Last January, one of Sunreef’s main production halls caught fire in its Gdansk shipyard, destroying three large catamarans under construction. The fire would be a disaster for any builder, but perhaps more so for Sunreef since it represented over half of the boats under construction.
Sunreef founder Francis Lapp was out of the country when the fire destroyed the building. While most boatbuilders would’ve let the dust settle for a few days, deciding how many workers would be laid off and what the next course of action might be, Lapp instead decided to rally his employees and begin construction on the three lost hulls.
Against all odds
Most of the moulds had survived, and new tooling could be built for the replacement hulls. The company sent out a statement just 48 hours after the fire that delays in the delivery would not exceed three months. The yard also noted that it would increase production capacity not only for the lost yachts, but for a new build it had signed with the owner two days after the fire.
The faith the owners have in the shipyard – the same one where Lech Walesa and other polish ship workers started the solidarity movement in 1980 – was also a vote of confidence for Lapp. instead of furloughs, Lapp hired more staff and increased shifts in a race to complete the yachts on time.
Seven months later, the shipyard has not only lived up to its delivery promise to the owners, but launched two new models – an 82ft “double-deck” sailing catamaran and a 60ft power cat.
Lapp, a 54-year-old Frenchman from the Alsace region who settled in Poland in 1992, entered the marine industry in a highly circuitous way.
Note: This is an excerpt of the interview published in the November issue 2012 of IBI magazine. IBI Plus subscribers can read the complete interview visiting IBI Plus website. If you’re not yet a subscriber, please visit IBI Plus and sign up!