Flagstaff Marine Sail News and Stories

The AMEL spirit

AMEL yachts are the legacy of one man’s passion and determination to build the perfect ocean-going yacht. In 1964, Henri Amel founded the eponymous Chantiers AMEL in La Rochelle, France, turning his dream – to build yachts that guaranteed safety and comfort no matter the sailing conditions – into reality.

To this day, each AMEL yacht is designed and built in the La Rochelle factory to the exacting standards of its founder. Flagstaff Marine spoke with AMEL Sales director, Antoine Rioton, and asked him to tell us more about the unique spirit of AMEL.

The perfect ocean-going yacht

The perfect ocean-going yacht

Antoine, can you tell us about Henri Amel’s vision for the perfect ocean-going yacht?

“Mr Amel, who I should mention was almost blind, was a sailor, a designer and a ship-builder when he created the company over fifty years ago. He used his own experience on the water to design a boat that was easy to sail no matter what the conditions. The core concept of the AMEL design is to create a safe boat that is comfortable and spacious and can be operated by a reduced crew, usually a couple.”

Built to cross oceans

Built to cross oceans

So, this is the perfect yacht for people who want to sail the world?

“Yes, exactly. AMEL is designed for long-distance circumnavigation. So, you know, if you are living on board for eight months of the year, sometimes you’ll have friends to stay on board but often it will just be two of you, so we have designed it with that in mind.”

“For example, usually on a 50ft boat you would have four or five cabins. On the AMEL 50 there is the option of two or three cabins. The master is a huge suite at the back and very comfortable because we know you will be spending a lot of time there.”

“Of course, to make the yacht safe and easy to sail we make sure that you can operate all the systems on the boat from one deep, protected, central cockpit. It’s big even for a 50ft yacht because we know you’ll be spending a lot of time outside. And it can be fully enclosed so even if you have any rough weather – 40 knots, 50 knots – you can operate everything safely.”

A centralised system

A centralised system

The idea of a centralised system that incorporates the comfort and convenience of the owner into the design process is a core principle for AMEL. All the controls feed back to the central cockpit to ensure easy and safe sailing. Likewise, the engine and services are centralised under the deck so they are easy to access. As Antoine explains,

“It’s something you won’t find on another boat. All the systems are in one place, so if in many boats you have to change the oil, work on or service the engine, you have to remove the companionway, reach for the gauge and so on. On an AMEL, you live here so you don’t want to dismantle the space if you have to service something. So it’s easy to access, just open one hatch, step down, stand up and you can reach everything.”

High standards are not optional

AMEL also recognises equipment that may be optional on some boats is a necessity for long-distance sailing. “The boat comes almost complete. We don’t have that many options,” says Antoine. “This boat has a bow thruster, in mast furling, jib furling, a capstan, you need genset so of course a genset comes with the boat. It’s very important to us to offer that.”

Safe by design

Safe by design

Henri Amel was a war veteran and was left partially blind from an eye injury received during WWII. But it was during the war that he came across an innovation that would have a profound impact on his own designs – the Allied naval forces’ use of polyester resin to build floating caissons. AMEL would become a pioneer in this new technology, using polyester construction to design a yacht that is perfectly waterproof, highly resistant in structure and incredibly safe.

“The AMEL boat is built for safety,” says Antoine. “All the bulkheads are laminated to the helm and laminated to the deck; the frames are laminated as well; they are not glued. So you get a very stiff boat that is as watertight as you can get. If you have a collision you can close the doors and still be perfectly secure. You can stay floating and get back safely.”

Constant development

AMEL is dedicated to constantly improving the sailing experience and Henri Amel himself was an innovator. Can you tell us more about the spirit of AMEL?

“The AMEL spirit is behind every stage in the construction process and our equipment and design are in constant development. This is very important to us because it was how Henri Amel approached design. He would go out sailing and think about what he wanted to change or improve. So, he would say, ‘It’s hard to hold onto the winch in wet weather’ or ‘I don’t want to hear the engine noise here,’ and then he’d go back and change the design and make it better.”

“He also wanted couples to be able to sail together so he used to say,

‘I want women to enjoy being on board.’

So he made sure his yachts were very safe, very comfortable and easy to handle. This was important to him, so he designed the boat like this. Over the years we’ve kept all those concepts and we keep improving.”

Comfortable sailing was very important to Henri Amel and this is reflected in the design. Space and light are treated as a premium. There is extra storage space and a large fridge and freezer so you can spend more time at sea.

A unique service

Antoine, AMEL prides itself on providing a full service to your clients. Some new owners may not know that most boat-builders do not usually oversee the commissioning of a new boat; this is usually done by the dealer. Can you tell us about your unique commissioning and after sales service?

“At AMEL we do things differently; we offer a full service and this starts with the commissioning. Our yachts are fully designed and manufactured in La Rochelle and we like to do the commissioning there as well with one of our own AMEL technicians. We spend a week explaining all the system and testing the boat. The purpose is to give all the information we can to the future owner so they know their boat and are free to sail. We cover everything from A to Z.”

“Another thing that is very important to us is the after sales; we stay in contact with the owner. So, if you’ve got a problem with the boat or the engine, the owner goes through AMEL and then we take care of it. This is a huge comfort when you are out on the ocean.

For example, if you’re far away, out at sea, if you’ve got a problem with the electronics, just give us a call and even just by telephone we can solve the problem. We’ve got a good technician who says, ‘Okay, let’s do this, this and this,’ and he gives a solution.”

AMEL’s dedication to their owners is another trait the company has inherited from its founder. In 1975, Henri Amel spent eight months sailing across the Atlantic then to the West Indies, passing through the Panama Canal and finally to Polynesia to personally deliver the yacht to its new owner in Tahiti.

It is this passion for the pure joy of sailing that encapsulates the AMEL spirit.

Read more about the AMEL 50.
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