Guillaume Andrebe: Leading the cat charge in Asia
As Asia-Pacific Sales Director for two Groupe Beneteau catamaran builders, Andrebe oversees a dealer network seeking to maintain Lagoon as the region’s leading multihull brand, while he also works on raising the profile of the sporty, twin-helm Excess line.
Guillaume Andrebe, Asia-Pacific Sales Director, Lagoon and Excess
Guillaume, you’ve represented Lagoon and Excess from Groupe Beneteau’s Asia-Pacific headquarters in Hong Kong since January 2019. How important is the city for Lagoon?
It’s a very important market for us. Hong Kong has been the Asia-Pacific home of Groupe Beneteau since 2016 and it has been a steady market for Lagoon for a long time.
With Simpson Marine as our dealer (in Hong Kong and other markets), we’ve been selling boats to Cathay Pacific pilots, expats and increasingly to locals enjoying the boating lifestyle. Some Lagoon owners even live on their boats, in Sai Kung, Aberdeen and so on. Hong Kong is an amazing playground, as you have lots of islands to go to on the weekend with your family and friends. What’s better than a Lagoon catamaran for that.
You’ve visited Japan, Philippines, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, Korea and Singapore in recent months, so which are the leading Asia-Pacific markets for Lagoon?
Currently, it’s Australia, although it often changes from year to year. Japan is strong and one of the oldest markets for us in Asia. Tetsuo Sekiguchi from First Marine is a long-time distributor of Beneteau and Lagoon, and is a legend of the industry and for Groupe Beneteau. Over the years, he has created an amazing Lagoon community there.
The Philippines is also a huge market. Europa Yachts is our dealer there and we have a group of clients who are successful businessmen and pretty much all friends. They’ve been purchasing our biggest units for years now and upgrading regularly, so it’s actually a very big market for us.
Where else has Lagoon been strong in Asia?
Malaysia and Sanya in China have also been amazing places for business for us. I think Simon Theseira of Simpson Marine Malaysia even set a record one year, where he was the best Lagoon 620 salesman in the world.
There was similar demand in Sanya. If you still go to the marinas in Sanya, you have 620s lined up in marinas. Sanya slowed down a bit, mostly for political reasons, but is starting again now that Hainan is a Free Trade Port. It’s still a bit quiet in Malaysia, although Simpson Marine is still busy and we’ve been delivering Lagoons there regularly.
How do you view Lagoon’s presence in Singapore, which hosted the Southeast Asia debut of the Lagoon 55 (Review, Issue 59) at this year’s Singapore Yachting Festival, following the model’s Asia premiere in Hong Kong late last year?
It has been growing for the last five years. Before, the interest in catamarans wasn’t so big, mostly a matter of berthing, but people are realising that having a catamaran is great for going to the islands at weekends or using when you go on holiday to Indonesia or Thailand, for example.
Lagoon Sixty 7 (right) beside a 55 at the 2023 Singapore Yachting Festival
As well as the new 55, there’s a recent Sixty 7 powercat that was previously owned by a client in the Middle East, who realised he preferred sailing. So, he sold the Sixty 7 to a client in Singapore and bought a 55.
Simpson Marine resumed the Lagoon Escapade Thailand last October. How important is this event and what feedback do you get from Lagoon owners in the country?
Apart from the boat shows, these are probably the most important events for us because we’re trying to build this community around the brand. The Escapades work well. People travel all around the world with their Lagoons and when they meet another Lagoon owner, they’re happy to talk to them and share their stories and experience. They’re also very active online, exchanging tips on how to fix or repair something.
This is what we wanted to create, a community around the brand, and because owners renew their boats every few years, we want them to stay with us because they feel happy with us and part of a family. So, these events are important for this. During Escapades, we get to go sailing with them, share good times, share stories about the brand, and create a community.
Andrebe (back row) at Lagoon Escapade Thailand last October; Photo: Simpson Marine
When you talk to owners, is there anything that surprises you?
Yeah, always – they’re so proud. The pride of owning a Lagoon, you can really see it in their eyes. And they like to tell you where they’ve been and tell you the good times, the bad moments as well, when they were caught in a storm, how and what they did, and so on.
They’re proud of the memories they make on their boats. When I join the Escapades, I spend hours listening to their stories. They’re very active users.
What’s next for Lagoon Escapades in Asia?
The Lagoon Escapade Philippines was scheduled to be held in late May and was set to have the full current range of models represented, from the 42 to the Seventy 8 powercat. However, we’ve had to postpone this due to the weather, so it should be held later this year.
Lagoon Escapade Thailand 2022; Photo: Simpson Marine
The next Lagoon Escapade in Thailand is from November 3-5 and we’re also planning the first Escapade in Japan next year because we have so many Lagoons there. We’re also looking to host events in Hong Kong and Sanya.
How successful has the Lagoon 51 (Review, Issue 67) been in launching the brand’s new emphasis on sustainability?
We felt having solar panels was not enough anymore. It’s not enough to put solar panels everywhere on the boat and call yourself sustainable. We want to go further than this. So, we started from the very beginning of the process from where we get our raw materials, so now we only source wood from forests certified by FSC (Forest Stewardship Council).
We source natural resin for use in the construction, which is another big step in the right direction. We offer recycled fabrics for all the upholstery. We even use natural fibres, so some structural parts of the boats are made of hemp fibre. Our R&D department is actively working into increasing the percentage of sustainable materials and we’re going to take more steps with future models.
Launched in 2022, the Lagoon 51 introduced the brand’s new sustainability focus
Groupe Beneteau is working with Torqeedo (click for article) and Vision Marine on electric propulsion. This is one of the main axis of the R&D department, but we don’t want to rush things. Lagoon was the first catamaran builder to put electric engines on a catamaran, in 2006, but the solution wasn’t great at the time, so we stopped.
Now, we want to take our time to find something that will bring enough power and autonomy to be safe. Also, something affordable because today this is a six-figure option, with competitors selling this for between €150,000 and €300,000, which is too much.
Even though it’s an expensive option, are people enquiring about hybrid or electric propulsion and energy?
Everybody is, but we tell them about the current performance of the systems, the price and the fact that it’s still very new technology. It’s going to be tough to find someone in a local marina willing to repair any such system because most are not trained for it, so clients quickly come back to choosing diesel engines. There are amazing initiatives happening, but we need to wait until these are workable and proven on a production scale.
Andrebe on a Lagoon 55 at this year’s Singapore Yachting Festival
Since Excess was introduced in 2019, where in Asia-Pacific has the brand proven popular?
French Polynesia is number one, ahead of Japan, Australia and New Zealand. We have a dealer, Sail Tahiti, that has found the perfect recipe. We never sold a new Lagoon to a private owner there, although we have sold to charter companies. But when David Allouch from Sail Tahiti arrived, he offered Excess models to anyone willing to keep them in French Polynesia.
Owners use it when they come and for the rest of the year, Sail Tahiti manages, charters and maintains it until the owners are back. And it works. We’ve sold at least 10 Excess catamarans in French Polynesia. For his first Excess 11, David took it from the shipyard in Les Sables-d’Olonne (on France’s west coast) and sailed it himself for three months to Tahiti.
What’s needed to increase the popularity of Excess in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, where Lagoon has been the leading catamaran brand for so long?
Groupe Beneteau created Excess because they realised the catamaran market was segmented into performance cats, like Outremer, HH and so on, and cruisers like Lagoon, but there was really nothing in the middle.
At a lot of boat shows, they heard on the pontoons that a lot of people weren’t willing to transition from a monohull to a catamaran because they didn’t want to give up on the sensations of sailing. So, they created Excess, which sits in the middle between performance and cruisers. You still have the comfort and the volume, but you also have a boat that sails well.
What do owners coming from monohulls want? They want helm stations at the back because they want to be right next to the water, have good vision of the sails and be directly connected to the rudders, so they can feel the water on their hands when they’re helming. This is what Excess offers.
There’s no flybridge on Excess, which makes the boat sportier looking, gives owners great access to the boom and the sails, and makes the boat lighter.
The Excess 11 is the brand’s popular entry model
Excess is not a performance cat, but it’s a bit faster than Lagoon and lighter, so will take off more easily in light winds. In five knots, you can start sailing. Owners then have everything they want. The family’s happy, they finally sail flat, everybody has their own room and privacy, as well as volume and comfort.
This is why we never have clients considering one or the other because the helm stations at the back and no flybridge is a ‘no’ for some people or appealing to others. In fact, we compared the data of people visiting Lagoon and Excess stands during boat shows, and only 10 per cent of people visited both, which means we have two different target audiences. Excess cats are very much for monohull sailors looking for similar sensations.
After the Excess 12 and 15 featured bridge decks and inner hulls from the Lagoon 40 and 52, the 11 and then 14 were all-new. Why is the brand’s management most excited about the Excess 14 (Review, Issue 68)?
I think we finally found our DNA. We’ve been looking for the Excess identity since 2019. The 12 and 15 were a good introduction, but not different enough from existing cats. With the 11, we started to feel something from the market. We’ve now sold over 250 units already, with a well-specced model costing about €400,000.
The new Excess 14 has helped the brand distinguish itself
Now, with the Excess 14 (click for Review), we went a step further in finding that DNA. It’s a sporty looking boat with those slightly aggressive lines. It’s innovative, very clever but simple, because sailors like simple boats that are easy to sail and maintain. We have an amazing naval architect, Herve Piveteau, who came up with all this, with the help of VPLP (Marc Van Peteghem and Vincent Lauriot Prévost).
The Excess 14 is already a big commercial success and we’re sold out until the end of 2024. And from 2025, Excess is going to be able to build 250 boats a year, which will put it on the podium with the biggest catamaranbrands.