Freedom for All – Eeuwe Kooi

Eeuwe Kooi (1971) talks the way he lives his life. Relaxed, full of attention and enthusiastic. The founder of KM Yachtbuilders takes the time to discuss his love for the water, his career, and life. Eeuwe grew up in Friesland, a Dutch province in the northern part of The Netherlands. He spent a lot of time on the water from an early age.

“Sailing, surfing, sailing camps, competitive sailing. Each has its own dynamics and feeling. Where competitive sailing is all about adrenaline, sailing with friends is a completely different energy. To be together, relax and forget about the time.”

“On the water, I’m in my element. The freedom that my parents taught me is in my DNA. I’ve learned to go my own way. My dad used to say: ‘do what you enjoy most. Stay close to yourself in everything you do. Don’t be guided by what others say or think.’ And, so I did. Sometimes successfully, sometimes less. But that’s life.”

“I am not someone who knew exactly what he wanted from an early age. I didn’t follow a mapped-out career or life. I do what I like and what I find interesting. I follow my intuition and am inspired by the people closest to me, like my family and close friends. It’s also how the idea and journey of the Bestevaer 53 M/Y started.”

Eeuwe Kooi founder of KM Yachtbuilders

‘Being caught up
in the moment,
without distractions.
That’s when I truly
feel free.’

Eeuwe has an impressive career as a sailor and entrepreneur. Together with his team, he builds impressive custom one-off yachts with KM Yachtbuilders, the company he founded in 1999. He also sailed competitions all over the world.

“Freedom is not just one of my most important personal values. It’s also the foundation of KM Yachtbuilders. I believe that the more freedom you give to someone, the more you receive. My goal is a healthy and social company. A place where people feel safe. I think that’s essential to make people feel free. I try to inspire my employees to be themselves and to trust their skills. I believe there is a lot of strength in that.”

“Passion, trust, and autonomy play an important role in our making process, especially in my relationship with the client. Of course, it all starts with a shared passion. And the will to make something beautiful together. But mutual trust is equally crucial. In the past years, I’ve become closer to myself and my feelings. It creates a better understanding of what clients have in mind. I can shape the practical side of their ideas. Yet, I’m also completely honest with people. That means I will always tell my clients if I think they’ll regret a certain choice. Being completely honest with each other, that too is freedom to me.”

Those key values were also on the basis of the Bestevaer Motor Yacht. An adventure he embarked on together with Gerard Dijkstra.

“Gerard is an icon. He has a no-nonsense mentality. A dreamer, with both feet on the ground. Our collaboration is casual and based on trust. We’ve been working together for a very long time and sense one another perfectly. We can be completely honest with each other, skipping all pleasantries. Like family. This is exactly why we wanted to work with his team for the design of the Bestevaer 53 M/Y.”

“Our expertise is rooted in the construction of aluminium sailing yachts by order. So, coming up with a concept all by ourselves made this already quite a journey on its own. And the fact that this was a design for a motorboat made it even more exciting. Something we’ve never done before. To design a yacht from scratch is a different kind of creative freedom. What do I like? What do I want? What aesthetic and functional requirements must this boat meet? Our mission was to get the best of both worlds. As a sailor, I am used to the pure collaboration between nature, technology, and physical skills. How not to lose this adventurous feeling in the design for a motorboat? That was our goal. Getting feedback from close friends and family helped me to find the right balance. True luxury, not for show. The freedom to go sailing all year round. Adventure ánd comfort.”

This shows in the result.
“The Bestevaer 53 M/Y means accessible adventure. That little bit of extra freedom. Not having to think about the right weather. The freedom to take the boat during winter to go out on a lake or find a harbour anywhere in the world. But with the same expertise, functionality, and high quality we are known for. But not too masculine. I wanted something elegant. Yet, luxury, without frills.”

The aluminium plays a crucial role in the design.
“Our expertise lies in building yachts from aluminium. Why? It’s a fascinating material. It will never break. It doesn’t rust. It protects itself. The aluminium is low maintenance. You don’t need to paint it unless it is for aesthetic reasons. But you don’t have to since the raw aluminium is beautiful on its own. Timeless simplicity. Besides that, the aluminium is sustainable and circular. It can be melted down and re-used. It is so strong; the yacht survives you.”

Back to that question of what all this means for his idea of freedom.
“To me, freedom feels like some kind of meditative state. The mental focus you need on the water to get nature and technique to work together. Nothing else. Perhaps it can be described as some kind of active meditation by shifting focus. We think all the time. We can’t help but think about things. Even when we are trying not to think, we think about not thinking. The water forces you to let go. If you let yourself be distracted by your thoughts, you lose control. It’s about the art of turning your thoughts off and, immerse yourself in the moment. It comes down to the power of now.”