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How to Build a Superyacht for Millennials

The scion of an Italian dynasty sees the younger generation as a ripe market for his vessels.

(Image: Courtesy Rossinavi)

There’s a notion that family-owned companies craft better things. In Italy, slapping fratelli (brothers) or figli (sons) on a kitchen appliance or loafer instantly confers uncommon warmth and heft. Does this familial glow extend to superyachts? Multimillion-dollar pleasure crafts don’t readily evoke nonno (grandpa) at his workbench, but Rossinavi, a yacht builder based on the coast of Tuscany, is leveraging its blood ties to tug at the heartstrings of a younger seafarer.

“The yacht industry is really conservative, and obviously older,” says Federico Rossi, the 39-year-old chief operating officer of Rossinavi. “We are trying to change that.”

Founded in 2007 as an offshoot of the Rossi family’s hull fabrication business, Rossinavi is now a major yacht-building company in Viareggio, a port city 15 miles north of Pisa. The younger Rossi—tall, trim, and fond of impeccably tailored charcoal sport coats—has pivoted the family business toward a new generation. The white-haired oligarchs and captains of industry hobnobbing in the marina are no longer the company’s primary focus.

Rossi has gone so far as to commission the International University of Monaco (IUM), which offers a graduate program in luxury management, to gauge the yacht-purchasing psychographics of millennials: the demographic cohort born between the very late 1970s and early ’90s. To hear marketers tell it, this generation values experiences more than possessions. How, then, does a business trafficking in $30 million durable goods win over the materialism-averse? In a word, attitude.

Rossi commissioned three yacht designs to reflect Rossinavi’s grasp of the millennial milieu. These are Project I-Tron, Mark 48, and, yes, Attitude. Project I-Tron is distinguished by an electric blue stripe that travels from the boat’s bridge back practically to the stern before running forward to the bow. Mark 48 is envisioned as a long-range ocean predator, all gill-like slits and fins. Attitude, meanwhile, is paradoxically the most tradition-bound of the trio, with a classic swept profile and abundant wood and leather.

A hallmark of all three designs is their sensitivity to residual value, Rossi says. This was an outgrowth of the International University of Management finding that millennials, even filthy rich ones, were pragmatic about spending. “We wanted to design boats that could be resellable,” Rossi says. “You don’t want to go so personalized that it doesn’t have appeal beyond the first owner.”

Though Rossinavi has cultivated an outsize reputation for well-built, handsome vessels, it can’t rely on hundreds of acolytes to spread the gospel. “We build three, maybe four boats a year,” Rossi says. “We want to maintain the luxury dynamic. The product is not recognizable at a distance; you have to get up close and see the details.”

That’s why Rossi is quick to name-check another Italian manufacturer of multimillion-dollar dream machines, Pagani Automobili, as its closest analogue. “Because it’s family-owned, and they produce just a few cars per year,” Rossi says. “And like them, to build a yacht, there’s obviously a lot of mechanical activity.”

Indeed, Rossinavi’s boats are suited to more than just sun-kissed jaunts between tax havens. The company recently announced a new commission called King Shark—a rare superyacht with a hull classified for both tropical and Arctic-water cruising. The millennial research paid off. The yacht left the Viareggio yard this spring, commissioned by a 27-year-old German buyer.

“To take the dream of a client and make it real is not easy,” Rossi says, “but that is what a good boat builder will do.”

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