It’s summer, and to get away from the heat in Beijing, Nicely Made in China felt like dipping a toe in the sea. That’s how NMiC landed in Xiamen, Fujian province, to interview Ms Liu Hongyan, Red Dragon Yacht Building general manager, to discuss sails, carbon fiber rudders and the new Chinese consumers who are boosting the recreational marine economy.
Ms Liu, when was the company created?
The company was created in 2003 by Mr David Winter who had long experience in the marine industry working for Taiwanese shipyards. When he arrived in Xiamen in 2001 he was surprised to see no recreational boats at all. That’s why he decided to build a small sailing boat for the Chinese market. A few months later the D5.8 – a reference to the boat’s length – was born. He found a shipyard to build it and when that shipyard did not want to build it anymore, David decided to make it himself, creating Red Dragon Yacht Building. We are today what is called a contract builder or an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer). Clients from all over the world, like Scandinavian Cruisers, come to us with their design and we build the boats.
Can you tell us more about boat building?
We build power boats -for instance we make a 20 feet outboard family boat fitted with a 140 hp Suzuki- and sail boats like the D5.9. We make about 2 boats a week. We have 50 workers: carpenters and fabricators who specialize in stainless steel, aluminium as well as fiberglass. This level of expertise allows us to make most of the boat on-site except for the sails. We use Neil Pryde sails, and for the hardware we use Harken (an American brand) and Ronstan (from Australia). We have even designed our own hinges, exhaust pipes and cleats. For the decking we use Flexiteek‘s synthetic teak which contrary to real teak requires very little maintenance.
Can you tell us a little about the market for recreational boats these days?
Because of the financial crisis, the last two years have been very difficult and many shipyards have gone out of business. That did not happen to us, thanks largely to the new Chinese consumers. They are between 35 and 45 years of age, run their own businesses and are more and more interested in Western-style recreation. Up until now, they were buying small boats like our 20ft family boat but they are now coming back for bigger ones -we’re working on a 30 feet power boat-. Clients come from all over China and find us through word-of-mouth, or they see us at boat shows. To give you an idea of how the market has evolved, 3 years ago at the Shanghai boat show, 80% of the visitors were foreigners looking for Chinese boats to import to Europe and the US. Nowadays, 80% of the visitors are Chinese and buy for local clients.
You have told us that you have more and more Chinese clients. Do you still have foreign clients?
Yes, we still have clients from all over the world, like Scandinavian Cruisers. They come to us with their design and we build the boats. Our boats are CE-certified so we’ve sold boats to most European countries -10 I think- as well as India, the US and Australia.
How much does a small boat like the P5.9 cost? (see picture)
It retails for about 80,000 Rmb ( US$ 11,800 – 8,950 € – AU$ 12,900 – 7,425 £ -exchange rate on August 5th 2010)
How can NMiC readers buy your boats? Can you ship abroad?
People who are interested in buying a boat that they have seen on our website can call us -we speak English- or email us directly. As for shipping our boats abroad we do it regularly.
Tel: +86 592 251 86 58
Fax: +86 592 251 86 59