Dutch boatbuilder celebrates its 50th year


Dutch boatbuilder Contest celebrates 50 years in the business this year. The company, based in Medemblik, has been built over the decades by three generations of the Conijn family into one of Holland’s most productive luxury marques.

Ed Conijn, grandfather of current director Arjen Conijn, was one of the first people to see the opportunities for applying polyester materials in boatbuilding. As a keen sailor, he recognised a niche in the market in 1959, and the result was the open two-man leeboard boat called the Flying Dutchman. This was an instant success and served as the basis for the racing class of the same name. Over 600 examples of this enormously popular yacht were eventually built, giving an incredible foundation to Contest Yachts, which went by the name Conyplex in its first decade.

After the Flying Dutchman’s success, Ed Conijn identified an increasing demand among fellow sailors for a fast cockpit sailboat. Anticipating a new trend, he teamed up with designer Luiten to create the first Contest 25 (above). The boat again met a clear niche in the market and ushered in the era of the first series builds in the Netherlands. During this time the basis for the constantly updated Contest Yachts house style was developed. Keeping in mind export to the USA, the tulip was chosen to represent the Dutch yard and each galley working surface included a typical Makkum tile. Partly due to these eye-catching details, the Contests soon attracted considerable attention.

During the 1960s and 70s the yard also worked on other new designs, such as the Contest 27, 29 and 31 HT. Gaining a name as a pioneer in yachtbuilding with a passion for innovation, the yard was the first in Holland to introduce a large steering wheel (instead of the helm tiller) and a comfortable solution for spray hoods. The designers also dared to move the cockpit all the way aft, despite the prevailing trend in sailyachts.

The real breakthrough in the 1970s came with the Contest 33, which marked the start of the second generation of Contests. Revolutionary designer Robbert Das combined aesthetics and comfort in a design without a doghouse that appealed to a large number of sailors. The following Contest 36 also attracted lots of attention from the international media as it was the first design to feature a centre cockpit.

To find out more about the special events Contest is planning, visit their website www.contestyachts.com