- Business - Cantiere del Pardo talk tenders

By Dario Schiavo

Cantiere del Pardo talk tenders

The president of Cantiere del Pardo, Gigi Servidati, on the luxury tender market and the company’s acquisition of the VanDutch Yachts brand…

Gigi Servidati, president, Cantiere del Pardo

The luxury tender market is interesting because it caters to a dual market: those looking for a boat that is not too big and those seeking a tender for their superyacht. Here we speak with Gigi Servidati, the president of Cantiere del Pardo, one of the Italian yards in this sector, about this new challenge, considering its recent acquisition of the Dutch yard VanDutch Yachts and the incorporation of the shipyard into the Oniverse Group.

The Group encompasses several brands, all sharing the common denominator of Italian style excellence. These brands include Calzedonia, Intimissimi, Intimissimi Uomo, Tezenis, Falconeri, Signorvino, Atelier Emè and Antonio Marras. First, Servidati emphasises that the role played by the Group’s founder and chairman, Sandro Veronesi, was crucial for this important acquisition.

“Veronesi is a visionary,” Servidati comments. “We are linked by a great friendship based on mutual esteem; we both live on Lake Garda, and I understand his thinking well. His aim is to diversify his activities into sectors with an increasingly luxury orientation. Already the owner of two of our boats, Sandro began considering adding our yard to his group when the Wise Equity investment fund, which had acquired us a few years ago, decided to sell. Sandro decided to buy the shipyard to create a nautical hub within his companies and to bring Italian style to the world, in line with his group’s philosophy. Boating was a sector he had always observed, and he became interested in our company after seeing the incredible results we achieved and the significant margins. Just to give you a figure, the turnover of Cantiere del Pardo this year amounts to 170 million euros, broken down as follows: 85 per cent motorboats, 15 per cent sailing boats.”

I ask the president to explain the shift towards motorboats. “It all happened somewhat by chance, seven years ago. I work in product development and have always observed the motorboat world. During the presentation of a sailing boat, one of my dealers, who also sold motorboats, expressed his desire for a motor Grand Soleil. This idea piqued my curiosity about something so challenging, and I began to think about it seriously. I studied the sector in depth to understand the most interesting market segment for us. Thus, the Pardo 43 was born.”

Embarking on this new venture, production processes were overhauled, factory layouts were changed and significant investments were made for rapid development. “We had initially planned to produce 10 motorboats per year, but we found ourselves making almost 200. In five years, we produced nearly 650 boats and won many awards. We were certainly very fortunate in identifying the style our clients wanted, but I’m confident that without my 30 years of sailing know-how, I would never have been able to conceive of the Pardo 43 in the time and manner we did.

“Credit also goes to our production unit, which enabled us to develop and produce the boats in a very short time. In recent years, we have added a shed, another production unit in Fano and an external joinery. The Pardo 43 is characterised by a reverse bow and is a walk-around with a particularly well-kept interior. Its waterlines are very clean, and the aesthetics are very simple, without sacrificing detailed attention to construction and volume utilisation, which has allowed us to achieve excellent results thanks to our knowledge of sailboat layouts.”

In 2020, Cantiere del Pardo acquired the VanDutch brand, which was founded in 2008 and quickly established itself worldwide with its recognisable design and particularly functional layout. All VanDutch yachts, starting from the 32, house at least one cabin. This is what made Servidati fall in love with this brand. He says, “I had been following their work for years and liked their idea of producing a timeless object, the classic powerboat with a long bow and a very liveable cockpit. VanDutch is a very artisanal yard that had divided its construction between various locations around the world.”

VanDutch 56

However, as Servidati explains, “A yard that has no headquarters and relies on subcontractors, located elsewhere, sooner or later reveals its criticalities, and it was these that led the owners to decide to sell. They contacted us, and we quickly reached an agreement. All the moulds have been transferred to Forlì, and we are now setting up and industrialising the product according to our construction methods, without altering the aesthetics and lines of the original designer. We have focused on improving the construction and engineering aspects of the entire production process. This year, we are building the VanDutch 75, our flagship, for which we designed everything from scratch, collaborating with Burdissocapponi Yachts & Design Studio for the interiors.

“This studio has previously designed boats for other prominent shipyards in the global nautical scene. They proposed a speedboat style that we immediately appreciated. Soon, we will also build the 56 and 48. The 32 and 40, on the other hand, will remain completely unchanged because we like them as they are. We’re just working to embellish the Nordic lines with a bit of beautiful Italian style,” he says. While Burdissocapponi Yachts & Design Studio will handle the interiors, the exteriors will remain the work of naval architect Frank Mulder.

What is also known about Cantiere del Pardo is that it is launching a challenge to the industry by engaging in the construction of luxury tenders, a decision made after acquiring the Dutch yard. In my experience as an insider in the nautical world, I well remember that two VanDutch yachts were chosen and used on a megayacht as ghost tenders. One served the Mediterranean and the other the Caribbean. These vessels did not need to be stowed on board but followed the yacht so that owners and their guests could go ashore as quickly and elegantly as possible.

Servidati confirms this: “There are already several VanDutches used as tenders on maxi yachts. We are now optimising the boats and plan to present ourselves in Monaco soon for this very sector. We will be showing the 32, the 40 and the 48. Our goal is to build about 35 of them per year and create a unique object for a few passionate admirers.”

I ask Servidati whether there is an overlap of models between Pardo motoryachts and VanDutch. “No overlap. They are two different profiles, dedicated to two different types of customers. So I can definitely say that for luxury tenders, the VanDutch will be used in terms of size, livability and comfort. Besides, those are boats that do not have a T-Top or other superstructures and can be hauled and launched more easily.”

Such a diversified production entails an efficient dedicated customer service. Servidati explains that Cantiere del Pardo has five areas for customer service: one in Florida, one in the Balearic Islands, one on the French Riviera, one in Garda Lake and one in Amsterdam. These are the markets where Cantiere del Pardo has established itself and where there are dealers with a great deal of experience. “We have a large sales network made up of true professionals who also deal with other major brands. For service, we also provide assistance from Italy, with four people in the shipyard dedicated entirely to this.”

VanDutch partnered with Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 at the 2024 Monaco Grand Prix

Cantiere del Pardo was founded more than 50 years ago as a sailing boat yard, so I am curious to know Servidati’s point of view on this sector of the nautical industry. He explained that, to date, only the luxury segment is active and that there has been an exponential increase in the number of charter companies that have also become dealers. “I strongly believe that the sailing market is cyclical. We are now going through a phase of stability after the big boom of the last few years. Certainly, this also affects the motor market, which is much busier than the sailing market. After 30 years of experience, I can confirm that the nautical business is a world full of unknowns and risks: it is difficult to make money, but it is very easy to lose capital. Today, we are producing the 65-, 72- and 80-foot sailing range, and sales are going very well, but for now, we limit ourselves to building two or three boats per year per segment.”

Such passion for both the sea and yachting fuels dreams of a future where, especially with the rise of explorers, we might see luxury sailing tenders. Perhaps in a few years, we’ll find ourselves discussing just that ...

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