What do Lech Wałęsa, Pope John Paul II (Karol Józef Wojtyła) and Sunreef Yachts have in common? Even if you are not a history buff, I am betting you answered that all were born and bred in Poland (the name in parenthesis was perhaps too big a giveaway). Sunreef was a recent exhibitor at the Miami boat shows, where it showed the latest of its luxury power (the popular Sunreef Power 70, the red-hulled Abuelo and sistership Skylark) and sailing catamarans (including the 82-foot world cruiser Houbara—Miami was just a stop on her circumnavigation). Sunreef has launched more than 60 yachts since its inception, 10 years ago. To celebrate this milestone, Sunreef found and President, Frenchman Francis Lapp, invited Lech Wałęsa, Poland’s former president, to help promote Polish shipbuilding know–how and in particular, Sunreef Yachts. Lapp, who has spent more than half his life in Poland and is fluent in Polish, takes personal pride in his adopted country.
Wałęsa was the honored guest at Sunreef cocktail parties and a private dinner held at the Fontainebleau hotel organized for yachts’ owners, Sunreef clients, VIPs and media. Wałęsa, with his signature downturned mustache and the twinkle in his eye, was quite a draw. His story is well known—the co-founder of the Solidarity Trade Union, he ascended from shipyard electrician to become president in free, post-communist elections. As a symbol of the fight for democracy and human rights, he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983. Wałęsa is still very much devoted to politics, and in particular to the Gdansk Shipyard where he led a labor strike that ushered a political and social revolution. At one point in time, the Gdansk shipyard employed 20,000 people; nowadays it provides jobs to only 2,200. Many different companies operate on the grounds, including Sunreef Yachts, which employs about 150.
I asked Mr. Wałęsa a few questions about his views on Poland and Sunreef.
He joked that he is currently making another revolution to make sure people remember him. He credits America with helping him in his revolution way back when and still feels that America is essential to Poland. When I asked him if he would think about running for government office again, he said, “No, I prefer to be influential and in the public eye, but not be in office.” This unofficial ambassador or Poland said he was there mostly to support a friend. “I am simply in Miami to help support Francis Lapp (…) I am proud of Francis’s success and wish him more and future success.”
Wałęsa’s presence at the shows certainly lent some clout to Sunreef. Everyone wanted to stand next to Wałęsa and have his or her picture taken with him. If it was surprising at first to see him at a luxury yacht show, he did seem to fit right in. Could his next career be yacht broker?
For more information on Sunreef Yachts, visit sunreef-yachts.com