Author: Nikki Henderson
Outremer Week is a biannual event in La Grande Motte. It is organised by the team at Outremer and consists of five days of various training sessions for future owners. Generally, it’s followed by Outremer Cup, a weekend regatta, which attracts the interest of owners who are keen to see how they and their Outremer perform in a competitive environment.
I have been looking forward to writing a blog about these annual events for a long time.
“What makes you so enthusiastic about reporting on a weeks’ training in La Grande Motte ?” You may be thinking.
The process of buying an Outremer is an experience. Every finished boat – whilst made from identical hull mouldings – ends up being a bespoke product, carefully shaped to the owners’ requirements. Yet, this is not a superyacht factory. The boats are not each unique because of the thread count in the linens, the size of sun decks, or the fit out of the bathrooms. They are unique because they are being built for liveaboard blue water cruising. Outremer are not just manufacturing boats; they are building robust, comfortable homes. Each one has its own quirks and layouts to suit their owners’ needs of ‘working from home’ (should we create a new WFH abbreviation 🡪 WFA [working from aboard]?), educating their children, storing their family ‘toys’ (dive gear, surf/wind/kite boards, Lego, golf clubs, bikes), and cooking up family meals – all whilst sailing safely and efficiently sailing to some of the most remote places on this planet.
Anyone can build a boat, but to build a boat that’s a home requires something deeper. I believe this deeper ‘something’ is Outremer’s unique selling point, and the reason that up until now they have been so successful. What this ‘something’ is – is a culture that values community, closeness, and family.
Originally Outremer was a family business.
That ‘family’ value has been the glue within the organisation over the years. The 40-year-old sign still hangs above the original factory. Matthieu – the longest standing employee – practically lives in the Outremer office – somewhat out of choice and not just necessity. All the leadership team choose to spend their family holidays sailing on the boats that they are building. It is this kind of behaviour that contributes to the culture that is so critical to Outremer. It will be interesting to see how the company retains this intimacy as the company grows and expands.
Just as it would be inaccurate to assume that Outremer was just a catamaran manufacturer, it is equally over simplistic to consider the Outremer Weeks as simply five days of training. As is often the case with these types of events, there is so much more to it than what is on the surface. Over the last three years, I have realised that these events are really the cornerstone to nurturing this closeness between the organisation and the owners. The training is a bonus, but the real reason to attend – is to immerse yourself within this deeper ‘something’ – to become part of the Outremer family.
Of course, that isn’t to say the trainings aren’t incredibly useful. I – like the rest of the skippers – tend to spend most of the week training on the water. Each day we meet five or so future owners and their family members over coffee and croissants, head out to the various boats on the harbour masters’ pontoon and set out for a day’s coaching. Typically, the whole day runs from 8:30am until 5:30pm.
We cover everything from maneuvering the Outremers in the port and onto various docks, to sail changes, spinnaker training, anchoring, navigation – the list is almost endless. Of course, we can’t fit everything into one day so we tend to focus on one or two main topics. Naturally there are different styles amongst the various skippers. One common remark I hear is that there is a strong divide between the French and the Anglo skippers when it comes to the length of the lunch break! But jokes aside, this variation in style only benefits the students. Throughout my career, I have benefitted from sailing with a multitude of different sailors and skippers – learning from them different techniques and ways to do things. The beauty of sailing (and perhaps the irritation for a beginner at times) is that there is often more than one correct way to do something. So learning to sail is a case of filling your ‘toolbox’ (as a metaphor) with various tools learnt with each experience on the water. Take what you like and leave what you don’t and then eventually build your own unique style.
Meanwhile on shore, the remaining participants of the Outremer Week rotate around the other various classes. Everyone reports good things from them, but I have heard that the weather class is an absolute must. There are medical courses run by the telemedical provider M.S.O.S, diesel engine maintenance courses, basic electrical courses, navigation instrument information classes, rigging and splicing classes – and probably a few more that I’m forgetting.
There is a kind of magic that is conjured up when you put into the same environment 100 people all working towards a similar goal. When that goal happens to be a common dream born of the heart – the magic is explosive. Outremer has managed to create a brand that targets such a specific niche market: aspiring family orientated serious blue water cruisers. Most of these future owners are planning on living on their boats – at least part time. This means they are not just working towards a holiday venture, or a side project – they are working towards something that is going to utterly transform their lives.
This shared hunger for blue water sailing not only unites the participants at the Outremer Week, but it ignites them.
All day I have the pleasure of listening to everyone sharing stories: “what boat are you getting?” “What’s your plan?” “We are selling our house too!” “Are you getting a dog?” “What route are you taking?” “Perhaps we should plan to sail in convoy?” “Join our rally!”
After the initial excitement of meeting dozens of like-minded people subsides, true friendships start to form. Speckled around La Grande Motte at dinner time each night are groups of near strangers, sharing a meal like they have known each other for years. Just this recent September, my own new friends and future owners kindly invited me to dinner – a significant improvement on my microwaved dinner in my solo apartment! What began as a dinner with three of us, grew to include two children, another couple, another friend who was there without his wife – and then as we entered the restaurant, we bumped into yet another future owner and he joined us at the table – realising his takeaway pizza was better shared. Suddenly we were a rowdy group of nine!
This inclusive atmosphere amongst the owners aligns with the organisation itself – in fact, they overlap. Most days, both over morning coffee and an evening aperitif, the Outremer staff socialise with the future owners. Everyone from the CEO to the intern join at one point or another. It is the same as when a boat is launched, and the painters, the chippies, the electricians, the engineers, the boat designers and the lead project manager all share in the joy of seeing their creation float. The line begins to blur between ‘client’ and ‘vendor’.
So, if you are considering whether or not to attend an Outremer Week as you prepare for the delivery of your boat, I can only encourage you. But come for the best reasons. Yes, you will learn, and you will train. But if you look for it, there is a deeper value to be found from these weeks. Embrace the after-class glass of rose, socialise with your fellow future owners, don’t forget to get to know the Outremer team too, and immerse yourself in this community. There is such a beauty in being part of something bigger than just you – whether you are a customer, a contractor, or the CEO.
I look forward to the next edition of Outremer Week when I will return to La Grande Motte – where I now know I will find the strangely paradoxical combination of questionable concrete architecture, and a warm enveloping sense of home.