Leonardo Ferragamo Driving Growth in ClubSwan, Maxi Swan Ranges
Over two decades after buying Nautor’s Swan, Leonardo Ferragamo is still the man behind the wheel of the ‘Rolls-Royces of sailing yachts’.
Why did you create a one-design division within Nautor’s Swan?
We have always believed that, alongside handicap racing, there should always be a focus on real-time racing and more specifically one-design.
We all know how much fun one-design racing is, how much more rational and cost effective it is, both for the management of the racing programme and the original investment in the yacht, which better maintains its value over the years. This type of racing is also a better reflection of the ability of the crew.
We always thought Nautor’s Swan should take an important role in the promotion of one-design yachts and it happened first with the Swan 45, followed by ClubSwan 42.
In 2016, with the celebration of Swan’s 50th anniversary, we wanted to look forward while being inspired by our history and heritage. We designed a new yacht that observed the coherent lines of a typical Swan, treasured our DNA, and boosted innovation, reliability and performance in a very advanced way.
That’s how ClubSwan 50 was born, from the pen of Juan Kouyoumdjian. The ClubSwan 50 had to be a one-design and it was meant to write a new page in racing history. We strengthened the rules by making it owner driven, lowering the number of professionals to make it more balanced, and limiting the number of sails and costs, all to enhance the stylish spirit of gentlemanly racing.
In 2017, we launched The Nations Trophy, a biennial event where all the Swan one-design classes can gather together from different areas, bringing back competition between nations to the world of sailing. Every year, we organise The Nations League, which is currently happening in the Mediterranean, North Europe and hopefully soon in Asia-Pacific and the US.
Together with the annual Swan One Design Worlds and the biennial Rolex Swan Cup, we are determined to provide Swan owners the best and most credible racing programme to enjoy the sport of sailing onboard their yachts.
What led to the new ClubSwan 36, which was launched last year and has sold at least 15 units?
Having implemented the three existing classes, we introduced the ClubSwan 36 with a quite extreme design – technologically advanced and foil assisted. I had high expectations for it from the very beginning. I think people need to try the boat to see how exciting it is. I think it will get a lot of exposure this year.
It’s now over two decades since ClubSwan was founded in 1999. Has it evolved as you wanted?
Yes, but I still want a lot more. We started with the Swan 45, but when we launched the ClubSwan 50 we really added a lot more energy and a real vision for the future. All this gave us a lot of ammunition to really set it up, not only with a league for the boats but also with The Nations Trophy.
I still think there’s a lot of space to grow, not only for us. I think anyone who focuses on one-design racing is going to help the yachting industry a lot because it’s more fun and more rational. I love handicap racing as well, don’t get me wrong, but I believe that one-design can bring a new generation to sailing because they can race against each other in real time and have a clearer objective.
How does Nautor’s Swan organise all these one-design classes and regattas?
We have a dedicated race office managing the events and classes, with a highly-qualified team headed by Enrico Chieffi (Vice-President, Nautor’s Swan). We recently started a cooperation with Federico Michetti (Head of Swan One Design Sport Activities), a very well-known sailor with a lot of experience in one-design, heading the planning and activities. We created a team to make sure all the boats and sails satisfy our criteria and maintain the credibility of one-design.
How do you manage the balance of Corinthian sailors and professionals?
We are committed to keeping a friendly, gentlemanly-like competitive spirit. We know the people that appreciate and own Swans and we want to put them first, so the owners steer the boats and we allow a limited number of professionals on board.
Can Swan’s one-design racing calendar evolve outside the Mediterranean, especially in Asia?
Yes, this is my vision. For now, I would like to see some events or legs or part of the league be held in Asia. We have already held a number of events in North America. We are working on it. It’s something we’d like to develop with an investor who could buy even as few as five or six ClubSwan 36s, for example, to set up a regional league and we could expand it from there.
The 21st Rolex Swan Cup is scheduled to be held at Porto Cervo in September, 40 years since the event’s founding in 1980. Can you talk about your personal feelings about this event, especially as someone who regularly competes in it?
I will be racing on my ClubSwan 50 (Cuordileone) and my kids will be racing a ClubSwan 36. Both boats will be competing in the Nations League and the Rolex Swan Cup. The Rolex Swan Cup is an amazing event, a point of reference in the series, with great participation across all the categories. We expect about 130 yachts representing 25 countries.
It’s great fun. There will be exciting racing once again and we love to enrich the competitive edge by boosting the lifestyle elements, the amazing line-up of sailors and VIPs, the beautiful surroundings. All of these factors make the event so spectacular.
It’s a beautiful time of year and the event follows the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, so both events benefit from the great location in Porto Cervo and the great weather at this time of year. It’s very exciting.
Each year, which regattas do you race in and how do you arrange your personal racing calendar?
It’s very easy. I usually compete in about five races – four in the Nations League as well as either the Rolex Swan Cup or The Nations Trophy, depending on the year. This year, the league will include the first standalone Swan One Design Worlds, which is scheduled to be held in October in Scarlino, a lovely area in Tuscany.
You’re a very experienced sailor who has raced most of his life, but are there any particular events you are desperate to win?
Yes, I’ve never won the Rolex Swan Cup, so this year I’ll try to make it happen.
What inspired you to focus on creating such a family feeling among Swan owners?
I think it was because of my experience working at Ferragamo, the culture and understanding of what the brand needs to be about.
Swan had all the potential, as it already had an amazing tradition, and the yachts were renowned for their quality and reliability. So, to build the brand, we just needed to develop customer care and interaction, creating great dialogue and relationships with the customers, and offering them more services and privileges.
ClubSwan was intended as a club and also a league of events to enhance the opportunities for customers and also the pride they feel in being an owner of a Swan. This is what we have tried to build all these years.
It’s a big year for new models from Swan. Firstly, can you talk about the upcoming Swan 58, which sits at the heart of a very modern Swan Yachts range – 48 (2019), 54 (2016), 58 (2020), 65 (2019) and 78 (2018)?
Firstly, I want to emphasise the distinction between the two lines: Swan Yachts, which are performance-cruisers, as opposed to ClubSwan, which is focused on racing.
People have always been able to recognise Swan Yachts at a distance. The designs basically keep improving season after season, and the 58 is not an exception. The 58 is very fast and has incredible volume for its size. It’s an ideal balance of performance, elegance, comfort and reliability, following on from the 78 and 65 launched in the last two years. It’s a dream boat.
The Swan 98 is scheduled to debut at this year’s Monaco Yacht Show, with three units already sold. What should people look out for?
The launch of a Maxi Swan yacht is always one of the things I love most in this business. The Swan 98 is one of the latest evolutions of our Maxi Swan yachts. All the details and the quality are second to none. It’s going to be a very exciting boat. Together with the Swan 98, we have the Swan 120 under construction, which will be launched in early summer 2021.
Can you also tell us about the ClubSwan 125, a racing yacht designed to beat world records?
The ClubSwan concept is evolving step by step. The ClubSwan 125 is certainly more aggressive. It will be a speed machine with some accommodation.
It’s a very exciting design. It’s taking all of Swan’s know-how to the maximum level and optimising all our knowledge of design and technology, with the best-possible construction technique, materials and equipment, using elements from America’s Cup designs.
German Frers, who turns 79 on July 4, has been designing for Swan since 1981. Can you explain what makes him such a special designer and why he has been working so closely with Swan for so long?
Before buying the company (in 1998), I first needed to ensure that German would continue working with Swan. I respected him then but even more so now.
He’s the designer who best combines performance with elegance. He’s an elegant person himself. He fully understands the company’s heritage and the identity that Swan has always had, provides great continuity with the designs, and ensures that the yachts keep improving.
Considering Swan has built more than 2,000 yachts since 1966, it’s remarkable that Frers is one of only four designers to have designed production sailing yachts for Swan, starting with Sparkman & Stephens in 1966, then also Ron Holland in the 1970s and more recently Juan Kouyoumdjian on the new ClubSwan models (36, 50, 125). Why was Juan K selected for the current ClubSwan range?
We did a contest with a number of the best yacht designers and naval architects from around the globe. We were first looking for designs for the ClubSwan 50, so we wanted designs that respected our heritage but that would be faster. We came to know Juan and we think he’s among the best designers of performance-oriented yachts.
Finally, how did you feel last year when Nautor’s Swan completed the newly expanded Boat Technology Centre in Pietarsaari?
It was a long process and we needed huge investment to combine the three production sites into one facility. We started thinking about this long ago and had to wait for the right time. Now, the manufacturing is even more efficient and coordinated than before, and internal communication between departments onsite has also improved. It’s really a state-of-the-art facility and allows us to keep building the world’s best sailing yachts.
- The original article appears in Yacht Style Issue 53 (click image below)
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