Luxury yacht maker used by Rafa Nadal and Fernando Alonso to open yard in Ras Al Khaimah

Production plant will target growing market for high-end ‘floating villas’ and eventually create up to 800 jobs

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A luxury yacht company from Poland will soon open a ship building yard in Ras Al Khaimah.

Sunreef Yachts is set to open its first overseas centre in the UAE to cater to rising demand from the Middle East and Asia.

The company counts tennis star Rafael Nadal and Formula One champions Fernando Alonso and Nico Rosberg as clients.

“UAE and Dubai are great because this is a rising market,” Francis Lapp, president and founder of Sunreef Yachts, told The National in an interview in Gdansk, Poland at the company headquarters.

It is a Dh100 million investment. We will start with 50 people and in two, three years maybe we move up to 600 or 800 people
Francis Lapp, Sunreef Yachts

“In Ras Al Khaimah we will make the same luxury catamarans that we make here in Gdansk.

“It is a Dh100 million [$27.2m] investment. We will start with 50 people and in two, three years maybe we move up to 600 or 800 people.”

The company has a centre in the northern Polish port city with more than 1,000 employees for in-house design and production of the sleek yachts.

At its workshops on the Baltic Sea coast, compact 50-foot to transatlantic 140-foot twin-hull catamarans are tailor-made for each client.

Links to big buyers

Formula One champion Fernando Alonso with Francis Lapp, Sunreef Yachts founder. The experienced driver has commissioned a twin-hull eco catamaran that he wants to merge green technology, lifestyle and luxury. Photo: Sunreef Yachts

Mr Lapp said while other European ship makers have often based their second facility in Turkey, he saw better opportunities in the UAE.

“I believe it will be a very strong market to reach Australia, the Oceanic region, the Middle East and countries like India and China also,” he said.

“Also, I know the people in Ras Al Khaimah, it’s a good place.”

Poland accounts for more than half of the European Union’s yacht exports, according to European Union 2021 data.

The country is the world’s eighth-largest exporter of yachts and produces about 22,000 motor, sailing and luxury vessels, of which 95 per cent are exported.

Big buyers of Polish yachts are in Europe, Turkey, Russia, Canada, Australia, China, Japan, Thailand and the Middle East.

Sunreef has offices in Gdansk, Dubai and Miami and specialises in twinhull catamarans that enthusiasts say offer more stability and larger living space than traditional yachts.

Floating villas

Fitness space in the wood panelled outdoor zone.

Billed as luxurious holiday ‘floating villas', the sleek models feature polished walnut wood, natural oak interiors with muted rose gold and brass finishing, gleaming granite counter tops in expansive kitchen and dining areas.

The yachts are fitted with en suite cabins, walk-in wardrobes, large windows in fully equipped gyms for ocean-view workouts, sun decks, a spa pool and lounge areas that double as outdoor cinema space.

Jet skis are stored in garage cubicles in larger yachts, while hydraulic platforms can be lowered to create a walkway and have a beach club setting for deep sea entertainment.

The RAK shipbuilding yard is part of the company’s expansion plans to cope with increased orders and a growing appetite for luxury travel.

There has been a surge in sales of superyachts during the Covid-19 pandemic, with the wealthy purchasing boats to avoid travel restrictions.

The trend is expected to continue with an increased demand for exclusive locations away from the crowded holiday destinations in the post-Covid travel boom.

Superyachts are defined as boats longer than 24 metres or 78 feet that typically need a crew and have price tags that start from $2 million, rising to well over $20 million.

Sales of luxury vessels rose more than 8 per cent in the first nine months of 2021 from the same period pre-pandemic in 2019, according to Superyacht Group, an industry publication.

Eco catamarans

The Great White, a 23.95 metre Sunreef Power catamaran owned by tennis superstar Rafael Nadal and intended for long cruises.

At the Gdansk yard, engineers and workers were busy readying fully customised vessels.

“We inject superyacht quality into multihull architecture,” Mr Lapp said.

“We are so excited about renewable energy, green tech in our design. It’s a new journey on ultra-modern solar catamarans.”

Twice F1 champion Alonso was in Dubai recently for the sailing of Sunreef’s latest release.

The all-electric yacht promises quiet, fuel-free cruising and integrates ultralight solar panels in the entire body across the hull, mast and roof.

Propulsion is 100 per cent electric and when using the sail, the vessel generates power from the motion of propellers.

Alonso has commissioned his first yacht from Sunreef — an eco-electric catamaran that he wanted to combine green technology, lifestyle and comfort.

“I really wanted to build a catamaran because I wanted to enjoy more space and all the other advantages that multihull bring,” he said in a statement.

“My vision was a luxury craft of the highest quality.

"This will be my first yacht. I want the yacht to always be ready to go. Sometimes I will go out into the sea spontaneously so I want to make sure the yacht is reliable."

Two years ago, tennis star Nadal and his wife were closely involved in the look of the multi-hull 80-foot yacht designed for long cruises that he ordered for his 38th birthday.

He struck off add-ons such as an outdoor Jacuzzi for wider, open spaces and chose subdued grey and beige tones for the interior.

Named Great White, the yacht helped him unwind with family during breaks from his tough training regime.

“As someone from an island as I am, the sea is part of our lives,” he said in a statement at the time.

"I wanted to feel like in my own house."

Updated: July 10, 2022, 3:20 AM