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Elan Yachts return to their roots: We speak to Marko Škrbin, Director of the Marine Division

by Mark Jardine 27 Sep 2018 04:00 PDT

At Southampton Boat Show we spoke to Marko Škrbin, Director of the Marine Division at Elan Yachts. Their E3, E4 and E5 yachts take Elan back to their roots, where they had such a strong reputation in the performance cruiser racer market with iconic designs such as the Elan 333 which would race, and win.

The E3, E4 and E5 are performance cruiser racers. They have the space, styling, oak trim, and the look of a super-stylish cruiser, using minimalist, clean lines to keep a sense of space on board. At the same time, they have all the performance features. The look and lines are of a racing boat that has the comfort of a cruiser.

Mark Jardine: Marko, at what point did Elan decide to look back at their original heritage and produce this line, while keeping all the modern features on board?

Marko Škrbin: It all originates from summer 2017 when we decided to rethink our strategy. We wanted to be more targeted about our customers, and between June 2017 and January 2018 we did a comprehensive analysis of who are our customers and what do they want. We have now made all the changes in terms of visuals, communications and product changes, to reflect this new strategy.

Mark: With a modern performance cruiser racer, it's not a case of having a racing yacht and tacking on the cruising element, and you can't have a cruising yacht and tack on the racing element. You must have both parts performing, or you're not creating the perfect product. How did you go about getting the balance right?

Marko: I would say that most of it originates from Rob Humphreys' design; he had numerous successes designing some of the best sportsboats on the planet. I always like to use his words when describing Elan in the past, and now today – his concept is the 60/60 rule. So basically getting 60% of the performance boat and 60% of the cruiser boat. The main thing is that all the features you see on these boats, such as twin rudders, unlike some of the other manufacturers where it's purely aesthetic, or based on a fashion trend, with Rob Humphreys' design I can assure you that each design feature really has meaning.

Mark: Having raced a number of Humphreys' boats in my time I know exactly what you mean, but Rob Humpreys, while making performance yachts, has always made them extremely comfortable to sail. Was that one of the key elements of working with him – where you have the comfort of a cruising yacht but the performance of a racer?

Marko: Yes. In Elan's DNA, not just in terms of boats but also other products we do like skis, our performance part was accomplished.

Our long lasting relationship with Rob is now over 20 years, we are always looking for this balance and that is the most difficult part to do – the balance between a true racing yacht, but being able to sail single-handedly, making it easy to manoeuvre, I would say Rob is one of the best, if not the best, at searching for this balance. It's hard to find.

Mark: Inside you have really pushed the boat out on interior styling with the oak, the best instrument panels, super-clean lines - this is a boat where you haven't cut any corners.

Marko: We are uncompromising and don't cut corners. I would like to emphasise that the outside and the hydro-dynamics aspect were done by Rob H, and internally the designs were created by our in-house team. When we defined our customer, they are experienced sailors and have often owned two or three boats and might have compromised before. When they come to own an Elan, their days of compromising are over.

We have also enhanced the standard. We wanted to make sure we don't do the same as our competitors, bringing down the price and offering them bare boats, then adding many expensive options. We decided to put all those features in as standard.

Eventually with that, if you compare the old designs where the design add-ons were optional and now, where they are all included, the boat is even better value. It helped us in terms of economy of scale in buying and logistics. It's a win-win for us and our customers. Uncompromising is the name of the game for us.

Mark: I presume the first people that took note of the new E3, E4, and E5 would be existing Elan owners, so what feedback have you had so far about the range?

Marko: So far with all the changes, the feedback has been really positive. Everyone is much more enthusiastic about the boats. Previously we had some comments that outside, the boats were fantastic but inside were a little bit IKEA looking! This is not where we wanted to go and we gained many positive comments from the GT series from which this new interior was inherited. We stopped cutting corners and brought the best we can to our interiors.

Mark: Looking at the boat for the first time, what strikes me both on deck and down below is 'clean lines'. Was that the ethos that was most important when you were going through the design process?

Marko: That was one of the major factors that we wanted. Clean lines were always a design feature embedded in Elan boats, and here it's cleaner than on the GT line. The whole boat is a little sleeker externally and internally, and like I mentioned we also heavily invested in the materials we used and have installed top notch equipment. We have long-lasting partnerships with suppliers of high-quality materials.

Mark: One of the points that shows the pride you take in your yachts is the flair you have given this one, such as the bright green wheels. It takes some bravery when you create something so eye-catching that will really turn heads; a lesser yacht probably couldn't carry it off. Do you think this is the head turner that will draw people in?

Marko: In terms of customisations, we are not a mass producer. We are semi-customised, so we can accommodate the wishes of customers and historically Elan has always been bold with these decisions. Bringing in innovative things that go on to be copied by our competitors has always been our way. We like to try new solutions and accommodate our customers' wishes.

Mark: She's a stunning yacht and a stunning range. Thank you for your time.

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