INTERVIEW available in the last Bretagne Sailing Valley® News – Newsletter #6 – Summer 2021
A page turned at the end of 2020 for nke when, after 14 years at the head of the Hennebont-based group, Jean-Claude Le Bleis sold nke Marine Electronics and nke Instrumentation to Alain Boschet, now Managing Director of both structures. The opportunity to talk to him about his motivations and the challenges of the years to come for nke Marine Electronics which is after all an emblematic company of Bretagne Sailing Valley ®, which equips many offshore racing boats with autopilots, sensors and displays.
What prompted you to buy nke last November?
I had previously had several experiences that were all oriented towards new technologies and international – I spent six years in China in particular – the opportunity to take over nke arose through a meeting with the selling party and I was looking to invest in the area of the blue economy. The two companies had one thing in common that interested me, namely a strong technological competence, characterized by the presence of highly developed design offices in both structures.
What goals did you set for yourself when you took the helm of nke Marine Electronics, a company with a strong presence in the world of competitive sailing?
This year we have an extremely ambitious development plan. The brand now enjoys strong recognition from users, especially offshore racing teams, so the goal is to continue to satisfy them through a new range of products that we will be launching this year. With the commitment to maintain the same level of performance and technology, in order to then offer this advanced equipment to boaters who want to enjoy great sailing. At the same time, we want to accelerate our international commercial development with the establishment of a distribution network to position ourselves in certain geographical areas, I am thinking in particular of Scandinavia, the North American market, but also in Oceania. We have thus recruited an international sales manager, Olivier Gallut, who has very strong expertise in the United States and Australia, to set up and run the distribution network. The goal is to grow, but in a structured way, I’m not looking for a bang, we’re here to build progressively for the future.
What products are you going to launch?
First, the new version of our autopilot, the Gyropilot 3, which will be equipped with a new processor and based on a new hardware platform, the objective being to offer a robust, efficient and scalable pilot. Then a new HMI (human machine interface) that will be very easy to use, which allows, from a PC, to take control of the autopilot and the sensors, a new thing for nke which meets the expectations of our users who wanted access total to the system (pilot, sensors, computers and displays) through this interface. Finally a box scan which allows the opening of the nke network to NMEA2000 equipment. The objective is to release these new innovations at the end of the year / beginning of next year. These are really three very ambitious axes that will allow us to be competitive in the years to come. In such a technological world it is essential to maintain a high level of research and development. We have a large design office of seven people who work on performance, taking advantage of feedback from sailors which we were able to do after the Vendée Globe with the skippers using our pilots and our sensors. We have equipped around 30% of the Vendée Globe boats with automatic pilots and almost 70% with anemometer-wind vane sensors.
Is it important for nke to develop these partnerships with racers?
Yes, very ! We must constantly maintain this network. There is real work to be done in detecting and supporting skippers, starting in the Mini Class, because it is really through their experience that we can improve our products and anticipate their future needs, so we must maintain and consolidate this proximity. We thus make sure to have teams always present at the start of the race with our partner riders, but also reactive teams if it is necessary to intervene in after-sales service.