Ed Dubois by Michaela Cordes | 10th December, 2014 | Personalities
Elegant as their name, sporty and yet so luxurious – Dubois designs are the haute couture of superyachts. GG caught up with their famous creator Ed Dubois, one of the industry’s most iconic figures, who combines competitive sailing and comfortable cruising performance like no other under one deck.
They are called Escapade, Salperton or Moonbird, and sail elegantly across the oceans. Even from a distance, the huge sailing yachts – some of them measuring more than 60 meters in length – are easily identifiable as Ed Dubois’ creations. Organic, almost erotic – that is how he likes to describe them, especially the way they are designed at the rear. “It is the manner in which the water is displaced towards the stern from underneath. If that comes off well, to me, there is something almost sexual about it,” explains Ed Dubois, sitting in his office in the English town of Lymington, two-and-a-half hours southwest of London by car.
A fair amount of luck often features in big success stories. In Ed Dubois’ case it was all about timing. Exactly one year before he left school in 1970, the University of Southampton introduced a new degree course: yacht design. “It was wonderful! I had already decided at the age of 15 that I wanted to be a boat designer. Up to that point, however, the only courses that had been offered were traditional degrees in naval architecture. These were focused on the construction of large steel navy ships, and that seemed too dull to me. When I found out, I enrolled at the university immediately.”
During the following two decades, the leisure-yacht market started booming like never before. Every year the boats got longer and the number of Dubois’ orders grew. “In 1979 I designed my third boat, which had the outrageous name ‘Police Car,’ because you cannot overtake a police car. That year, we won the Fastnet Race, during which 15 people drowned in a horrible storm. It was a terrible tragedy. Because the incident gripped the world and because we had won the race, I received global attention. We were front-page news everywhere and I signed orders that very morning for the next six months. I woke up and knew that my career was made. I remember it clearly: it was a very strange and conflicted, paradoxical feeling.”
The young Englishman continued to make headlines as the winner of a large number of important yacht races. With his success, his clients’ requests for ever bigger commissions increased. The original sailboats, measuring around ten meters in length, started growing into megayachts six times the size of the initial models! “There were three reasons for this development: firstly, the considerable growth of wealth in the 1980s. Secondly, the revolution in mobile communications. Suddenly people were able to work via satellite, via email and mobile phones without having to physically be in the office. The third reason was the emphasis which was suddenly placed on exclusivity and privacy. During that time I received an order from a lady who told me: ‘Do you know why I need a yacht? Because I can’t stand staying in hotels anymore, sleeping in a bed that other people have already spent the night in.”
Ed Dubois’ clientele has changed significantly since the early days. “In the beginning my clients were great, highly experienced yachtsmen. So, we would usually get together, brainstorm and jointly put new ideas down on paper. These clients often sold their companies at the end of their working lives in order to fulfill their big dream of building a yacht of their own. Today my clients are usually people who have made a lot of money, but do not necessarily know much about sailing. They hire a crew to sail their yacht for them. Having owned a motorboat for some years, they often choose a sailboat, because it is more romantic, more elegant, and possibly also more nostalgic. One of my clients, for example, is a gentleman who recently embarked on a new relationship. His new partner demanded: ‘Before you marry me, you first have to get rid of your ugly motorboat and buy a sailing boat.’”
Dubois’ creations are synonymous with a combination of luxury and great sailing performance, and it is exactly this which keeps presenting a challenge. “I always think that, on the one hand, you have to feel comfortable and safe on board. On the other hand, you have to be able to cross the Atlantic or even sail around the world. One of my first clients, an American gentleman, said to me: ‘Ed, what you’re doing here is not really yacht design anymore – you are moving into the realm of sailing architecture.’ Since that time one of my most important tasks, besides ensuring the sailing performance of my boats, is to create the various amenities. For example, making sure you can see the horizon through large windows below deck, even when you are inside the boat. This ensures that you stay connected to the sea, despite the size of the boats. It is this approach which has created both the Dubois-look and my personal mantra.”
At present Dubois is working on a 60-meter yacht. “She will be very fast! The only thing this client requests is: ‘Build me a beast!’ To this day, the father of four remains inspired most when he goes sailing on his own. “It’s still the best. The freedom and the feelings of independence and escaping from it all!” mc