Interview with Anna Scarani, Rio Yachts
” Women have reached the pinnacle of glory, in every art by them professed“, the Italian poet Ludovico Ariosto quoted, and Anna Maria Ziliani Scarani has been excelling in the art of yachting for over 50 years, lavishing special care on her beloved boatyard: Rio Yachts. Rio was established on the shores of Lake Iseo in 1961 by the volcanic businessman Luigi Scarani, Anna’s husband and her partner in both life and work that she has always followed, step by step, to make their Italian dream come true: to build boats.
Interviewing Mrs. Anna is like travelling on board a runabout sailing across a sea of memories, filtered by a powerful humble courage and imperturbable strength.
Mrs. Scarani, allow me to use a wordplay, you’ve been riding on the crest of the wave for over 50 years. Which have been the major landmarks in the history of yachting in Anna Scarani’s vision?
I am particularly tied to the first decades of our company since they were the most weightiest and most tumultuous phases of our history. It was the year 1961 when Avionautica Rio was established, so called because it built gliders and motorboats until my husband realized that aeronautics industry was slowing down while yachting was beginning to take off. He therefore took down that department but preserving the skills and know-how of its craftsmen and providing the shipyard with high-level and high-quality craftsmanship: runabouts, for example, were made of very fine mahogany.
I have recently met a former construction manager of our company, a certain Mr. Billi, and he told me about when he went to the port of Genoa to sift the trunks coming from Africa and select the best ones. In the ’70s, the first cabin-equipped model – the Rio 310 – came. Her success was enormous and, when we put her on display at Paris Boat Show for the first time , the queue of visitors and would-be buyers was so long that my husband and I began to doubt if the price was the right one.
Wooden boats progressively turned in plastic ones. How did your customers accept this epochal shift?
It was the ’70s, the Italian society was changing, it was the age where the middle class was forming and people was beginning to talk about ” weekend”, which was a completely new concept for that time. This was the background where the idea of a smaller, more affordable boat was born. Wood needed to be replaced by other materials requiring lower labour costs.
This was why we built our first boat in ABS ( Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), a plastic heat-formed material: the Rio 310. Within just 10 minutes, hulls were printed by a special machine and, then, they were treated with closed-cell polyurethane foam in order to become unsinkable. I remember that, when we exhibited this boat at the Genoa International Boat Show, we plunged the hull into a pool full of water to demonstrate it couldn’t sink. The Rio 310 was so successful that she resulted into three different work shifts, 200 employees and a production of over 50,000 units.
You were a pioneer in yachting communication. Can you remind us some particular slogans of those years?
Since the beginning of my work experience at Rio Yachts, I’ve always liked “chatting”. My role was to entertain the ladies, the customer’s wives. I wasn’t prepared but I had understood that the tireless work of my husband was not enough to produce, the company needed someone to communicate with the market. At that time, there was no a public relations office; no one, including Riva Yachts, had it.
I learned a lot from our relationship with the motor division of Piaggio; they had a communication agency in Florence with a well-prepared staff and, when I attended their meetings, I stole ideas, I drew on their expertise and know-how and I put it into practice. Well, I think I’ve been working well since then. Sure, I remember the slogan ” Rio, the boat for everyone” that we used to launch the Rio 310 or ” Rio, all the boat universe” when we started building our first cabin-equipped models.
Rio has always had an all-comprehensive approach to yachting. The ’80s marked the development of the “Work Boats” division. How much has the technology developed for the professional market influenced the world of recreational boats?
A lot. Work and yachting have always been closely linked to each other since our engineers applied the same certifications required by the professional market in our recreational boats. We started to follow some announcements and, in addition to the 200 patrol boats built for the Carabinieri, we also built boats for the Milan-based fire department and an ambulance-boat. I remember an order for the production of an armored boat, provided to the Bank of Italy for its travels to Venice.
In 2012, you won the ” The Best marine Woman for the Year” prize. Was it difficult for you to establish yourself in the mainly masculine world of the ’60s/’70s?
I don’t know if it’s because of my temperament or education but I’ve never worried about that. I ‘ve never felt inferior to my male friends, whether they were engineers, journalists, nautical experts or sportsmen. What was in the air in the ’60s never represented a problem for me, I read it on the newspapers but it never affected me, maybe because I’ve never bothered with it and nobody has never made me feel guilty about that. I’ ve always been widely respected and appreciated.
You’ve always promoted the young people’s full participation inside your company. Which opportunities does Rio Yachts offer to young people today?
Attention to young people has always been a part of our DNA. On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the boatyard, we’ve launched a competition reserved for the students of the Brera Academy, establishing some scholarships for the young winners. It was summer when, many years ago, a young university student came to our shipyard to make some money.
When I met him, he asked me for a job. At that time, we needed to show and test the new Rio 410 Jet but gathering all our dealers would have been very difficult. So, we gave the boy a car with a boat on the roof and another on the carriage. This way, he could travel Italy giving every dealer the possibility to test our Jet boats.
The boy was our Purchasing Office Manager until six months ago.
I have just one last question, very dear to me. Your friendship with industrialist Marcello Candia has led you to take an interest in the missionary and charity world. How much has your social commitment affected your way to “do business”?
It was thanks to journalist Giorgio Torelli that I knew Milanese industrialist Marcello Candia who, at 50, had sold his father’s company to get close to the missionary world and found an hospital in Brazil. I followed him from the start, so I went to Amazonia, where I visited his works, and I started to organize any kind of events in order to fund his activities.
The boat shows became a good occasion for me to know prominent people who could help me organize benefits and raise funds for what we needed, like Gino Paoli and Luciano Pavarotti, for example. However, I have to be honest, charity hasn’t influenced me so much because I was already tied to certain values, I’ve done nothing but sensitize them. I’ve always taken care of the others, my company and my family are the same thing for me, my staff has always been my number-one wealth.
Thus ends my dreamlike voyage into Rio Yachts. And Mrs Anna, before saying me goodbye. remembers her husband “Gigi”, giving a complete portrait of his entrepreneurial skills through the words of Luigi Einaudi:
” Thousands, millions of people work, produce and save despite all that we can invent to bother and discourage them. Natural vocation drives them, not only the thirst for money”.
Rio Yachts is much more than a shipyard: it’s a deep system of beliefs born out of a dream that has become true through the love, the courage and the tireless dedication of a young married couple.
Sure, engineers shape hulls, architects and designers study interiors, motor engineers make boats move but boats need much more to sail. The Scarani family has always given boats a soul and anyone buying a Rio Yachts’ creation is required to keep it.
Article also available in: English