberto Biscontini and Lorenzo Argento?
We’re very pleased with this collaboration. When we’re looking to change the design of a range, we do a tender and they won. Both really understood the Beneteau DNA and where we wanted to go.
There has been a great reaction from the market and the Oceanis Yacht 54, for one, is a huge success. Their designs are a good combination of elegance, performance and design, so there was no doubt we’d work with them again on a larger Oceanis Yacht like the 60.
What should we look out for on the First 44, which also debuts at Cannes?
The First 44 is a bridge between the First Yacht 53 — their first design for us — and the new First 36. The First 44 is a luxury high-performance cruiser-racer, although not as luxurious as the 53. There are many features designed for a couple or family to go cruising. For example, if you cruise as a couple, we have a 300-litre water ballast, which is like having four or five crew on the rail. That helps.
At this size, we have more owners cruising than racing, but we offer a performance version of the 44 with a different mast and rig. However, the performance is not as extreme as the First 36.
Lorenzo Argento was also part of a very international design team for the First 36, which Beneteau says is “the first time a mainstream production boat with full cruising facilities, a mid-market price and the full support of a worldwide dealer network has been pushed this far towards true high-performance sailing”?
The First 36 comes from the smaller First models, which are sports boats, designed to go fast and for fun, and eventually go racing. We wanted the 36 to go fast, same as the smaller models, but also to be able to go cruising, so it has real cabins, bathrooms, a proper galley and so on.
The big challenge was to keep the weight down. It was built by our sister company Seascape in Slovenia and they managed to keep the boat even slightly under the targeted weight. It’s under 4.8 tonnes and the result is that the performance is exactly what we hoped for.
It’s a planing hull that planes from 12 knots of wind. It’s just amazing because of the design by Sam Manuard, the naval architect. I sailed it on for two days when we had around 25 knots of wind and the stability is just amazing. It’s easy to handle and that’s where you see Sam’s experience of designing offshore racing boats. I was even more impressed with the speed upwind.
In Barcelona in April, we had 22-26 knots of wind and had good cruising sails but not high-performance sails. We had a furling jib, one reef in the main, and went upwind in choppy seas constantly at 7.4 knots, which for me is amazing on a 36-footer. Otherwise, we had a record of 17.2 knots, but it’s more the stability that impresses me.
Can you tell us about the cooperation with Seascape for the First 14, 18, 24, 27 models?
Our network of dealers was asking us to come back to the small First models. The costs of developing such a range the way we do it at Beneteau are quite high, so we reached an agreement to purchase Seascape, keeping the hulls but slightly changing the models to make them more First-like.
In Thailand, Simpson Marine recently launched its Sailing Academy, which has a fleet of five First 14s, two First 18s and a First 27. It’s a nice project.
What else can we look forward to on the sailing side?
We’re pleased with our current ranges. The new 44 makes a complete range for First, with the models going from the 14 to the First Yacht 53. Oceanis also has many models from 30 to 60, so we’re just looking to renew the older models, rather than extending the ranges in terms of size.
What has been the client reaction to Groupe Beneteau’s Seanapps technology?
It was first installed on the larger boats and by the end of this year, it will be installed as standard on all the models.
Initially you could see people were unsure about it, that it’s yet another app. However, we’ve kept developing the connection between Seanapps and more parts of the boat and different equipment, and there will be more, so now people have a real interest in it.
It’s a way to secure your boat, to know the battery levels, the bilge pump, all the gauges and so on. We’re entering a generation of customers that are using apps, just like you have for most new cars on the market, so it’s starting to feel normal to have an app like this for a boat.
The second Beneteau Cup Hong Kong will be held from 29-30 October. How important is it to have this type of regatta for Beneteau owners in Asia?
Beneteau has run these events throughout the world for many years. However, I think Simpson Marine and Beneteau Asia Pacific were very brave to run this event last year because it was the first sailing event in Hong Kong after the lockdown. The Beneteau owners were just ecstatic, and people were so happy to be back on the water and together again.
For us, it’s an important event because it’s part of the Beneteau spirit and the Beneteau family, so our owners are happy there’s a second one coming up.
This article first appeared on Yacht Style.
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