"When I first came to Porto Cervo years ago, there was only that old church, that old hotel and this yacht club," says Ed Dubois, pointing out across the marina bay from the YCCS towards the many terracotta houses lining the rocky hillside opposite. "It is still a strange place, completely dead most of the year and then a short extremely busy season."
It is not quite the start of the season yet in Porto Cervo - a lot of shops are still shut, bars are quiet, the marina isn't full - but there is a growing buzz and a selection of prominent masts dominate the sky above the marina. The 2015 Dubois Cup begins tomorrow and the Dubois family, literally and figuratively, have begun assembling.
This year there are 13 Dubois yachts attending with seven yachts racing, including Ohana, Ganesha, Penelope, Nostromo and Nirvana, as well as several spectators including Salperton IV, Valquest and even M/Y Turquoise. The racing takes place over two days, with two races each day, followed by a prize giving ceremony on the final night.
"In 2007, the America's Cup was being held in Valencia and a few of our boats were there watching over the whole summer," says Dubois, when I ask him how a designer came to host a regatta. "A few of our boats, including a couple of Australian owners, said to me 'we have all our boats here, why don't you have your own regatta so we can race?' To be honest, I thought it was a bit pretentious for a designer to have a regatta, but they all said that they would have something themselves anyway. They persuaded me to do it."
The inaugural Dubois Cup was held in Palma de Mallorca and was a huge success. "It was brilliant, we had nine yachts attend, my good friend John Illsley from Dire Straits came and performed, we raised money for a children's cancer charity CLIC Sargent ... it was a huge success," says Dubois. "But it was also expensive. Clearing yachts out of one of the docks to make room for ours, paying the yacht club and a separate events company. The following year we moved here to Porto Cervo, right before the Loro Piana regatta, and haven't looked back since."
In a regatta calendar that is full of events competing for competitors, the Dubois Cup has always offered a relaxed alternative for owners and a way for new owners or owners of second hand Dubois to get a feel for what it is to be part of this design family. "In 2011 we invited a potential client along who was still deciding on a designer," recalls Dubois. "He came with his wife and then about a month later gave me a call and said that I had persuaded him and he would build a boat. That was Escapade and Christophe Albin."
For the first time this year, owners of non-Dubois yachts have also been invited along to spectate and join in the celebrations. "We have three boats that have come along for the party," Dubois tells me. "It is a good way to show what we are all about."
He stresses that a big part of what makes the Dubois Cup what it is is the selection of sponsors. "We don't have big headline sponsor and we have turned away flashy 'outsider' sponsors before," he says. "We want this to be the Dubois family - companies who create the industry and are all motivated by wanting to design, build and provide for lovely yachts and their owners."
Growing reflective, he admits that the industry has evolved significantly since the first event in 2007. While in the boom years his clients were able to sell their yachts for a profit, today owners are building and selling in challenging times. This is particularly evident when you look at New Zealand, a country that has built 33 Dubois superyachts over the years. "Fitzroy are gone now, Alloy Yachts are down to a skeleton staff, everyone is looking for work," says Dubois. "Ten years ago we had nearly 600 people in New Zealand building Dubois designs. Right now there is no one. But I believe that out of crisis and difficulties, people become more creative and more inventive."
For Dubois, there is an opportunity for owners to invest in new technologies and for designers and yards to adapt and innovate. "We already have three clients who are all in their forties talking about exciting new projects that incorporate things like composite construction," he tells me. "The future will be very good but it is up to us to find ways to change and grow and inspire."
For this week though, the inspiration will come from watching the beautiful selection of boats racing around Porto Cervo. Racing starts tomorrow and ends Saturday.
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