Contest Yachts has turned 50. Over the past five decades, three generations of the Conijn family have led the business with unbridled passion. The yard in Medemblik is one of the few luxury yachtbuilders in the Netherlands to have achieved this golden jubilee milestone. And the upcoming Sevenstar Contest Cup from 5 to 7 June will form an integral part of the celebrations.
Sevenstar Contest Cup
The annual Contest Cup consists of a regatta or pleasure cruise and an accompanying social programme. This year’s event will be sponsored by Sevenstar Yacht Transport and Kuiper Insurance, and an extra dimension will be added as Contest Yachts celebrates its 50th anniversary with former and current Contest sailors. “Our goal for the weekend is to showcase on the water the developments of the past half century,” says Arjen Conijn who has been at the Contest Yachts helm for a number of years. “We are trying to involve as many Contests built throughout the years as possible in the Sevenstar Contest Cup.”
Ed Conijn, grandfather of current director Arjen Conijn, was one of the first people to see the opportunities for applying polyester materials in boatbuilding. As a keen sailor, he correctly recognised a niche in the market in 1959, and the result was the open two-man leeboard boat called the Flying Dutchman. This was an instant success and served as the basis for the racing class of the same name. Over 600 examples of this enormously popular yacht were eventually built, giving an incredible foundation to Contest Yachts, which went by the name Conyplex in its first decade.
After the Flying Dutchman’s success, Ed Conijn identified an increasing demand among fellow sailors for a fast cockpit sailboat. Anticipating a new trend, he teamed up with designer Luiten to create the first Contest 25. The boat again met a clear niche in the market and ushered in the era of the first series builds in theNetherlands. During this time the basis for the constantly updated Contest Yachts house style was developed. Keeping in mind export to theUSA, the tulip was chosen to represent the Dutch yard and each galley working surface included a typical Makkum tile. Partly due to these eye-catching details, the Contests soon attracted considerable attention.
1960s and 70s
During the 1960s and 70s the yard also worked on other new designs, such as the Contest 27, 29 and 31 HT. Gaining a name as a pioneer in yachtbuilding with a passion for innovation, the yard was the first in Holland to introduce a large steering wheel (instead of the helm tiller) and a comfortable solution for spray hoods. The designers also dared to move the cockpit all the way aft, despite the prevailing trend in sailyachts.
The real breakthrough in the 1970s came with the Contest 33, which marked the start of the second generation of Contests. Revolutionary designer Robbert Das combined aesthetics and comfort in a design without a doghouse that appealed to a large number of sailors. The following Contest 36 also attracted lots of attention from the international media as it was the first design to feature a centre cockpit.
Product development remained one of the company’s spearheads in the 1980s. When Ed Conijn heard about the revolutionary wing keel that had helped the yachtAustralia win theAmerica’s Cup in 1983, he made sure his yachts would also benefit from this innovation. The yard also cooperated with the renowned research institute TNO to improve and speed up production processes. A constant focus on experienced personnel and ongoing training during the period that Contest Yachts was led by Fritz Conijn also contributed to the reputation and continuity of the shipyard.
The year 2000 signified the start of a new era at Contest Yachts when the third generation of the Conijn family took the wheel. The design of the Contest 60CS – the major market success of 2008 – showed how the yard continues to move with the times and client demands without compromising on the high quality and craftsmanship that has brought global fame.
“Our current company philosophy is based on the key values Life, Style and Sailing,” says DirectorArjen Conijn. “Performance and design have become vital focal points, while considerable attention is also paid to branding. While the quality of our product will always be our number one priority, brand association is increasingly important and we have addressed this issue head on. Good examples are the Contest Cup and Mediterranean Contest Meeting, events that are organised for Contest sailors each year.”
More information about Contest Yachts, its history, the yachts and the Sevenstar Contest Cup 2009 is available on the new website, www.contestyachts.com.
Medemblik, March 2009