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Galeons on the starboard bow!

by John Curnow, Editor, 17 Jun 2019 14:00 PDT
Galeon Launch as part of the festivities at The Boat Works © John Curnow

Galeon had decloaked to announce their arrival in Australia only a few weeks before the 2019 Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show. Manufacturing 150 boats per annum, and doing very well in the United States thank you very much, Galeon was both keen to have a presence here, but also not in a rush. They had been looking for an Australian partner for four and half years actually, before selecting Todd Holzapfel, and Alexander Marine Australia.

Now I have no idea if Galeon’s MD, Grzegorz Tuszynski, is a Trekkie, but I can say that he was yet another of the industry’s global representatives to head South for Winter. “Yes it was a long search to find a proper partner. It is very important for us to find someone who can take care of our clients. To sell the boat is only 50% of the process. Later on, how you take care of the boats, the clients, and after sales service is the key to keeping clients, because it gives you a good reputation.”

“Todd has a perfection location in The Boat Works, which is a fantastic shipyard. I have been through the facility, and seen plans for the next stages. It is great already, but I think it could well be #1 in the world when it is all up and running. A fantastic place”, and clearly one that Galeon is proud to be associated with.

Around 50% of Galeon’s production goes into the USA, and can be purchased from around 35 different locations. Presently, they are number three in that market in the 40-70 foot sector, so is it possible that they can go to number one, do they have the capacity back in their two yards in Poland? “Yes, we have a chance. Ahead of us are Tiara and Cruiser, but we are very close in terms of numbers. I say chance, because the problem is not in the technology, ideas, methodology, or the actual production of craft, but in securing enough skilled labour. We have 1400 employees in the factory right now, but I should have 1600 as of today, at least.”

“This is probably what could limit us, for we are able to invest in new infrastructure, machinery, but we need hands at both the inland plant that builds vessels up to 50 feet, and also at the waterside operations where we make the larger craft. So we are looking for those right people for our jobs, and also our culture, all of the time.”

We saw the vessels out of the water at the launch party at The Boat Works, and they build stern drive, tunnel drive shaft, and also IPS craft, depending on size and model, with some being offered as either shaft or IPS variants! So how does this work? Are plugs inserted into the moulds? “Yes. The 460 Fly we are looking at here is available only in shaft drive, but the 500 Fly and 510 Sky Deck, next door, are available in either format. We actually have separate moulds for the two propulsion systems. It is a huge investment in the moulds, but if we do research into the market and establish the expectations, then we know that clients will want both, so it is justified.”

“The 500 has a good universal type of hull, and both types are suitable to it, so we know we can produce enough to make it worthwhile. Also, the 510 sports five-blade, slightly swept back screws, whereas the 460 has a far more regulation four blade set up. In terms of the tunnel drive application, it is not just to get the correct shaft angle, but each group from the naval architect, propulsion supplier, as well as us here at Galeon, all do their own calculations to match all the information and create the ultimate package.”

Galeon vessels are also identifiable for their inbuilt interceptors, or the ‘wedge’ on the trailing edge of the hull before it kicks back up into the transom. In a V-drive format such as these vessels, with the weight well aft, it is another way to ensure the balance is correct. “This is also part of our calculations. If we get the vessel to sit higher, without the use of trim tabs, then the boats plane without the use of tabs, and you only need to use them to help with listing due to load or wind.”

Like the transformer-esque folding out wings, or balconies, that the brand is so famous for, this is somewhat unique inside the production world. “We have a pretty big group of technicians in the production department. There are 15 people across many fields of endeavour, so we can assess the engineering aspects in-house for many of our ideas. All of our efforts geared towards production are also done in-house. This means we only need to source the components.”

“In terms of design, we have a close relationship with Tony Castro in England, and he does about 70% of the overall theme, and then we take care of the details with our own construction engineers and support team. Castro creates the running surface, and then the famous Southampton University does a lot of the testing of the models.”

Galeon’s innovation is well documented, and perhaps too their quality, which is all delivered at a respectable price point. “This is probably due to the fact that we can do all the production in-house, which helps to save costs. Otherwise, all the ideas might be too expensive, so that when you go to build the boats, you are above the price of your competition. We should always be close to our competition in this regard, and not go crazy with the cost structure per boat.”

More than 20 years ago now the company used to build a lot of boats for Beneteau. So what was the genesis for the company to go out and create the wing balconies, Sky Decks, and the myriad of other innovations that have seen them become so popular? “The founder, Wieczyslaw Kobylko, known as Janek (now retired), handed over to his son Jacek (48 years old) about seven years ago. He brought a lot of the ideas we now see inherent in our brand. He always said let’s try it, even if they ideas were too difficult or really crazy.”

“The other element was looking around the market, especially in Europe, and at our competition. All the boats are similar - similar sizes, similar looking, and so our Executive team spent a lot of time talking internally about what we can do to be different. Then it was time to make some decisions, and the beach mode we have on display here is one of our biggest innovations, which we launched about three and half years ago now. It has brought us a lot of success, I must say.”

Looking into the future, are we going to see some relatively ground breaking enhancements as the brand moves forward? “Yes you will. At the moment we are building our new Galeon 68 Fly. It is a more classical boat, there are some innovations, maybe not as much as our Galeon 640, which has been our best seller in 2018/19, and since January 2018 we have launched 20 of those. We appreciate that, as well as all the awards we have won.”

“Galeon 82 or 84, we have not confirmed exactly which as yet, is another leading light on our drawing boards, and this will have another set of new innovations and ideas to bring to market. We will do our best to create a whole new generation. We do feel a kind of pressure to keep up the innovation, and collectively they certainly do help to sell boats. We do have more and more expectations from our clients and partners, who always say ‘bring us more’.”

Indeed Galeon actually have clients in the USA that are back for their third vessel inside the three and half years that they have been available in that market. They might sell 75 a year now, but the first couple of years probably amounted to 30-40 in total, so it is a grand achievement by any measure.

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