Catman
Yacht Style|Issue 58
Since launching Bali Catamarans in 2014, Catana Group CEO Olivier Poncin has shaken up the world of cruising catamarans, building a brand that’s challenging the long-established leaders.
John Higginson

What was your background in the industry before you created Bali Catamarans?

I’ve always been passionate about sailing boats. When I was young, all my holidays were spent on the water. A few years after completing my studies, in 1983, I had the opportunity with some friends to take over the Kirie shipyard in Les Sables d’Olonne, a magnificent port in the Vendée region on France’s west coast that became famous thanks to the Vendée Globe race.

Five years later, I bought the Dufour shipyard in La Rochelle, which I redeveloped, notably by creating the Nautitech range of catamarans. The turnover of the Dufour group increased by a factor of 50 in the space of 13 years, making it a major player in the market.

Poncin Yachts Group was born in 1988 and five years later we took over the Catana shipyard in Canet-en-Roussillon in the south of France. Specialising in high-performance catamarans for bluewater cruising, it was the undisputed leader in its niche, but had been in difficulty for several years. In 2013, I took the decision to create the Bali brand to have a new range built to appeal to a wider market. In 2014, we renamed Poncin Yachts Group as Catana Group.

Considering the cruising sailing catamaran market was well served by established builders like Lagoon, Fountaine Pajot, Leopard and Sunreef, why did you think there was ‘space’ in the market when you set up Bali?

Unlike the niche market in which Catana had evolved for 30 years, between its creation date in 1984 and 2014, the consumer cruising catamaran market is 10 times larger, now producing around 1,500 units per year.

With Catana being renowned all over the world, and with it being born at a similar time as Lagoon and Fountaine Pajot, I always thought we could add a second brand if we showed innovation and differentiation in relation to the existing boats on this market. My experience, after more than 7,500 leisure boats built, has certainly confirmed this conviction.

What kind of sales were you expecting and have you been surprised by Bali’s success since launching the 4.5 and 4.3 sailing cats in 2014?

We set ourselves the objective of conquering a 10 per cent market share and we achieved that in five years. Today, our ambition for the next three years is to reach the 20 per cent threshold, so selling at least 300 units per year.

Which models were most important in establishing the brand’s presence?

To build an international sales network, you need to create a range, hence the fact that today there are seven Bali sailing models and soon there will be three motor yacht models. We are fortunate that all our models have sold well, but obviously it’s the boats under 45ft that sell the most. We’ve sold 360 Bali 4.1s and 4.3s. Their successor, the Bali 4.2, which in my opinion is even more attractive, is arriving on the market this spring.

Can you tell us about Bali’s signature designs such as the tiltand-turn ‘garage’ door?

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