Crises are an opportunity. The idea may seem somewhat mellifluous if digested among the urgencies of a present in flames, like the one we are experiencing with Covid-19. But that “rupture”, which is the meaning of crisis, brings an inevitable inflection that can make a life or a project take off or fail miserably. King Marine knows a lot about how to cope with the end of an era, such as losing your entire client portfolio. Shipyards and naval engineers avoided the Argentinian “corralito” by exporting their know-how. They asked naval architect Santiago Lange what they should do, and thanks to that question, without any fixed destination, they came upon Agustín Zulueta (the most international Spaniard in the world of sailing). Thereafter they took steps to move their mast factory and their experience to Europe, more specifically to Valencia.
The definitive trip took place on 12 August 2005. A very young Pablo Santarsiero and Gabriel Mar-iani settled in the city that would become World Design Capital in 2022. The latter comes from a family of boat builders which owns most of King Marine. From here, they quickly learnt to focus on new markets, which brought them an increasing amount of orders, and to surf the wave of growth de-riving from the 32nd and 33rd editions of the America’s Cup in Valencia. They are responsible for the construction of the boat of Spanish Challenge, but also for that of the Bribón yacht whose crew members included King Juan Carlos. Top-class competition and clients in the highest tier of a world that is, by its very nature, exclusive.
For the past 15 years, Valencia has become a destination for CEOs and chairpersons of multination-als. Most of these companies and businesspeople with enough money to order a 50 to 100 ft boat have King Marine in mind. That is why two families from Argentina have become the city’s ambassadors to a number of illustrious families. A role they are happy to play because, 15 years later, they are still in love with the city: “I’ve travelled a lot and I’ve had this in-depth conversation with many experts: Spain isn’t aware of how good its network of infrastructures is, in part due to its having joined the European Union rather belatedly. And I’m not just talking about roads, but also hospitals, education centres… And then there’s Valencia. There are multimillionaire businesspeople who spend weeks or months here, in the Marina, without anyone knowing it. That’s quality of life”.
That is what Gabriel thinks, and he remembers that in order to survive the 2008 crisis, dozens of naval engineers, architects and designers from King Marine turned their back on the sea for a few years: “We had an expertise that very few other people had in handling carbon fibre. We met someone from the agricultural sector who showed us how his sprayers, with their 25-metre-long wings, ruined 4% of his crops in large areas. Also, the carriages he was using produced all sorts of prob-lems. We expanded the wings with carbon fibre, which made them more resistant, durable, and lighter, and we reduced the percentage of ruined crops. That was how King Agro started, and it saved the company when orders for boats plummeted”.
Mariani remembers how quite a few boat projects (ranging from 3 to 10 million Euros) “were abandoned for ethical and aesthetical reasons. The people who had placed the order had the mon-ey, but they were firing people and they couldn’t afford to buy a vessel that costs as much as a pri-vate jet”. King Agro quickly revolutionised the countryside and the largest multinational in the sector, with all due respect to Bayer or Monsanto, appropriated the invention commercially: “John Deer made us a great commercial offer. Years later, they bought King Agro, although we kept the factories in Picassent and Buenos Aires. Their managers are in love with Valencia”. It is no coincidence that this company, with its 180 years of history and more than 60,000 employees, will present its new line of products in the city, with a direct investment of tens of millions of Euros.
Few people have the know-how in the use of carbon fibre that King Marine has, and they put it to good use in the design of boats. In fact, even though they were one of the most renowned manufacturers of the most exclusive regatta boats, it was only thanks to King Agro that their expertise rocketed: “With our boat manufacturing we would maybe handle a few tonnes of carbon fibre per year. Now our volume is 400 tonnes of carbon fibre per year, something that very few companies around the globe can match”.
The Mariani family and the other partners in King Marine (Santarsiero and Guillermo Pinzinibbio) base everything they do on their passion for the sea. An obsession that runs in the blood and already spans three generations. They defend their Argentinian origins, where they keep factories, but the incorporation of Valencia into their lives is visible even in their logo and in their factory in
Alginet, which has produced some of the hulls and key pieces of the last America’s Cup, or the boats that Telefónica used to compete in The Ocean Race.
The orders are so exclusive that their list of clients is highly confidential, although we do know that some of the people in charge of America’s major technology companies travel to Valencia in complete anonymity. “Anybody who places an order for a boat that costs millions of dollars is looking for some sort of escape and a gratifying experience.
And I can’t say that we have neglected engineering or design, because our expertise is so specific that we even have our own in-house training which is quite unique and keeps us at the highest level internally. But we have also understood that our clients require a gratifying experience. Not so long ago, when someone ordered a boat, they normally had no knowledge of the process that involved. That has all changed. Our fac-tory has white floors, and it is almost a showroom. Production control makes Valencia the perfect place for them to come and see how their boat is progressing. Besides the usual monthly report, we used to send, we now send them a video of the evolution of the project. Whoever places an order, now more than ever, lives the construction as an intense experience in which they fall in love with the process”, Gabriel says.
Mariani celebrates the city’s designation as World Design Capital as an opportunity to be in the spotlight: “Although our clients are very exclusive, in all humility we make a great effort to get them to come here. It is a city that they usually don’t have among their references. But once they know it, they want to come back whenever they can. You just need to take a look at the Marina and see some of our clients, who spend weeks anchored here. Why shouldn’t the same thing happen with the press or with international consultants? Between now and when Valencia becomes Design Capital, King Marine will continue to design some of the world’s most advanced made-to-order vessels among the elite of naval architecture and engineering. Aware of the 2020 economic crisis, reinventing themselves at full speed ahead in what is a strategic field: sustainability and the change in the energy paradigm for this type of boat.