Roland Darmanin Kissaun
As a yachting entrepreneur
Roland Darmanin Kissaun was born in St. Venera, Malta, in 1942. He was educated at the Montessori and later at the Lyceum and in 1959, having finished school, he joined Saccone and Speed - an English Company whose sole activity was supplying Wines, Spirits and Cigarettes, to mainly the British Services although later they catered for the domestic market. Soon after joining he was appointed a representative of the Company dealing exclusively with the British Navy and their shore bases.
In the early sixties a few yachts started visiting Malta and a few decided to base themselves here. Roland saw the prospects of extending the services his Company was offering to the locally based and visiting yachtsmen, and with the approval of his employers he set up a small office in the premises of the first yacht agent in Malta, namely Yacht Services Ltd in Ta’ Xbiex. This Company was owned and run by Cdr. John Hurst, an ex submarine Commander, and together they offered comprehensive services to the yachtsman.
In April 1970 he was approached by the then Manager of Camper and Nicholsons, Cdr. John Kitson, and offered the post of trainee Assistant Manager, on the understanding that John Kitson’s post would become vacant by 1972 as his work permit would expire then and Roland was to be trained to take over, which he did in July 1976 when he started S & D Yachts Limited.
This company was incorporated by Albert Schranz and Roland Darmanin Kissaun, hence the Company Name of S & D Yachts Limited. In 1976 Roland bought his partner out and became sole shareholder and Director, and with his then staff of three started promoting his Company and Malta as part of an International Yachting Industry.
The Company, which saw its birth in 1976 in a hired garage space, is now run from its fully owned spacious office employing 22 staff with a fleet of cars and dinghies used exclusively for servicing their international customers. 1n 1995 Roland transferred some of his shareholdings to his son Mark and his nephew Peter Fiorini Lowell, who are now the Directors of S & D Yachts Limited. Besides Malta, the Company operates in Tunisia and Antibes, and has affiliation agreements in Italy, Germany, Isle of Man, Spain, Turkey and the United States.
As a sailing activist and more –
◙ Which were your favourite sports in your childhood and youth and did you practice any sport in these periods?
“When I was a teenager I used to play football for a team in B'Kara, but having discovered I wasn't a talented footballer I gave up football and took up tennis and squash, which I practiced until I reached 45-years of age.
◙ When did you begin your association with sailing and how?
“In 1965, aged 23, I made a bet with some friends that I could go to Sicily and back without any charts, compass, and instruments. I was loaned a 27ft plywood cabin cruiser for this challenge and managed to go to Sicily and back and prove to my friends that I could do it, at that time not realizing how stupid I was and the risk I took. However, what my friends did not know is that I followed the Malta Sicily ferry from Malta to Sicily, and the next day I followed the ferry back to Malta.
◙ You have been involved in the organization of nautical events and committees, both those related to sports and also those of a commercial nature. Elaborate a bit?
“I have participated, as part of the organizing committee of the Malta-Sicily Windsurf Race, in each and every (1984-1994) edition and even assisted on the ‘experimental’ crossing of 1982. I was also on the Committee of the Toly Sailing Club where we used to take young boys sailing across to Pozzallo in 10ft mirror dinghies. We did this for 5years.
◙ You are married, with children, grand children; which are those favourite moments shared with family especially with grand children?
“I am married to Doreen (nee Griffiths) and we have three children and four grandchildren - Sebastian, Georgina, Valentina and Roxanna. My eldest daughter, Greta, is a doctor in Psychology whilst Mark, my middle son, is one of the two directors of S&D Yachts Ltd, whilst my youngest daughter Caron is a physio therapist who specializes in women's health. As a family we have had a lot of special moments, especially when the children where younger and we used to sail as a family on board my previous yachts. I am now having the same pleasure taking my grand children yachting whenever the opportunity presents itself”.
◙ You are undoubtedly a pioneer of the private section where the Malta yachting industry is concerned. Are you satisfied with what has been achieved so far; have we been slow in our reaction to international trends and opportunities, and what would you suggest for a successful future?
“I have been involved with yachting indirectly since the early 1960s, when I set up a duty-free facility for yachtsmen on the yacht marina operating from a yacht agent office. Eventually, because of my contacts with yachting clients in those days, Camper & Nicholsons offered me a job as detailed above.
In 1973 I set up my own company, namely S&D Yachts, gradually building up all aspects of yachting services, operating from a small office in Gzira with two employees. During the first few years my aim was to concentrate on both small yachts but most importantly the super yachts of those days, which were in the region of 30meters. This has helped to build my company's affiliation for giving service especially to super yachts in which we now specialize, and I am proud to say that today we have a very impressive database and represents as agents and managers 15% of all the superyachts in the world, which today amount approximately to 6,000 yachts.
It is regrettable that it has taken all these years to see the improvements which are being made today, and I feel that we should have been much better placed as a yachting centre being so rightly paced in the centre of the Med”.
◙ Your favourite! - sailing moments, sailing area, Mediterranean port, and the most interesting two personalities you met through your yachting years?
“I have had a lot of lovely sailing experiences, either sailing my own yachts or sailing with friends all over the Med.
One of the most interesting personalities I have met in my sailing days was Mr. Danhem who sailed all his life until a very respectable old age and has in his last few years of his life penned the famous Denham cruising guidebooks. Another man who has always been an example to me was Paul Ripard who during many friendly conversations had thought me a lot and was an example to me of how gentleman should act as a yachtsman at all times”
“My wish is to see the Malta Marinas better organized and Malta as a centre of excellence for the yachting fraternity and my ambition is to keep sailing for as long as I possibly can”.
(* Roland’s profile was written in 2009)