This interview is with Mark Jarvis, the owner of Broadblue catamarans out of the UK. He gives insight into how Covid-19 as well as Brexit is affecting Broadblue, myth busts Broadblue’s connection to Prout, and tells us about their new 12 meter model.
For more information and to directly from the owner-builder, please go to their website, Broadblue.com.
Tell us about yourself and how you got involved in Broadblue.
My background is manufacturing. I’ve worked in aerospace, and the automotive industry. The last real job I had was running a division of a design consultancy designing cars particularly engines and transmissions for most of the world’s motor manufacturers.
I had a brief excursion into mobile telephone businesses in the UK, and then a friend of mine was operating a multi-held business here in Emsworth. He invited me to come along through that process. We got involved with the then owners of Broadblue. We became the UK agent for Broadblue, and helped them design the new Broadblue 385 in 2007 to 2008.
The owner at that time was struggling with his other business, his furniture business which was in the recession struggling to keep afloat. He sold Broadblue to a company who were basically business development. They ran Broadblue for about nine months, and then decided that with the recession they weren’t gonna make anything out of it, and so they put it on the market. At that point I bought it.
I actually bought it with the original founder, so he and I bought it together. We were both looking to see if there was anything that we wanted out of it, and rather than fight over it, we decided to buy it together.
Then he stayed with the business until about 2011 when he’s gone off to do other things, and I have a new business partner. He and I’ve been running it ever since.
How many catamarans a year are you building right now?
We build between five and ten a year. Each boat is built specifically for the client who we’re building for. We don’t build for stock as such, and the all of our boats as you’ve seen from the design really focused around owner-users. They’re not focused on the charter market. They are really tailored for each individual and for their long-term sailing needs.
So is 10 your max capacity or could you handle more if you had more orders to build more than 10 a year?
I think we could scale up to as anybody could. If we were building more than 10 then, I think it wouldn’t really fit the ethos of our products. I want to know each individual. I want to know what they want to get out of their boat, and I want to help them get the right things out of their boat.
So Covid-19 has affected every business in some way. How has it affected yours?
Well interesting in 2020, we sold twice as many boats as we did in 2019 with no boat shows, so tell me how that works?
It has affected us in terms of deliveries. I’ve been working on a boat this morning, or we’re overseeing some work on for a client who we should have delivered it to last summer. But for all sorts of reasons, we are yet to deliver it. We probably deliver it in the next two or three weeks. He’s fully aware of it. He knows exactly why, and he’s been completely comfortable, very helpful with it.
Just delays of things. Even things like foam delivery. You can’t make the upholstery if you haven’t got the foam, so lots and lots of small issues like that. But it does lead us to some delays.
So orders are up but having some delays in the production?
I’m hoping that the ones that we’ve got to build at the moment are going to go through a lot closer to delivery schedule. This particular one is taking all the brunt of the problems I hope.
Do you have any idea from your perspective if Brexit has affected your business at all?
It’s still too early to tell for us. Most of the orders that we’re working on are ones which we confirmed during 2020. I have got a couple of clients who are looking to order in the next two or three months. It’s too early to tell. I don’t think it’s going to have a lot of effect.
Are all of catamarans built in Poland and finished in the UK? And if so why do you choose that process for your production?
No they’re not all built in Poland. The three smaller ones: the 10 meter and the two 12 meters are built in Poland, but the 16 meter is built here in the UK.
The decision is really around the businesses that mold them for us, and the confidence that I have with the business in Poland. Broadblue was working with before I got involved, so they’ve been working for Broadblue since 2005. It is a separately owned company that we work there, and originally we only took a part of their production. But as we’ve got more busy and as they’ve tended to enjoy doing what we do, they focus more and more on us. Now we are the only people that they build for, but originally they built for others.
The other one is the company Multi Marine in Cornwall UK. They built the Rapier 550 for us, and that’s because it’s designed by a company who usually designs and builds racing boats (Editor’s Note: The company Mark is referring to is Dazcat). It’s a lot easier to slow down a racing boat with cruising equipment and still have a performance cruiser than it is to speed up a boat that’s designed to be much slower.
So they have the right mindset to building fast, light boats, and so that’s why we’re working with them.
Do you still have any ties to Prout?
So that’s an interesting question. It’s one that we have been asked many times. The reality is that Broadblue has never had any institutional relationship with Prout.
The confusion comes because although Broadblue was set up before Prout went bust (Editor’s Note: Prout was dissolved in 2002), and I was designing the Broadblue 42 before Prout went bust. I don’t think it was quite in production, but it was very near to production when Prout went bust.
Broadblue decided to hire a few members of the staff and with them they brought the opportunity to start building the smaller boat, the Prout 38. And so Broadblue built the Prout 38 essentially as a Broadblue 38 for awhile.
The 385 replaced the 38 and then none of the production continued.
So although there might appear to have been a link there actually wasn’t a link in the way that people think. I think if Prout was still in business today they would be our biggest competitor.
How does building a small cruising catamaran like the Broadblue compare to the large performance Rapier?
The smallest boat we build is the 346. That’s 10.2 meters long. That one is also designed by Darren Newton, the racing catamaran designer of the Rapier 550, because we wanted to build a small catamaran that still had good performance.
The test reports all are surprised how good the performance is so that that boat works very well for us, but it is at a market size which although it used to be a big catamaran these days it’s a very small category. Most a lot of people are looking for much bigger.
It’s a shame really because the small boats can get access to places where the bigger boats can’t go. The cost of operation is much lower. The cost to build them unfortunately isn’t much less, and that’s part of the problem with getting people into them I suspect because there isn’t an awful lot of price differential maybe 50,000 or 60,000 pounds.
You still have two engines. You still have sails. You still have the same size toilet. You’re still the same size electrical panel. People even with a smaller boat still want the same sort of facilities and features of the larger boat, so it’s a little bit cheaper. But it isn’t a lot cheaper as perhaps people would like.
But it does mean that you can get into places where you can’t get with the larger boats.
From your perspective if there was a couple that was looking to go cruising what would be your recommendation of the ideal size catamaran for them?
Well that’s a conversation obviously that we have a lot . My first question is what’s your sailing agenda. If you’re going to go around the world then something between 40 and 45 feet is a nice size.
If you’re just going to do Atlantic circuit something between 38 and 40. It’s nicely manageable. It’s plenty big enough to do the Atlantic circuit, but it’s still small enough to be able to handle and particularly if you’re a short-handed crew, you need to be able to think well how can I handle this boat when I’ve got the smallest number of people I’m going to have on board.
If the weather deteriorates and I’ve got a big mainsail to handle or I’ve got a big head sail to to put away then everything becomes harder. Everything becomes heavier. The smaller the boat you can do the job with the better. Now that may seem a bit strange from a boat seller to say buy a small one, but that is really the case because you’ll enjoy it more if you can handle it and be confident with it more.
If your sailing agenda is coastal around the Mediterranean into harbors exploring actually the 10 meter cat is a good size.
What’s your biggest sales challenge when you look at Broadblue compared to your competitors?
We don’t have a big marketing department, and we don’t have a lot of social media presence. Exposure. The people that we sell to tend to be people who’ve discovered us rather than people that we’ve promoted to.
Now I quite like it that way around because they’ve obviously done a bit of research. They understand what they’re buying, and so we can connect with them and get them exactly what they want.
But because we don’t do charter market. Because we don’t have a big marketing budget, I suspect there are people out there that don’t find us who perhaps could.
Do you know what percent of your new business is referrals from clients that you had sold to previously?
Te business that we work with closely here in the UK is the is Multihull World and almost all of the new boat sales are done either through Multihull World here in the UK and their clients upgrading or through our German agent, Cat Sail in Germany. Between those two, we find that we most of our clients.
Broadblues have a reputation of being quite tough, and that quite well suits the North European psyche. They’re designed to deal with the weather here in the the North Atlantic and even the small one is Category A. It’s tough. It’s designed to be able to withstand those sort of conditions, and the people buying in that area seem to appreciate those characteristics.
Give us some insight into the future. Where do you see Broadblue going in the next few years?
We have a new model coming along, a new 12 meter. We’ve got that out in the market, and we’re starting to get orders for that one. We’ve got a lot of pressure to build a smaller version of the Rapier 550. The 550 is quite an expensive boat. It’s much more a competitor with the Gunboat than it is with most other things.
Because of that and because of the price tag that leads us out of the reach of some people.. We’ve got a lot of people who really like the model, and the design but they’d like something around about 45 to 46 feet.
So once the 12 meter is settled that’s perhaps where we’ll look next.
Thank you so much for your time today. Before week close for those watching this video, what’s the best way for them to learn more about Broadblue to get in touch with you?
Through our website www.Broadblue.com. Pick up the phone or send me an email, and we’ll open a dialogue. It’ll probably be me that you’re talking to. Come and talk to me.