Interview / Geert Kuijpers:"Wauquiez and Tofinou must have a greater presence in Europe."

Geert Kuijpers, new commercial director of Wauquiez and Latitude 46

Geert Kuijpers, the new sales and marketing director for the Wauquiez and Tofinou brands, explains his career and objectives for these well-known yachts in the French yachting industry.

At the beginning of March 2017, you have just taken over the sales and marketing management of the Wauquiez and Latitude 46 shipyards. Can you tell us about your career path before joining the French group?

I've been in the boating world for 25 years now. I have always sailed, out of passion, since my childhood, on the family boat in the Netherlands. I started by wanting to be a Merchant Navy officer and it was during my studies in Vlissingen that I met a friend who took me sailing in races. I was able to race and win the Fastnet 2001 with Piet Vroon on "Thunder of Breskens"

From that moment on, I wanted to work in the boating industry and after a few shore-based sales positions, I was able to join the Dutch mast manufacturer Proctor Holland in Breskens as a salesman in 1999. We were an important equipment manufacturer at home and in neighbouring countries, but when we were bought by the American Hall Spars in 2001, we changed scale. I worked for 15 years with all the major European shipyards, from Bénéteau to Baltic Yachts. For France in particular, we started from scratch and I had to develop the network there, settling in over the last 5 years.

After that, I returned to the Netherlands for 3 years, as sales manager of Holland Jachtbouw, where we built very top-of-the-range yachts, like the Class J Topaz. Given the type of boat, even though the commercial work was intense, we only made one or two sales a year. I personally wanted more contact and a different dynamic. That's why the opportunity to join Wauquiez came at the right time.

The family-owned industrial group Experton-Revollier took over Wauquiez in 2011 and Latitude 46 (manufacturer of the Tofinou) in 2015. You are responsible for both brands. What are your objectives at group level?

We already have many synergies at group level in production. All the woodwork and part of the composite of the Tofinou are produced at the Wauquiez site in Neuville-en-Ferrain and then shipped to La Rochelle for assembly. From now on, we also wish to work as a group at the commercial level, while respecting both brands. To do this, we are creating a commercial centre in La Rochelle, a place that will attract and reach a maximum number of yachtsmen.

In particular, my mission is to develop the Wauquiez and Tofinou brands throughout Europe, thanks to my international background. Today, 99% of what is on our boats is Made In France. This is important for the image of a top-of-the-range shipyard, especially in export markets. Our aim is to communicate better about what we do and to revitalise our network by offering them the right support to sell better.

What are the future developments at Wauquiez?

Since the takeover of Wauquiez in 2011, the yard has presented two new models, the Pilot Saloon 48 and 58, based on existing hulls. We will now present at Boot Düsseldorf 2018 a completely new Pilot Saloon 42, designed by Berret Racoupeau.

The objective is to continue to develop the yard, at our own pace, through the Pilot Saloon range, a concept on which Wauquiez has been a pioneer. If we sell 10 to 15 Wauquiez Pilot Saloon 42 per year, it will be very satisfying.

I also want to continue to raise the image of the site. Before being taken over by Bénéteau (Editor's note: who sold it to Experton-Revollier in 2011), Wauquiez has always enjoyed a top-of-the-range image, which I would like to see restored and surpassed. Wauquiez's build quality is excellent and its image must be one of travel, pleasure and a certain luxury to compete with yachts like Oyster Yachts and Contest Yachts

What are your plans for Latitude 46 and the Tofinou?

The problem is different. The Tofinou brand is very well defined. It will celebrate its 30th anniversary in August and yachtsmen know perfectly well why they buy a Tofinou sailboat.

We will continue to develop new models. The Tofinou 10 C, presented this year, is a great success and all 2017 production has already been sold.

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