Custom superyacht builder CRN turns 50
by Caroline White
A long-time custom builder of distinction, CRN looks forward to the next 50 years with renewed confidence. The Ferretti group may have taken over CRN in 2000, but the Italian yachting leviathan seemed destined to consume this unusual minnow from the early 1990s.
‘When I decided to enter the industry I was twenty-five years old, and that was in Portofino on board the 47 metre, 1988 CRN_ Azzurra,’ says Lamberto Tacoli, now CRN chairman and CEO. Tacoli had seen something in _Azzurra that suggested CRN was moving in an interesting direction, and that would eventually lead him to run the yard.
William Giommi, CRN Shipyard consultant, also recognised the yachts of the late 1980s as a step change in the yard’s output. CRN – from the start a luxury yacht builder – was set up in 1963 by Sanzio Nicolini. Giommi first worked with the yard as part of a carpentry supply company in 1971, assuming his current role in 2004.
‘The yachts of the 1970s were very “nautical”, with few options and a fixed, well-defined external line, sporting, for example, a very sharp bow. The design was most of the time by CRN and often repetitive, with just the interior changing from one vessel to another,’ he says. ‘During the 1980s, yachts started to boast a highly refined quality in their external profile – like_ Azzurra, _F100 and Anwal. While the materials remained steel and aluminium, the external line changed dramatically. Every yacht launched had a different shape: the only trademarks were full customisation of the interiors and good naval performance.’
Tacoli’s career developed at Custom Line, then at Ferretti, and he watched CRN’s development in parallel. ‘In 1999, I asked the Ferretti board to think about an acquisition,’ he says. ‘First, for Ferretti Group to enter the steel-and-aluminium superyacht industry, and second because I was managing Custom Line and we needed more space for production.’
CRN launches 80m superyacht Chopi Chopi
The board agreed to a deal that put Tacoli at the helm and offered Ferretti more space in Ancona, Italy, for the production of its composite boats, growth of the company in steel and aluminium production and the kudos of a bona fide superyacht yard. In 2003, the yard swelled again with the purchase of the neighbouring Morini shipyard. ‘The difference with CRN now is you can feel the big structure of the company, with more than three hundred direct workers,’ says Tacoli. ‘Every day one thousand to twelve hundred people are in the yard.’
Combined with the creation of design platforms, the result is that volume has increased. ‘When we arrived at CRN there was a mentality of producing one boat at a time,’ says Tacoli. At time of press the yard had seven yachts in build between 43 and 74 metres.
Today, CRN accounts for about a quarter of the Ferretti Group’s turnover, and Tacoli believes potential is there for the yard to grow further – keeping to 40- to 85-metre steel-and-aluminium yachts. ‘We had troubles in the last few years because of the financial stress, but with the new shareholders (the Chinese SHIG-Weichai Group) everything is more focused on products and markets,’ says Tacoli. ‘For us, the next two or three years will offer a better situation and opportunity compared with the last three years.’ With its biggest yacht to date, 80-metre Chopi Chopi, delivered this year and an order book to fill even the expanded facilities, Tacoli may be right about CRN once more.