The Answers With… Setag Yachts’ Chris Gates

A man on a mission to overhaul the pre-owned yacht market - boat by boat.

In Summer 2019, the day after Plymouth luxury boat-builder Princess Yachts announced a record profit of £30million, its CEO and Chairman Chris Gates – who had started there as an apprentice 31 years earlier – announced he was stepping down. Retirement beckoned – but then an alternative beckoned a lot more enticingly.

Gates had noticed a yawning gap in the luxury yacht market: a “third way” for people to buy yachts, no less, on top of the existing options of buying brand new or compromising heavily with a pre-owned vessel. The game-changing brand that has grown from this epiphany is Setag Yachts, a provider of bespoke refits which apply customers’ specific needs when it comes to yachts’ interior aesthetics and technological credentials.

The company is founded on wide-spread know-how – thanks to Gates’s connections with major luxury yacht brands Princess, Sunseeker and Fairline, he can draw on the expertise of the original talents behind many of today’s pre-owned boats when carrying out refurb work – and is sustainable, both in terms of core concept and due processes.

What’s Setag’s unique proposition?
As with all pre-owned stock, there’s the good, the bad and the ugly – the good tends to sell instantly, which leaves the bad and the ugly, which we can turn into good. When you buy a new house, the first thing you do is renovate it. But when you spend the same amount of money – or more – on a pre-owned yacht, you just take the boat off the marina from the previous owner and live with their décor, their fittings, their specs and their outdated electronics systems. That’s crazy.

You’ve got to sleep on the same mattress as the previous owners because they’re custom-made for the boat. You’ve got to sit on the same sofa. Even the plates are designed to fit within the stacks securely, so you’re inheriting someone else’s plates. Changing all that it can become complicated, which is why we’ve created Setag.

Setag’s dining saloon design, as compared to the existing version below 

How is this proposition appealing value wise?
From an economics and value perspective, we can make a very significant impact on the vessel for 10-15 per cent of its value, whereas the depreciation of the boat will be closer to 50 per cent. So there’s a good economic answer for doing it – but this service just hasn’t existed until now. The customers are looking for this service because they recognise that it can create great value.

Is this a timely enterprise, given recent upheaval?
My personal view is that Covid has brought people’s mortality into focus. Whereas people have been holding back on their purchasing decisions – whether that’s a new car or a new house or a new boat – they now want to get on with things. Anything that has value to it, people are buying like crazy. Plus of course there is that desire for escapism, to get away from it all and feel safe and secure – there’s no better bubble than being on your own yacht!

Why is sustainability such a priority for contemporary yacht buyers?
The realisation that “green is good” has moved from something that was more on the fringes of society to the mainstream in recent years. It’s now a mainstream topic, and people realise that we’ve got to do something to save the planet. And of course, we’re the ultimate recyclers. We’re reducing the footprint by keeping these boats in circulation and fit for purpose – futureproofing them. We can also satisfy the need for sustainability because all the materials can be sourced sustainably and without the toxic foams that can be found in earlier interiors for instance.

How else do you go about future-proofing vessels?
Besides green credentials, the other major factor is technology. The next level of luxury in boating is silence, so we can offer some hybrid solutions for that too, so you’re not having to run a noisy generator the whole time or deal with the exhaust fumes from that. We can also bring your boat up to date with things like stabilisation technology, taking it beyond what is mainstream today into what will be mainstream in five-to-ten years’ time.

Also, electronics are constantly being updated due to advancement in technology. There was a fashion 15 years ago for complexity, so you’d upsell the technology – it would go up in price further, the more complex it became, and the more qualified you needed to be to operate them. Today, no-one’s interested in that at all. It’s all about intuitively simplicity.

Plus of course, in terms of the interiors – the look and feel of the boat – can also date, so we can help you to refresh the design so that it feels like new.

Setag Yachts’ Chris Gates 

Click here to see a video of Setag’s Transformation of a Fairline 58 yacht

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