I begin my conversation with James ‘Jimmy’ Liautaud, owner of 60m Feadship Rock.It, with a challenge. Can he tell me what is his most valuable takeaway from his journey with Rock.It? “That is one heck of an icebreaker,” he replies. Such straight-talking is a feature of our interview, and indicative of the realities of his superyachting experience.
Reflecting on his foray into yacht ownership so far, Liautaud sees the past eight years – from the beginning of the design of Rock.It to the present day – as a period of continual growth and a shift in priorities. “Eight years ago, when I began this journey, my life was a lot different; I was 45. I am 53 now. A lot of things change in that time. The biggest difference is that my kids and I are eight years older, my interests are eight years older and the way I spend my time is eight years older.”
Something that hasn’t changed in those eight years is Liautaud’s high level of enthusiasm, be it his attitude to life (“I enjoy the journey of life! It’s short. This is not a dress rehearsal. This is the big show. It is great, maximise it!”) to his description of his latest cruise (“Glorious, glorious, best ever!”). He is a man who is happy on, and with, his yacht. Since her launch in 2014, Rock.It has been at the heart of Liautaud’s family life. Seeing the vessel as another family home, the yacht has travelled almost 40,000 miles, from the Great Lakes to the Galapagos, to the Mediterranean, which is where he is when we speak. Although he has chartered frequently in the region, this is the first appearance of Rock.It in its waters.
When we speak, Liautaud is deep in the process of finalising the designs and moving into the engineering phase of his next project. Now with his knowledge of the design and build process, and ability to apply it to this next project that is still very much under wraps, Liautaud is seeing the new build through experienced eyes. Using his time with Rock.It, he has a higher level of understanding of the intricacies of new construction and the final product, and this means that every aspect of the next vessel is in line with his thinking.
Having learned that the design and build process can take a substantial amount of time, Liautaud is aware it will be at least another three years before he can set foot on his next yacht. Therefore, he is planning for what his life will be like then, rather than now. “I am looking further ahead; how am I going to use the vessel? What am I going to do with it? Where am I going to go? What do I want? And so I am way more educated,” he says. For the next project, he has a clear vision, and a precise programme, of what he wants, as well as what he doesn’t want.
“You are going to make some mistakes and that is half the fun. What’s more, the fun is the journey of understanding and the exploration! It is a journey not a destination, and it is a glorious journey. I love the chase, I love the journey, and if you love that, it’s a blast!”
A fundamental difference between Rock.It and Liautaud’s new project is the use of the new vessel. Rock.It was used exclusively by the family, something Liautaud will move away from in future. “I built the boat around the idea that I am not going to charter her and I don’t like a lot of people on board,” says Liautaud, who sees Rock.It as a personal space. However, once she was delivered, he quickly realised that his use of the boat didn’t marry well with this opinion. Using Rock.It for a maximum of eight or ten weeks a year made him rethink his position on private versus charter, something that will influence the design of his second build. “For the next vessel, I am going to charter it and I will put things in the boat that might not necessarily work great for me, that I may not use, but charter guests may want,” he says. Like many owners, Liautaud views chartering as an option for recuperating some of the running costs of a yacht as well as an opportunity to ensure the vessel and its crew are maintained to a high standard. “I’ll charter to maximise the asset, it needs to move. If they don’t move they get rusty (both the crew and the boat).”
Since Rock.It was launched, it’s safe to say that Liautaud has most definitely enjoyed the ride. His positive outlook, combined with a continual drive to improve his vessels, is the mentality that helps this industry continue to evolve and grow. His passion for his yacht is infectious and is the apogee of what an owner’s experience of the industry should be.
So what is Liautaud’s reply to my initial question? What is his most valuable takeway from the journey with Rock.It? “Go for it. You are going to make some mistakes and that is half the fun. What’s more, the fun is the journey of understanding and the exploration! It is a journey not a destination, and it is a glorious journey. I love the chase, I love the journey, and if you love that, it’s a blast!” To that I say, ‘Rock on.’
This interview originally appeared in issue 181 of The Superyacht Report. To find out if you’re eligible for a complimentary VIP subscription, click here.
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