Among the dozens of new-boat, yacht and equipment introductions at this year’s Cannes Yachting Festival, two brands are using the same strategy to fuel their rapid growth. Seakeeper and Axopar make very different products, one a stabilizer and the other a center-console boat line, but both are expanding into new markets with new designs based on the same concepts that have propelled their growth over the past five years.
Seakeeper yesterday launched the Seakeeper 18 at Cannes, the largest model in its lineup. The U.S. company designed the unit for boats between 65 and 75 feet LOA, weighing up to 56 tons. The Seakeeper 18 produces 18,000 Newton-meter-seconds of angular momentum but still fits in the same footprint as the less powerful Seakeeper 16, which puts out 16,000 N-m-s.
The 18 puts Seakeeper into a new stabilizer category that targets a motoryacht segment that is widespread in Europe. “It’s not about reducing the roll anymore, we’re regularly being asked to eliminate it completely,” said Andrew Semprevivo, president and CEO. “The Seakeeper 18 was developed as a response to that.”
The Seakeeper 16, introduced five years ago, has been installed in approximately 50 percent of boats in its target size range. It’s not going away, said Semprevivo, adding that the new 18 will be available later this year.
Axopar has been one of the biggest success stories in Europe’s boating industry, after being founded in 2014 by Jan Erik Viitala, a veteran boatbuilding executive from Finland. The Axopar name comes from three brands owned Viitala, Aquador, XO and Paragon. These three brands provide a good legacy to start a new brand.
At a press conference at Cannes, Viitala announced he was starting a “revolution” across the Axopar line, based on customer feedback. "We want to create better products, better boats," he said, noting that the company plans to do a total redesign of its popular 37 model. “The boat will keep the same size, but will benefit from a brand-new layout, new hull and many other improvements.”
The company released images of a camouflaged version (pictured above) that will be launched at the Dusseldorf boat show in January. Viitala expects the camouflage to garner the attention of showgoers. “This revolution will then continue on our other models the 28 and 24,” Viitala told Trade Only Today.
From its launch, Axopar’s goal was to design and build center console boats capable of running offshore. They are designed with a modular layout in several versions to contain production costs. Its first 28 was launched in Helsinki in 2014, and then the company moved production to Poland to further reduce building costs.
The company has seen heady growth since its first year, when it built 55 boats. Now, it is building 650 units per year, with an order book of more than 500 boats. Its U.S. dealer, Nautical Ventures Inc., remains one of its top global dealers. Axopar says it sells about 250 units per year into the U.S. market.
"We have a modern and functional design that is very different from other boat brands,” said Viitala. “Our boats also perform very well at sea. We have very attractive prices and we are able, thanks to the modularity of the layout, to adapt to each market.”
As demand has increased, Axopar has opened a second facility in Poland capable of producing 400 boats per year. Both facilities should be able to produce a total of 1,000 units per year.
Retail prices run from $83,000 to $242,000) per year. Viitala said company sales were $66 million in 2018. It sells its boats into 45 countries, with dealer and distributor of about 95 retailers. “We are doing more than 60 percent of our sales outside of Europe," says Viitala.
In 2017, Axopar launched the Brabus marine brand with the German car manufacturer Brabus, which uses Axopar boats with very high-end décor and equipment.
Viitala said the company wants to expand across North America. "We are interested in the Great Lakes region, Boston and the east coast of Canada,” he said.