François Lebailly, liquidator of the Wrighton Bi-Loup sailboat brand, explains to BoatIndustry the steps that led to the end of the company.
Can you remind us of the process that led to the takeover of Wrighton Bi-Loup?
My partners, Patrick Fallot and Thierry Bocquet, had ordered Bi-Loup sailboats from Wrighton before the company went bankrupt in 2014. By looking at the plans, they found the name of my son Vincent Lebailly, naval architect, who was at the origin of them. So they contacted him again to continue the project. As I was of the same generation as them, my son involved me in the design choices and I became friends with Patrick and Thierry. I was thinking about changing boats as retirement approached, so I told them: I'm going with you. We thought that with a boat designed for 3 clients from different cultures, we could adapt it to others. So we each invested a portion of the sale of our respective companies to found Wrighton Bi-Loup.
The 3 new Bi-Loup 109s were then built with the Shoreteam Yard in Caen. As a carpenter by trade, I started working on boat fittings. After buying back the moulds of the old Bi-Loup models, we built 2 Bi-Loup 78 and 2 Bi-Loup 90. We were now operational having tried all the models.
In your opinion, what are the factors that prevented the long-term restart of the Bi-Loup yachts?
We were attached to the Bi-Loup brand. We worked more on the assignment than we did as professionals. Our big commercial mistake is that we thought that a large part of Wrighton's customers would renew his boat to bigger ones. We were aiming for 3 to 4 boats per year. However, the "defect" of the Bi-Loup is that they are very robust. Boaters, who have been owners for 10 to 15 years, do not want to change. In addition, after 5 years of the brand's disappearance from the general public, customers had gone to the competition.
I think we should have directly attacked the export market. We had some serious touches in Southampton, but we arrived in the year of Brexit and our two prospects were afraid of the consequences on their professional activities.
Why stop now the activity of Wrighton Bi-Loup?
At the beginning, we knew what a mold cost and what we were committing to. To start new markets, especially in Northern Europe, it would be necessary to reinvest around ?500,000 and offer new finishes. Currently, we have few debts, now is a good time to stop. We went around the boat builders, without success, to propose parts because we were attached to the Bi-Loup brand. So we start the sale in separate elements. The assets are mainly moulds, masts, booms and hardware from the old models.