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Yard Updates

Rhone Capital is the group backer: the brands are Grand Soleil and Dufour; the yards are in Italy and Franceā€¦

MARCH 2008

ISB is one of the world’s major players when it comes to mainstream sailing cruisers. Not only does it have the Forli, Italy-based Grand Soleil operation, otherwise known as Cantiere del Pardo, which is responsible for the mid-market range of Grand Soleil performance cruisers, but also La Rochelle, France-based Dufour, France’s second-largest sailing cruiser builder and one of the world’s top six mainstream players.
Today Grand Soleil offers an attractive performance sailing cruiser portfolio extending from 11.3-17m (37-56ft). In all there are half a dozen models. Such is their positioning that they fall somewhere between the Bénéteau Firsts and X-Yachts.
The smallest in the Grand Soleil line-up is the Grand Soleil 37, which was introduced two years ago, the brand new Grand Soleil 40, which was first shown at Genoa ‘06, the Grand Soleil 43, which was shown for the first time at Genoa ’05, the four-year-old Grand Soleil 45, the three-year-old Grand Soleil 50 and the biggest, the new Grand Soleil 54, which was introduced at Genoa ’07, and the flagship Grand Soleil 56. And two new mid-range Grand Soleils will launch later this year, plus for next year a new semi-custom flagship, the Grand Soleil 65, joins the range. This latter model will be built at Adria Sail in Fano.
The Dufour line has been significantly improved over the past three to four years. The Dufour portfolio now includes 10 sailing cruiser models from 9.8-16m (32-53ft), actually two more than there were two years ago, and of those five are less that two years old. All the latest designs are by Umberto Felci. Subtle signatures differentiate between Dufour’s three-digit designation ‘Grand Large’ cruising models and the two-digit ‘Performance’ cruising versions.

'ISB’s combined sales of Grand Soleil and Dufour ended up at almost €130 million for the year to the end of August ’07...' 

At the bottom of the line-up there is the Grand Large 325, which was new for La Rochelle ’05, the 34 introduced in ’03, the award-winning 365, which was new for Paris ’04, the new 395, the 40, which dates back to ’02, the 425, which was new for Paris ’06, the 44, which was new at Paris ’03, the 455, which was first shown at Paris ’04, the 485, which was first shown at Paris ’06, and the 525 flagship, which was introduced in autumn ’06. A new 395 joins the line-up soon.
ISB’s combined sales of Grand Soleil and Dufour ended up at almost €130 million for the year to the end of August ’07, says Paul Wuyts, the ISB sales director responsible for both Dufour and Grand Soleil brands. “Dufour did around €88 million on 758 boats and Grand Soleil did €42 million on 185 boats.” For comparison, in ‘05/06, ISB did €120 million, of which Dufour did €76-77 million on 723 boats and Grand Soleil did €43-44 million from 182 boats.
“Yes we’ve had a good year,” says Wuyts. “But it has not been an easy year by any means. It was a struggle through to the last days of August… We see things flattening out here in Europe now and competition is intense… It’s been a case of getting and fighting to keep marketshare… The USA has not doing too well, but ‘North-North’ America, meaning Canada, has been pretty good still… Overall we have been growing very fast for several years, but now that growth is definitely slowing… All the model-development work we’ve been doing is beginning to pay off, but it has been very hard work. At Dufour last year to introduce three new big models – the 525, 485 and 425 – was a big ask… Apart from the designing and marketing functions, there is a big industrial headache that comes with integrating production of new models. Three in one year is insane pressure.”
ISB’s target for ‘07/08 is around €145 million – Dufour €102 million or so from 780 boats and Grand Soleil €43 million or so from 190 boats.
A couple of years ago ISB acquired a new owner, Rhône Capital, a mid-market private-equity firm with offices in London, Paris and New York. It acquired the holdings from founder Giuseppe Guiliani and his previous finaciers. Thus far it is said to have been very pleased with ISB developments, all of which are geared to leveraging both brands to maximum effect over the course of the next few years. And further complementary acquisitions are not ruled out either.
ISB stands for nothing more complicated than ‘International Sailing Boats’ The opreation’s managing director, ultimately responsible for all Dufour and Grand Soleil activities, is Stefano Mion, who is based at Grand Soleil. Grand Soleil employs 240 and Dufour around 600.

For more, www.grandsoleil.net and www.dufour-yachts.com.

© Phil Draper