It may be an odd way to begin the review of the Sensation Anee caravan which I recently tested, but I think it’s important that I begin with Riaan Van Helsdingen, the designer and builder of the Sensation caravan range. Riaan is a maverick; perhaps even an ‘outlier’.
That term comes from a book of the same title by Malcolm Gladwell, in which he asks what makes high achievers different. One review summed up this title as follows: ‘His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing…’
Gladwell’s book struck a chord with me. Riaan is dyslexic, and as a result had a pretty difficult childhood and left school in Standard 7. (Grade 9, in current terminology.) But Riaan has never been ashamed of his handicap, and is quick to say, ‘I learnt from a young age that life isn’t fair, but that nothing stops you from achieving your dreams.’
From a young age, Riaan was driven to succeed; and succeed he did. He worked his way up from making leather belts as a kid, to making trailers with his twin brother, André. They started very small, with nothing but a welding machine on loan from a friend, and a big dream − to build high-quality trailers which would make them a household name.
This they achieved: Twin Trailers was born in 1992; and 3000 trailers later, they included their other passion, boats, when Riaan and André started Twin Boats & Trailers in 1998. Eventually, this developed into Sensation Boats, which, over time, became the leading manufacturer of recreational craft in South Africa.
Always up for a challenge, Riaan decided in 2012 to take his 20-odd years worth of expertise in boat building, and especially in the use of fibreglass (learnt in the States), into the caravan business.
He started Sensation Caravans in 2012.
Okay, so that’s the history. Now, let’s take a closer look at one of his creations.
I was impressed from my first look at the Sensation Anee, their top-of-the-range caravan. The lines are ultra-mod, sleek and aerodynamic.
This van has the look of the imported German units like the Fendt or the Detleff: the finish of the fibreglass is superb, and is testimony to Riaan’s years of building luxury leisure boats to world-class specifications.
The Anee is a big van, 8.31 metres long and 2.48 metres wide. It weighs 1 780 kg and is built on a BPW doubleaxle chassis, imported from Germany.
As Riaan explains: ‘If you want to build a strong house, you’d better have a very solid foundation.’