Monte Carlo Yachts is 10 years young this year, celebrating its rapid road to success as a young luxury yacht builder grown out of one of the world’s top players in the marine industry, Beneteau Group. Founded during the shadow period after the global financial crisis of 2008, Monte Carlo Yachts has weathered the storm to successfully launch six highly acclaimed yacht models throughout the past decade.

Despite belonging to a French parent company, Monte Carlo Yachts retains its Italian identity through and through, as developed under the wing of managing director Fabrizio Iarrera. Its shipyard and builders are based in Monfalcone in northern Italy, and a sensitivity to quality and finishing paired with Italian elegance is evident in each vessel design.

As Monte Carlo Yachts celebrates its 10th anniversary, it’s also gaining momentum with three new model releases announced this year — breaking its previous pattern (and the builder’s norm) of releasing one boat every year or two. One has to wonder simply how they manage it all, and what the secret is to the brand’s rapid road to success in ten short years. While lounging onboard the MCY 86 during Monte Carlo Yachts’ recent team visit to Hong Kong to celebrate the milestone in Asia, we chatted with Iarrera to learn more.

When did you first experience the boating lifestyle?

My family came from a region in Italy where the seaside is very important. Some of my relatives were actually already in the market as professionals. So from time to time, during my youth I was in contact with the yachting market, but just as something extremely nice that you see from the outside. The first time I stepped onto a yacht was really the day after I entered the marine market. Now in the last 20 years, I see it from the inside and I’m very happy — it’s great when your work corresponds to your passion.

Monte Carlo Yachts
The MCY 86 at sea.
You're here to celebrate the 10th anniversary, what does that mean for you, and the brand as a whole?

The mistake is that it’s not 10 years, it’s 30 — because I’ve been working here seven days, 24 hours, 365 days… I’m just joking. But sometimes we feel like the company is more mature than 10 years because we’ve really dedicated our lives and passions and families. It’s a comfort for the next 10 years to come.

Monte Carlo Yachts grew in just 10 years, out of the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis, to become a key player in the luxury yacht world today -- what was the major driving force to this success?

Such a crucial moment in everybody’s life. Unfortunately some of our colleagues on the market were striving to keep their organisations alive. On the other hand, we were developing a very steep, positive growing curve. One very important ingredient was certainly the impact of the Beneteau Group. It was, is, the strongest company today in the market, but in that specific moment, they were very solid, very visionary, very innovative in their approach. It was the key factor in order to challenge the global crisis and transform it into a great opportunity for the company.

The company has always been very positive in terms of innovation, and in valuing change. If you have to develop your products for the future and you are doing that in a moment in which the world is changing so dramatically, so rapidly, then you have the chance to try and forecast what the future is going to be in terms of taste, in terms of lifestyle, in terms of product. The idea was to try and imagine with our designers and with our investor, Beneteau Group, what would be the future for the boating life — a future classic.

Monte Carlo Yachts
Olivier Besson, CEO of Asia Yachting; Fabrizio Iarrera, managing director of MCY; Dan Lenard, co-founder of Nuvolari Lenard; Franklin Heng, Chairman of Asia Yachting.
Despite the opportunity of a clean slate, it also sounds like a major challenge to convince the market to trust in yachts, at a time when people might tend to be more conservative with their finances. Yachting is a luxury lifestyle after all.

Lucky for us, we’re working in a market that really belongs to human beings. We [as humans] have been at sea now for thousands of years. So the spirit of finding your passion, your pleasure, your relaxation, your return to the roots of the human being at sea — the sea is always in our DNA. So even when the market shrank significantly, the challenge for us in that moment was to try and understand what the market could have been asking for in a period of crisis. And we said: no showing off, no exaggeration, no weird designs — only attention to pleasure and comfort at sea. We felt that in the middle of a crisis when you would be on your boat, it’s not meant for showing off but for you to enjoy with your family and friends and to recreate the lifestyle you love on your yacht.

Comfort is very subjective. How does MCY view and recreate this for their clients?

When we talk about a “new” classic, a future classic, we look back at the roots of boating. The hull design of Monte Carlo Yachts is a very classical design, inspired by the design direction of creating comfort. Things like low vertical acceleration, enhanced stability — values which are not to express an idea of speed or aggressiveness, but to create as much as possible comfort on board. The exterior design that we developed with Nuvolari Lenard is proof of that.

Monte Carlo Yachts
The sleek curves of the MCY 86 combine seaworthiness and elegance.

If you’re offering comfort at sea, there’s no defined way to do that. You meet customers all around the world and they will perceive ‘his’ own way to live in these main deck saloons, according to his culture, to his lifestyle, or to the place where he lives. So the position that we decided to have 10 years ago has been to be as humble as possible: The customer is going to be right. We are going to serve our customers in order to create the nicest environment for him to have pleasure on his yacht. The quality of the designer and the builder is in trying to be as receptive as possible in transforming the idea into a design proposal.

Are there designs that a client might want that's inspired by something on land that wouldn't work on a yacht?

In some cases that is our life — we meet the customer who has been designing his houses himself, or we meet with his architect. A yacht is a different subject. If I may say, a yacht is a higher level of sophistication in terms of detailing. As it happens, imagine this main deck saloon on the MCY 86: This is a very luxurious yacht. At the same time, it’s smaller than certainly the houses where the customer lives with his family. If we take the skin of his furniture away, you would be amazed at how many systems we are designing and building around the saloon — you have air conditioning, you have all the navigational systems, you have the structure of the yacht: This is a house that may be dancing out at sea through big waves. The environment is not giving you perfectly balanced shapes like in a house.

All of those elements have to be taken into consideration when designing how to integrate the pillars of the deck house and so forth. But as I said, we always try to be as humble as possible in the approach. Harmony comes from joining ideas with consistency and without neglecting the importance of engineering or design — they have to be merged together.

Fabrizio Iarrera with Dan Lenard, co-founder of yacht design brand Nuvolari Lenard.
Have you felt increasing pressure from Beneteau Group to perform as MCY grows?

I would say the other way around. The importance of us entering into the Beneteau group from day one was that if you enter into a market which is not historically yours, you need to bring in competencies from outside to make your company stronger. So frankly speaking, 10 years ago, this type of product could have been built into Beneteau plans, by Beneteau workers. But the clear vision was that we wanted to become player number one in a [new] market. In order to direct, [Beneteau Group] didn’t want to do that in-house. We wanted to bring in “Made in Italy” values, “Made in Italy” designers, managers, workers and suppliers, to make our company stronger. So while we are running in the same direction together, there has been a great sense of empowerment and responsibility given to Monte Carlo Yachts in order to develop this market for Beneteau Group.

Monte Carlo Yachts
Fabrizio Iarrera makes a toast.
What quality has helped Monte Carlo Yachts stay unique?

Our major difference is that we build custom yachts at sizes where most of the markets deliver catalogue boats — boats which are designed by the builder. We wanted to develop boats which are designed by the builder together with the customer — which is typical of the Italian market in sizes much bigger than this one.

It’s important for us to consistently develop our different business model: We operate much closer to the megayacht market — yachts from 50 meters (164’) and more — where it’s normal for the builder to build one yacht in that range every year or two. From day one we wanted to make sure that even the entry level of Monte Carlo Yachts — what was in the past the 65’ (today replaced by the new 66’) — was ready to be designed as a custom yacht.

In order to be successful, we must meet the customer and the deal is that it’s his 65; his 86; his 105, and not what the catalogue says. It has been a key factor for success for us, and we are developing this better while the company grows bigger.

I hear that this year you're planning to release three different yachts?

Absolutely, it’s a big challenge. Until today we’ve been releasing more or less one yacht every year. 2019 is a very important year for us: It’s not only because we celebrate our 10 year’s anniversary, but because we’ve increased the speed in terms of investment, in terms of strength in the market, and through what we call the “new vision” of the MCY experience.

We are investing a lot of energy and time in order to make sure that we bring on the market the new 66’ which is already in the plant these days; the new 70’, which has been presented at the Dusseldorf Boat Show in January; and a new 76’, which is going to be presented on the market at the beginning of July. It’s impressive in terms of speed, in terms of strength, and it’s very positive because customers who had the 65’ in the past are now buying our new 70’ or our new 76’, showing us that the investment we did in the past has been in the right direction, and is returning also in sales, for new models.

Monte Carlo Yachts
Celebrating the 10th anniversary evening with a parade, featuring MCY 70, MCY 76, MCY 80, MCY 86 and MCY 105.
How would you describe MCY’s “Made in Italy” versus another yacht builder’s Italian aesthetic?

We wanted to make sure that we are offering a classic product. A yacht designed for real marine values. A hull made to cross the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean or Atlantic Ocean, because we wanted our market to be as global as possible from day one. We wanted to make sure that fits the cruising, creating comfort and seaworthiness whether you’re in Brazil or if you’re in Asia.

In some cases, that, compared to any “made in Italy” product, is different. I still remember the Beneteau family meeting me and [former MCY president] Carla Demaria and telling us: “please remember we are going to build a yacht.” In some cases, what we see in the market are maybe too close to car designs, but these are not cars. These are not sleek bullets and aggressive. You will enjoy driving a Lamborghini but you will not sleep with your family for a week in a Lamborghini. I’m not criticising any competitor, I’m just presenting what Monte Carlo Yachts wants to be. So when it comes to “Made in Italy,” we are very different, but in the sense that we wanted to return to real values of the marine product.

Monte Carlo Yachts
The celebration for the 10th anniversary was held at Hexa, with views over the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront.
So if you had to pinpoint one ingredient for success, it would be the attention paid to the customer’s wishes?

We hope that this is what customers perceive here. As a matter of fact, when a customer comes onboard a Monte Carlo Yacht in his boating life, it’s often his first Monte Carlo yacht, because we are just 10 years in the market, so we are not meeting customers who have been with us since 30 or so years ago. But the good thing is that many of the Monte Carlo Yacht customers remain in our family. We have many around the world today that have their third Monte Carlo Yacht. In our life of only 10 years, it’s a very positive statement from our market that the direction is correct. We see a lot of potential, while making sure that we take care of each and every family, so that we continue [to work with them] in their boating life through generations.

Evelyn Lok
Managing Editor
When not trying out the latest beauty and wellness trends, Evelyn is likely enjoying a perfectly balanced negroni or exploring some of Hong Kong's best new places to eat and drink. At Lifestyle Asia she covers everything from the biggest events in town to interviews with Hong Kong specialists, with topics spanning art, food and drink, health, tech, and travel.