Arising from a meeting between Benoît Loicq, a rowing enthusiast who wanted to create an innovative product, emblematic of luxury, and Belgian designer Serge Rusak, Savile Boats has chosen to place design, art and craftsmanship at the centre of the debate. A meeting with the creative minds behind this poetic project with great ambitions.
You say that your project conveys emotion. Tell us more.
(Benoît Loicq) The project’s name, a nod to the bespoke, luxury world associated with Savile Row tailors, summarises how we felt when we designed this rowing boat. Originally, it was a personal desire to develop a high-performance scull that could be used independently, but was also stable and could be transported as easily as a beginner’s model. My son has competed in this field and I truly love nautical architecture. I was aware that his type of boat was conducive to innovation projects. During this development process, the aesthetic intention was more and more clearly revealed.”
How did you and Serge Rusak meet?
(B.L.) In this project, it’s all been a question of meeting people and things coming together at the right time. I contacted Serge and the Rubika design school in Valenciennes on the same day, not knowing that Serge, who at the time ran his own firm in Paris, was acting as a consultant for the school. We chose to work together, firstly with students, then in partnership until the end of the project.
You collaborated with a naval project in Caen, as well as with Belgian talent…
(B.L.) Developing the mould – made from convex and concave shapes – was based on a very complex process. Despite the project’s confidential nature, the stakeholders in the naval project listened to us very carefully. For the finishing details, I tried to surround myself with artisans at the top of their field, like Nina Bodenhorst (Niyona workshop) who designed a bespoke leather seat.
When you presented the boat at the Monaco Yacht Show, and more recently, at the Lake Como Design Festival, people wanted to touch it…
Serge Rusak: In my opinion, the very essence of desacralising consumer objects, whether they are luxury or not, is this desire people have to take full ownership of them. In this project, every detail is based on real reflection. In the same spirit, the first pictures of the boat conveyed the need to find some time for oneself, in the water, in contact with nature.
And it’s difficult to talk about design in 2024 without referring to ecology and sustainability.
(B.L.) We work with a carbon material, which, by its nature, cannot be recycled, but given the quality of its design, the object itself is virtually indestructible. I’m also considering the possibility of making a boat from carbon fabric offcuts. Recycled carbon divides the carbon footprint by four when making a boat. With offcuts, it’s zero… while keeping the same aesthetics.
You started this project in 2016: Six years of development is quite a long time.
(S.R) We worked with a small team. Initially, the idea was to take the time to do things well by involving craftspeople who had a passion. In the design sector, time has become a rare luxury. As a designer and project manager, I put myself in a rower’s shoes. A desire for total immersion in nature led us to cut the boat in half at the back. The water virtually comes inside the deck. When you row, you could have the almost poetic impression that water is flowing between your legs. We had a 6-metre long surface that enabled us to play with reflections; the boat’s, as well as the counter-reflections created by the reverberation in the water. The final aesthetics are reminiscent of automotive design. As is more and more often the case in the luxury sector, users can customise their boat as they like. It takes 300 hours of work to fashion just one scull. This project’s singularity also lies in its positioning: at the heart of a kind of No Man’s Land between usual, aesthetic and sporting experience.
In future, is that also how you want to position the project ?
(B.L.) We want to target both high-level sportspeople and collectible design lovers. In Côme, it was presented on the first floor of a villa, on the banks of a lake, next to ceramic objects. This boat is the translation of an elegant gesture; an elegance that is echoed in the double wake the boat leaves when it glides over the water. This brand, is our signature in a way.