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Ultra G on sea trials in the North Sea

Listen: Heesen’s CCO Mark Cavendish on four decades in the superyacht industry

4 August 2023 • Written by Sophia Wilson

Having spent more than 40 years in the superyacht industry, Mark Cavendish, chief commercial officer of Heesen, has overseen a dramatic period of growth and change.

In this exclusive interview from the Dutch yard’s shipyard in Oss, he talks to BOAT’s Stewart Campbell about battling Telex machines in the 1980s, the evolution of Heesen’s product line and finding a more sustainable future for the industry.  The podcast is available to be listened to in full through Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Listed to the podcast here... 

The interview took place following a busy period for the yard, shortly after the launch of 67-metre Sparta.  The yard's largest steel-hulled yacht to date the yacht features interior and exterior design by Winch Design and she also features a reverse bow with a flash of "Venetian red".

“She is here in the shipyard and looks absolutely fantastic,” says Cavendish. “I like to think it is a classic Heesen. A low profile, attractive looking boat with a fantastic paint scheme.”

The 60-metre Ultra G was also within eyesight during the interview, ahead of starting sea trials in the North Sea.  “They are two iconic, in the real sense of the word, Hessen yachts,” adds Cavendish.

The sporty looking Sparta has recently hit the water

The yachts hitting the water mark the culmination of several exceptional years for Heesen. “2020 and 2021 were the best two years ever,” he says. “One year we sold six boats, which is very unusual for us. On average we sell four boats a year, we have a capacity issue because the shipyard isn’t hugely big.”

Cavendish credits the brand’s approach to building a certain number of yachts on spec as part of their success. “It works on all levels for us,” he says. “For the market, we always have something available that buyers and brokers like. For us as a business, we know exactly what the capacity of the shipyard is going to be spread across the next three to five years.”

As well as the yachts built on spec, Heesen – which has an in-house engineering and naval architecture department – does a select number of custom builds. This has included yachts such as the 60-metre Lusine, which was awarded a Judges’ Commendation at this year’s World Superyacht Awards.

Delivered in 2022 Lusine was a full custom project

“Our business model calls for one fully custom model every year,” explains Cavendish. “If we keep repeating boats over and over again then we end up not having any work for engineering and design departments.”

Cavendish also highlights the success of some of the yard’s “smart-custom” projects, including 51-metre Irisha and 56-metre Galvas.The third pillar of our business takes an existing hull and completely changes the superstructure,” he says. “You end up with a completely different boat, that looks like a full custom, but you have taken advantage of a fully designed hull.”

Cavendish says that the brand’s approach has also allowed them to push forward with more sustainable designs. “In 2014 we pulled the trigger on building our first hybrid build on spec,” he explains. “A lot of people were sitting around the table saying this is what we can do in theory, but we thought let’s just bite the bullet and build it ourselves. We started with Home and then sold her, and we have now built five of them.”

Home was Heesen’s first hybrid yacht
Credit: Jeff Brown

Despite the success of Heesen’s hybrid offering, he say it is still a case of “baby steps”. “We are at the beginning of a journey. The firing gun has been started; I don’t know where we will be in ten years, but I think it will be a very different environment. It’s an exciting journey and I hope I am around long enough to see some seismic changes,” he concludes.

To find out more about Heesen’s range of superyachts contact the yard directly here.