Beneteau Owners – by Ty Mellott

Beneateau Rendevous Follow-Up

Back in early February of this year I was invited to attend an open house for NAOS Yachts by their Director of Marketing & Media, Christine Pernin. Although Christine and I had more than a few conversations prior, it would be our first real introduction face to face. That would be much the same for the rest of the NAOS Yachts staff including founder Charles Devanneaux. I was grateful to have been included in their event and even more so after seeing how dedicated to the Northern California market the NAOS Yachts Team proved themselves to be. Each person in attendance was greeted with undivided attention while given tours of boats and or the facilities at their location at the Maritime Centre in Point Richmond. Last month NAOS Yachts held their first annual Beneteau Owners Rendezvous and unfortunately, I was unable to attend. Jackie Philpott did a nice, short and sweet recap of some of the events as enjoyed at the Richmond Yacht Club in last month’s issue. I spoke with Christine and she provided the following, “The Beneteau Rendezvous weekend was memorable: the sunshine… the competitive regatta… the laughter… the proud crews crossing the finish line… making new friends… seeing beautiful boats and listening to stories of sailing, boating in the Bay and much much further. What a great time we had!”

Bill and Pete’s Beneteau on the sales dock during commissioning.

I was speaking with Charles the day Pat Carson and I came down to do a review on the Wellcraft 355 when conversation turned to how the Rendezvous went. I mentioned that I wish that I had been able to attend, wishing to meet and speak to some of the Beneteau owners in attendance. It all happened so fast that the next thing I knew, I had contacts provided by Christine to actually go and meet some of those who brought their Beneteaus in for this first annual gathering of owners. It was my intention to promptly give this list of contacts to Jackie, but she felt it was her duty to cover the Delta of far-off lands. So alas, here we are. I will make it to next year’s event for sure. I do not want to miss out on the wonderful event, but more so it will be much easier to meet and speak to the owners in person at the rendezvous itself.

Bill and Pete on the bow of Liberté.

If anything comes out of my interviews with these nice people, it will be the reinforcement of something I have always believed in; find something in common with another human being and you just might find the tread that will bind your souls and friendship together for a lifetime. In this case it is the love and enjoyment of a sailing vessel manufactured halfway around the world. In more than one way, each person described how helpful and friendly the whole regatta of owners was towards each other and I feel the thread that binds has surely been spun.

The following is just a small tidbit of information I’d like to share of the Beneteau owners that I had the opportunity to meet. The two couples that I had on the agenda to meet were at different marinas. One boat was in the East Bay and the other in the South Bay. Due to unforeseen circumstances the couple who keeps their boat in the East Bay had to cancel their trip from the Tahoe area, so we rescheduled our interview to a Zoom meeting for later instead. I adjusted my schedule and headed directly to Westpoint Harbor in Redwood City to meet Bill Lewis and Pete Kuykendall. After receiving permission to head to the docks by Debbie Goodland in the harbor office, I made my way out to their Beneteau. It was magnificent and stands out against the sea of white hulled boats, making one think, why would anyone want just white? It did not dawn on me until a later correspondence with Bill that it was the very same boat I had walked by and admired many times while it was at the docks in Brickyard Cove being commissioned.

Liberté under sail.

I was greeted by Bill as I walked the finger of their slip. Not knowing anything about Bill or Pete yet, my first question was if they raced her. The vessel looked so sleek and fast just sitting there. Me, feeling somewhat nervous of the meeting, I think the question just popped out before I realized I had even asked it. Despite my awkward outburst, Bill welcomed me aboard when Pete came from below and I properly introduced myself. There was nothing out of place … both helm stations gleaming with all the gadgets that electronic wizards dream about and the decking was so clean you could eat from it. I had really expected to conduct the interview in the cockpit but it was settled to go below in the saloon to visit. You know how you feel walking into a model home, where everything is so clean, bright and inviting. Well, as I walked down the ladder into the saloon, it was just like that. The interior was just as magnificent as the exterior and the settee made for the perfect spot to speak with Pete and Bill in a much more comfortable environment than the deck.

Bill Lewis & Pete Kuykendall standing with Liberté on the Beneteau factory floor in Cholet, France.

Their sailboat is a Beneteau Oceanis 46.1 and looks as if it were just staged for a Beneteau brochure photo shoot. To say the boat was immaculate would be an understatement. For some powerboaters who feel below decks on a sailboat to be cramped and dark, Bill and Pete can certainly disprove this notion with one viewing.

In thinking of this dream boat and what progression led to Bill and Pete’s ownership my questions began with previous boats owned and sailing experience. Without any verbal answer it was quite apparent the answer coming when I noticed the look and following smiles from each. I knew immediately that there was no prior boat to speak of for either of them. Although Bill had raced small dinghies in Texas while growing up, Pete had little to no sailing experience prior. It was the art and beauty of the Beneteau lines that sparked interest until all came to fruition in taking delivery of their very first sailboat ever. I cannot give enough credit to this accomplishment. On so many levels both Pete and Bill should be commended for such an undertaking. Never sailed to much degree, never having owned a sailboat, not to mention one with such magnitude. Such a huge responsibility and many would not have the courage or wherewithal to much think about such an idea, let alone actually carry it out. Bill mentions that at times he walks down the ladder to the saloon and even now murmurs to himself as to how he cannot believe that “all this is actually ours.”

Pete Kuykendall, Ethan Markowitz, George Irving and Bill Lewis on the rail of Liberté in celebration of a 3rd place finish and the day’s adventure.

So, going back… come to find out, the pandemic played a small part in their decision to purchase a boat, just as it did for much of the country. However, spending even the short amount of time with Bill and Pete it became apparent they would have found their way to sailboat ownership eventually anyway. Bill and Pete admit they were nervous in even thinking of using the boat, but they made sure to take steps to overcome that. From day one, each of them has been involved with local Bay Area sailing schools and have taken the correct steps in becoming familiar with their vessel as well as sailing. They took delivery of their sailboat in May of 2022 and with lessons, not to mention actual hands-on experience, have become efficient sailors since. Both admit that learning is an ongoing process and each trip out offers the chance to increase knowledge and confidence. Their Beneteau arrived in California in Feb of 2022 and it took four months to commission and deliver. They were able to see their boat during commissioning, but Pete and Bill had already seen “their sailboat” long before its arrival to Pt. Richmond. In Nov. of 2021 they both traveled to Cholet, France and visited the Beneteau factory where the Oceanis line is manufactured. Side note, the very same factory announced in June of this year that they had completed production on their 500th Oceanis 46.1. During their visit Bill and Pete could not speak enough of how clean and organized the factory was. Pete and Bill both covered many topics of their factory tour but there were two things that stood out for me.

One, that every employee there that day on the assembly floor was genuinely excited about meeting the actual owners of a boat they had such a part in building, and two, hearing the story of Bill and Pete speaking to one Beneteau employee concerning the name of the vessel. Both explained to me the reason and meaning to the naming of their sailboat, Liberté. More so the importance to bestow upon her having something of French descent and what more fitting than the first word of the French National Motto: Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité. But they told me that when they explained their choice of names to the Frenchman, their decision made him tear up and his gratitude was expressed with great sincerity.

Rejoicing and her crew under sail.

With their increasingly growing skill and confidence in those skills, I got the impression they will use any excuse at all to get on the water. They shared the experience of taking Pete’s parents out for a day sail and I believe it will be a memory forever cherished. More importantly, including the parents, it was noted all guests aboard Liberté to date have shown to be very comfortable and relaxed under the helm of either Bill or Pete. For the NAOS Rendezvous/Regatta, they were joined by Ethan Markowitz who had provided sailing instructions in the past and Bill’s friend George Irving. Bill was very excited to inform me of their “Third Place” finish in the organized race that took place as one of the activities over the weekend. Prior to 2022, with no big boat or any recent sailing experiences, to me just finishing the race would have been a huge accomplishment, but 3rd, Wow! I am not much of a betting man, but I am going to say dollars to doughnuts that Bill will be spending some time between now and the next regatta in prep as to how to improve that finish.

Blair Romer at the helm of Rejoicing.

After a few attempts of trying to set up a Zoom meeting, Blair Romer was more than accommodating to adjust within my schedules to make it happen. Zoom is a necessity to some degree and in this case did provide the medium for Blair and I to converse, but for me there will never be a substitute for in person interaction. It was still a pleasure meeting Blair and our conversation went very well. Our in-person meeting the week prior was canceled as mentioned earlier, and although a slight bump in scheduling it was not that big a deal. However, when I learned that the trip down from Tahoe to the Bay Area was to include a day of sailing with Stanford College friends as well, I felt so bad for Blair. Some of those friends Blair had not actually seen in person since college. I expressed my regret and hopes that another day of sailing might be arranged with this special group soon.

Blair and Celia, both happily sharing time and sailing together.

The knowledge of Blair sailing with college friends placed my first question of boats owned and sailing experience as a given, and was left unasked. In the first few minutes of conversation, we jumped straight into some of Blair’s past boats owned and his sailing experiences. Blair had grown up owning and racing a number of dinghy type sailboats ranging from a Sabot up to a Hobie 16, as well as a Cyclone 13. Later in life moving into larger boats such as a Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 35 and eventually to present day Beneteau 423. Everyone has an interesting story of how they came to be the owner of a particular boat and Blair now at the helm of his Beneteau is no different.

I have not met Blair’s wife Celia, but I will share this part to the envoy of many a sailor and boat owner alike. I was told Celia knew how very much sailing meant to her husband Blair. So it was Celia who urged Blair to go get a sailboat, as she knew the enjoyment it brought to him. This being suggested despite her lack of any real sailing experience and more so being hampered by sea sickness. Blair and Celia do a lot of stuff together of which dampened the idea of a new to him sailboat, knowing that it was going to exclude the very woman that suggested getting one in the first place. You will be happy to know that the Romer’s not only enjoy time sailing their Beneteau together, but Celia has become quite the sailor herself and the sea sickness is for the most part a thing of the past.

For this to happen, it did require some thought and effort by Blair to eventually end up with their Beneteau 423 named Rejoicing. It was previously owned by Gary Troxel under the name of Tiki Blue. With the blue hull and all that beautiful teak, I am not only disappointed I did not get to meet the Romers’ in person, but I would have enjoyed spending some time on this wonderful sailboat as well.

Always a smile.

Tiki Blue has plenty of racing experience where she competed in five Pac Cups which I understood to peak Blair’s interest. However, in Blair’s explanation and desire to find a boat that Celia would feel comfortable on, his search would have to be a boat that mixed both stability and speed. Being a powerboater myself and not quite aware of the little nuances sailboat design brings, Blair explained the faster the boat, the less stable and vice versa. Yacht salesperson, Torben Bentsen knew this as well and put the Romers’ and Tiki Blue together. Torben is now part of the NAOS Yachts crew, and of course has stayed in close contact with Blair and Celia. In fact, invited them to join a group of about 15 sailboats from the Richmond Yacht Club on their regatta to Half Moon Bay over Labor Day this year. I understand that the Romers fit right in and were welcomed by all, but I would have expected nothing less of the RYC membership.

By Blair’s explanation and the well apparent smile on Celia’s face, I would have to agree that their selection of the 423 has proven to be a task completed to perfection, in allowing the love of sailing to be shared and enjoyed by the two of them.

It’s clearly understood as to why her former name was Tiki Blue.

Presently, the boat is berthed at Brickyard Cove in Pt. Richmond, and eventually they wish to not only become members of the Richmond Yacht Club but berth there as well. Any RYC members reading know, this is a coveted berthing option and I am sure someone has informed Blair that the list is long, as I did not have the heart to say so. The first Annual NAOS Yachts Beneteau Rendezvous was presented successfully according to all the participants I have spoken with. They are glad to have representation in the Bay Area by a dedicated dealer that cares of their wants and needs. From what I understand, next year’s event is already being planned with an expected turn out of even more than this year.

Very roomy and comfortable interior.

“This year’s Beneteau Rendezvous was wonderful,” says Naos Yachts CEO Charles Devanneaux. “We met old friends, we made new friends and the weather could not have been better. Let me add a quote from the Beneteau website home page ‘we want to offer your family an opportunity to meet ours, in a fun, exclusive and remarkable environment that mirrors the way our boats feel,’ Honestly I couldn’t say it better!”

When asked about the plans for next year Beneteau Rendezvous he said with a smile “Well, we might have to consider that this was just an appetizer before next year’s main course… 2024 marks the 140th anniversary of the Beneteau Company, which incidentally started with a motorized fishing fleet in France.” In addition: “We will also celebrate the 15th anniversary of Naos Yachts in California so… lots to celebrate, and we’d love to welcome Beneteau Sailboats and Beneteau Powerboats next year… so spread the word!”

With that from Charles, I am sure it will create quite the buzz for the next several months to come. In the end, the rendezvous brought a group of people together, that are all now NAOS Yachts Family sharing the same passion and in many ways be connected forever because of it. The threads that bind … never give up looking for the opportunities to find your own. As for me, I am grateful mine led me to such wonderful people who allowed me to sit in and learn about them. I look forward to hearing about all the adventures to come as each of them becomes more accustomed to their sailboats. I’m not agreeing with any idea that I will become some great sailor, but I’m glad that I now have four new friends that may at times, try to convince me of it otherwise.