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Third generation takes the helm at boatyard

On course: Debbie Rance, the third generation of her family to take the helm at Rance’s Boat Yard, with yard manager and veteran sailor Damian Payne

Businesswoman Debbie Rance has just become the third generation to take the helm at the boatyard that bears the family name.

Ms Rance, the owner of toy and candy store Treats of Bermuda in Hamilton, has taken over the 70-year-old Rance’s Boat Yard after father Edward died in 2015.

The yard was founded by Ms Rance’s grandfather Everard in 1947 and Ms Rance plans to split her time between Treats of Bermuda, opened in 1994, and the boatyard.

Ms Rance said: “I grew up there, basically. Every school holiday and after school I spent time there and worked alongside my father and grandfather.

“At the time, I didn’t realise how much I was learning about the boating business as it was so much fun to work at the boatyard.

“Now that I’ve taken over, I am drawing on these early days of learning to make certain I honour both my grandfather and my father’s legacy with how they would have done things.”

Ms Rance added that — while holding to the family tradition of craftsmanship — she planned to modernise and widen operations.

The yard, managed by veteran sailor Damian Payne, is undergoing construction to upgrade facilities, while months have been spent sorting and cleaning the shop and property.

Ms Rance said: “Many people who remember my dad know that he was a perfectionist.

“His work was amazing because he did most things by hand, but it also took a long time.

“Our goal now is to keep the same quality, but make the process and systems a little more efficient so we can expand the business.”

The yard already offers a wide range of services, including boat haulage for vessels under 28 feet, power washing of bottoms, sides and cockpits, bottom painting and interior and exterior detailing.

The firm also has a sales division, including the supply of two models of Beacon Boat fibreglass dinghies, cutless bearings, ship chains, galvanised shackles, mooring buoys and commercial life rafts.

Ms Rance said that being a woman in charge held no fears for her — and predicted that she would be able to increase the number of women clients at the yard.

She explained: “It’s never fazed me being a female working at the boatyard alongside my dad.

“I’ve known how to do this stuff since I was a young girl and one of the most rewarding parts is I’m now able to help other female customers and empower them to get more involved in boating as well.

“Some women come in to see me with their own nightmare stories of how they were treated by others in the marine industry as if the information is over their heads.

“But I assure them that women are just as capable as any man of learning how to operate and maintain their boat.”

And she added her previous onshore business experience, including sales and marketing, was transferable to an amphibious role in her new position.

Ms Rance said: “Going forward we want to be known for having the best quality of workmanship and for customers to trust us for the quality of what we sell.”

She added: “It’s a family owned Bermuda business and we want to keep it running at the standards my dad set.

“He valued the relationships with his customers and cared about each boat he worked on.

“It wasn’t a moneymaking venture for him — it was about taking pride in his work and making certain he produced an excellent end result for his customers.”