Tell Tales: The Pink Gin Saga
26 November 2021
One of the many things that I have enjoyed very much during my years in the yachting business is the contacts with clients. The fact we had limited series and more flexibility built in than most of our competitors allowed for the clients to have their yachts to some degree custom made. This resulted in us having closer communications and contacts with our clients than most other yards. Later when our production turned into almost 100% custom projects this client-yard relationship became even closer and more intensive.
I have been asked a few times if there are some common factors among our clients and the only thing, I can come up with is that they are all successful but for the rest they are extremely individual. Their priorities when it comes to buying a yacht varies a lot. Some client’s priorities are on the aesthetics some on the performance. Some clients like to be involved in detailed technical calculations regarding performance etc. Other have their priorities on styling, cruising equipment etc.
They are all, as clients, highly individual and must therefore be handled very individually. They are the kind of people that cannot be treated as average mass public. There is no standard general way of marketing and taking care and handling our clientele, you can only have your antennas out, try to get a feeling on the clients needs and priorities and do your best to try and live up to the client’s expectations. In my book this is what makes our segment of the market extremely challenging but at the same time very interesting. Our clients, extreme individualists, are the most interesting type of people you can meet on this planet.
We still have contacts with some of the clients we built yachts for in the 1970:s and this is something we appreciate and cherish.
We have, through the years, also had a good number of clients that have come back to us for new projects. Some of our old clients have come back for several projects and that, to me, indicates that our team have done a good job.
THE PINK GIN SAGA
One that, to say the least, sticks out from the crowd is the Pink Gin story. I think it was sometimes around 1994-1995 that we were contacted by a potential central European client asking for some general information on our products. Information was sent but no immediate reaction.
Sometime later the communication was opened again, and it became clear that the client was seriously considering replacing his present yacht, a Scandinavian built 70 FT sailing yacht with something slightly larger. Based on the information received we did some preliminary drawings and concept.
After a while we were asked to visit the client for a discussion regarding a possible new project. At that time, he was in Porto Cervo, Sardinia with his present yacht and proposed that we would meet there.
Our German agent, Walter Meier-Kothe and I went for the meeting and at that time we really did not have a strong idea on what to expect. We met the client and his captain in the marina and immediately it was suggested that we would go sailing with his 70-footer. We sailed south and ended up anchoring in a nice bay, just outside of Hotel Romazzino.
We spent the day there, having a nice lunch, talking about the new project but also a lot about Baltic Yachts and our capabilities and our people.
Flying back from Sardinia Walter and myself felt that we had a fairly good idea of what the client was looking for, a good base for continuing the preliminary work on the project. I also remember that we had the feeling that the meeting was not only about discussing the project but to a great extent for the client to find out what kind of people we were and what Baltic Yachts was capable of.
Our “In-House Designers”, R&J Design with Roland Kasslin and Jan Wikar had done a tremendous job creating preliminary lines and layouts, plus a number of technical calculations for the project and were ready and eager to continue the work.
After the Porto Cervo meeting there was a lot of communications forth and back and toward the end of 1996, we had made drawings, specifications, pricing and contract proposal. At this time the issue of which Naval Architect to use was on the agenda. A number of alternatives was contacted and in the final end the client decided for judel/vrolijk, and Rolf Vrolijk became a major player in the project with a number on inputs on concept styling and of course performance.
At this point the size of the yacht was 92 Feet L.O.A. but as the project proceeded the size increased. The final contract signed was for a 97 FT, the largest project, for us, at that time and as such a challenge.
Like always, with custom projects, there is much communication between the owner, naval architect and miscellaneous subcontractors and equipment suppliers. The projects development is not completed upon signing the contract it lives during the whole production phase and sometimes even after delivery. For the first Baltic Yachts built Pink Gin many meetings and discussions took place. At one of the meetings at the yard the client asked a question: “Is there any of your production models that could be delivered for the next season? I have sold the old boat and would need an interim solution for next season.”
As it happened, we did have the possibility to offer a Baltic 40 (judel/vrolijk design) and the agreement was immediately made to deliver a B40 for the 1998 season.
The interim yacht, Baltic 40 (sister ship)
The production of the 97 took an effort from us, it was our largest project at the time, but thing proceeded well, everybody involved: the client, R&J Design with Jan Wikar and Roland Kasslin, Rolf Vrolijk, Walter Meir-Kothe, owner’s skipper, a large number of suppliers and our project manager Mikki Kasslin all worked together for the same goal. A unique team spirit resulting in a very fine yacht that made us all very proud.
The basic concept of Pink Gin was to build a traditional looking yacht but with a high-tech Epoxy sandwich, Carbon, Aramid construction. The emphasis was to make a fast comfortable long distance cruising yacht with a look of a traditionally built wooden yacht but with a performance comparable close to the modern racing yachts.
In April 1999 the yacht was launched, and trials took place. In May the same year we experienced a very fancy launching and christening party, arranged by the client. Several guests plus all Baltic Yachts personnel were invited.
97 FT Pink Gin launching in Jakobstad harbor
Test sailing in Jakobstad 1999
Pink Gin ready for the launching party
Needless to say, we were all very proud when the project was completed and delivered.
With this size and complexity of a project there are always things that needs to be corrected and adjusted during the first season. This worked very well in close cooperation and with mutual understanding from both sides. A good spirit between the yard and the clients team. Great experience and memories.
This project was the start of a very appreciated relationship and series of happenings and projects that would have great impact on Baltic Yachts activities for years to come.
This is only the start of the Pink Gin saga and is only the tip of the iceberg. More will follow.
There can be few yacht builders like PG Johansson, who can boast an unbroken career with the company he co-founded almost 50 years ago. In that time PG Johansson has witnessed every twist and turn of a colourful, exciting and technically pioneering industry accumulating a wealth of fascinating stories, some familiar, some still untold. In this blog PG will be recalling his experiences of the yachts he has built, the people he has met and some of the more unusual events on the journey to turning clients’ dreams into reality.
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