Flagstaff Marine was created in 2014 in conjunction with Vicsail Sydney. While the brand is known for their association with Beneteau, they are also the agents for Amel Yachts, CNB Yachts and Sly Yachts. We spoke to Graham Raspass about Flagstaff Marine, Vicsail and Beneteau.
What established Beneteau in the Australian Market?
22 years ago, Brendan and Jo Hunt (current owners of Vicsail) began selling Beneteaus in NSW. My business partner, Micah Lane joined them 11 years ago. Beneteau yachts were the first European boat to be imported into Australia in large numbers. To date, over 1000 have be sold in Australia.
What was behind the establishment of Flagstaff Marine and what are your plans for the company?
Flagstaff marine is the new company created to represent the Beneteau sail range of Oceanis, Sense and First and that business has been combined with the brokerage, Vicsail Sydney, and are now run as joint operations by myself and Micah Lane, my business partner. In late 2015 we were also appointed NSW agents for the Beneteau inboard power range of boats comprising Gran Turismo, Swift Trawler and Antares.
Our focus right now is on Beneteau sail and inboard power and we’re looking forward to having our biggest ever display
at this year’s Sydney International Boat Show. We’ll have nine boats, which will include the Australian launch of the Oceanis 41.1 plus the first ever Oceanis 60 displayed together with Oceanis 35, 38, 48 and Sense 50 and in the inboard power we will have the Australian launch of the Gran Turismo 40 and the Swift Trawler 30 plus we will also have a Swift Trawler 44 in our line-up.
How does the Australian market compare to overseas for Beneteau?
Essentially, we in Australia have an all-year round sailing season, whereas Europeans really only sail for six months of the year.
The US market has more similarities to Australia than the European market.
Is there such a thing as a typical Beneteau owner or is there one characteristic they have in common?
With such a wide range of boats on offer, we have a very wide appeal and therefore a diverse client base. All of our boats, both sail and power, appeal to buyers who are attracted to a European style and flair, performance, comfort, quality manufacturing processes and value for money. Beneteau has always been a leader in the industry and innovation is at the core of Beneteau’s DNA or, to use a French saying, raison d’etre.
There is one standout characteristic though: once a Beneteau owner, always a Beneteau owner! That’s because Beneteau owners love the experiences. Their boats give them so much that there are a large number of owners who are on their third or fourth Beneteau boat.
As the cruisers become better passage makers, is there less of a distinction between the cruising and racing models?
The Oceanis range has evolved into both a cruiser and a performance yacht, delivering a yacht that is equally at home at anchor in a quite cove as it is racing around-the-cans on a Wednesday or Saturday afternoon. Gianguido Girroti, the recently appointed marketing director for Beneteau sailing boats, is leading the development of our sailing boats and working closely with the designers to deliver performance, seaworthiness, comfort and innovation across the entire range and we are very excited about the ideas and vison he has for the future.
Is Flagstaff Marine interested in a multihull range?
Currently, we are only focused on monohulls. If we came across an opportunity to represent an innovative, progressive and quality brand of catamarans we would definitely consider it, but we are not looking to add a brand of catamarans just to round off our offering.
Now that you have been with the brand for a year, how is the percentage break up between brand loyalty and new customers?
This is a very interesting question because both are equally important. Among existing Beneteau owners we have an incredibly strong loyalty and this leads to repeat business, but equally so we are actively pursuing and engaging with new customers either new to the Beneteau brand or new to yachting/boating. Currently our sales are approximately 50/50 between previous Beneteau owners and new to Beneteau/yachting.
What exciting things can we expect to see in 2016?
New models in both sail and power.
In the power range we have the Gran Turismo 40 and 46 as well as the Swift Trawler 30. The Gran Turismo range has the unique Air Step technology normally only found in high performance race boats for improved ride comfort, performance and economy. The new Swift Trawler 30 brings together all of the classic elements of a trawler boat such as seaworthiness, range and long distance cruising comfort, in a more contemporary style.
In sailing we’ll be launching the Oceanis 41.1 and Oceanis 60. The latest innovations in the Oceanis range include the mast being moved aft for a more balanced and stable sail plan, and an arch to take the main sheet off the cockpit or cabin top.