There has never been a more interesting time to work in the yachting industry or a more exciting time to buy a new yacht. The number of established yacht builders in business has thinned out in recent years and successful entrepreneurs are entering the market to buy big brand names and, in some cases, to start new ones.
With so many changes taking place, a yacht buyer does well to take a good look at the owner behind a shipyard before making a decision on the next purchase. The buyer must ensure that his investment is in financially safe hands, but he also may wish to ascertain if the entrepreneur wants to build a brand and flip it or if he is in for the long haul.
My recent trips to Turkey to visit the new Esenyacht shipyard led me to make such an investigation. I had won the central agency contract for its 155-foot sloop TROY and was looking forward to applying the weight of Northrop & Johnson’s impressive marketing machine to promoting the yacht. I knew that when qualified inquiries arrived, there would be understandable concerns about a new shipyard embarking in such an ambitious project; I was keen to meet the driving force behind it.
First of all, let’s address the elephant in the room. When I told colleagues and associates that I was working with “Esenyacht,” I noticed a wry smile cross their faces. The shipyard is accustomed to this reaction; it knows that the name has more than a passing resemblance to a more established brand and the cynical may think that Esenyacht is trying to trade off this. Those naysayers would be wrong. The fact is that Esenyacht is wholly owned by Mr. Kadir Esen, an extremely successful Turkish businessman with an insatiable appetite for yachting and neither the need nor the desire to copy other yacht builders.
Esen’s passion for racing sailing yachts has been synonymous with his success in business. His companies belong to the Tursen Group and range from industries as diverse as mining and tourism, to energy and investment. With a turnover well in excess of €100 million, Esen has demonstrated a remarkable ability in business; he distracted himself from the pressures of running such a large enterprise by sailing his racing yacht UZMA. Eventually, he bought a hull and put together a team of workers to build a complete yacht. He was so impressed with what the skilled workers built that he formed Esenyacht, intent on making a serious contribution to the superyacht market.
In my opinion, the arrival of men such as Kadir Esen represents a coming of age in the yachting industry. The founders of many yacht builders tend to be men who were, in the first instance, passionate about yachts and then had to learn to indulge in that passion. Lately, we are seeing a change, men who in the first instance are hugely successful in business now are applying that business acumen to indulge their passions in yachting. This has to be good for the industry.
Certainly, Esen has chosen a very eye-catching yacht to announce its entry to superyacht production. TROY has naval architecture from DYKSTRA and is designed by Tim Saunders. Although she shall inevitably be compared with Perini Navi and Alloy Yachts, her aggressive, contemporary lines set her apart from any other yacht on the water.
Her bridge windows lean forward in a way that is reminiscent of expedition ships and military vessels, but when combined with the low profile and bold edges of the superstructure, they harmonize to give the impression of a yacht leaping out of the water, impatient to surge forward with the power of her more than 2,000 square meters of sails. She may be compared to other yachts, but she certainly won’t be mistaken for them.
A glass panel runs through the centerline of the sundeck, bathing the salon below with additional sunlight. On the generous aft deck, and still along the centerline, a large hatch is fitted into the deck to allow private access to the master stateroom. Aft and in line with this is a large Jacuzzi tub. This ensemble of features provides a sense of symmetry that enhances the yacht’s poise and posture to give a feeling of order and balance.
The name TROY was well studied, too. The ancient site of Troy is located in Turkey at a distance of about 400 miles from the shipyard. The tale of Troy is known throughout the world and provides a strong theme for the yacht’s identity. A Trojan helmet boldly adorns the gennaker; the shipyard even consulted historians to ensure that they chose the right color for the plumage. If you are wondering about that, by the way, historians believe that Trojan foot soldiers had white plumes, and officers were given red ones.
Her interior styling is classic and elegant, with Trojan symbols embedded in various locations. One of the most spectacular features of this yacht is the artwork. The smoked-oak panels that adorn the main corridor have been decked in gold leaf; an artist has been commissioned to engrave a wonderfully intricate scene of the tale of Troy into the gold. This really must be seen to be believed. Every time I visit the shipyard, I think the work must be finished, as it’s so beautiful, and every time I return a little more has been added or refined, and it looks even better.
Meanwhile, a master craftsman from Murano has been contracted to sculpt a Trojan horse’s head from Murano glass for the yacht. Artist Lucio Bubacco was born and raised on the island that has become famous for its glasswork; Bubacco has established himself as somewhat of a guru in the field. The horse’s head is an intricate weave of colored glass in which a Trojan soldier is visible.
Is all of this really necessary? Perhaps not, but it is a crystal-clear indication that Esenyacht wants the world to sit up and pay attention when it releases the finished product to the public. The yard means business, and it is here to stay.
The artwork and attention to aesthetics on TROY are not just a smoke-and-mirror act to cover up any issues in quality or engineering. A walk around the shipyard reveals a serious commitment to using top-quality suppliers; international experts are involved in the project. When Esen decided to build the 63-meter carbon-fiber mast itself, it established a whole new company: Esen Composites. Esen then invited Nick Beadle to head up the work. New Zealand-born Beadle has more than 30 years of experience in carbon fiber and mast building that goes right back to his involvement in the first mast of this kind built for an America’s Cup yacht. He moved to Turkey two years ago to accept the assignment; when I spoke to him last, he had no intentions of moving on any time soon. At the time of publication, the mast and spreaders were close to completion, making TROY’s the largest carbon-fiber mast ever to be built in Turkey.
For the sails, Esen turned to Jesper Banks of Elvstrom Sails. A two-time Olympic Gold medal winner and sailor whose experience stretches from lasers to America’s Cup yachts, Banks now owns Elvstrom and is a regular visitor to Esenyacht. He has engineered the sails specifically for TROY and is enjoying working with the Bodrum-based shipyard. “I have a really open dialogue with the guys at Esen,” said Banks. “It’s a really pleasant way to work in the industry…like working with friends.”
The sails are actually just about the only main component outsourced by Esenyacht. The steel hull was made in house, as was the carbon-fiber composite superstructure. Behind the main construction facility is an area dedicated to cabinetry. For this, too, Esenyacht formed a separate company, Esenyacht Furniture. This area of Turkey is rich with talented craftsmen who are remarkably skilled in woodworking. Although many of them learned their trade working on the simpler local Gullets, they seized the opportunity that came from a larger budget and design brief to “up their game” and produce furniture that would not look out of place on a Northern European superyacht. Smoked oak, ebony, cedar and walnut combine with a selection of other precious materials to give a feeling of elegant luxury throughout TROY.
Esenyacht has disregarded the traditional rush to complete TROY for this year’s Monaco Yacht Show, opting instead to take its time to build a yacht that will be seen as a benchmark of quality for future projects. It is planning to deliver TROY early in 2016, and, as the yacht is taking shape and reaching completion, the attention of the yachting press and potential buyers is intensifying.
For now, the young company is using a production facility in the industrial area of Bodrum and it’s admittedly a little cramped. A visit there involves moving through a labyrinth of offices and viewing the yacht in a shed that had to be modified to accommodate the vessel’s length. The circumstances remind me of a young Gordon Ramsay producing wonderful food from a cramped Parisian kitchen, but yearning for a greater arena from which to show off his skills. For Esenyacht, that arena is soon to arrive, as Kadir Esen has already invested in a sizeable piece of land on which he intends to build a state-of-the-art construction facility. There he can host potential clients and build his brand. The project is still subject to local planning permission, but this is a man who does not let anything stand in his way.