As a company operating in the kernel of its milieu, SuperYachtsMonaco is a key player in shaping the yachting scene’s future. Dealing with globally renowned vessels such a Cloudbreak (seen in Antarctica in main pic) and needs to respond to ever-changing whims and wishes. We chat to the man ensuring it stays ahead of the zeitgeist.
Was there a single catalyst moment when superyachts became your vocation?
That is a very interesting question. My first life-changing experience of superyachts occurred when, aged 29, I arrived back in London from the Maldives, where I’d been working as a diving instructor. At the time, my brother was working in recruitment and he told me, “You have really screwed up your life. You’ll never get a decent job now.” My mum was more supportive and told me about a yacht crew agent that she knew and suggested I send him my flimsy CV. I did so and went off to do a competent crew sailing course.
Shortly after I got a call from the agent who told me to fly to Germany and report to a shipyard over there where a superyacht was being built. I was greener than green and off I went. When I arrived there, I found that the captain who had hired me was overseeing the build of a gigantic looking ship. All yachts look bigger outside the water, but when I saw Senses in the shed as she neared completion I remember feeling both awestruck and incredibly excited. Here was a business in which I could have had fun and adventures and potentially be paid very good money in return. I joined the crew as a deckhand dive instructor, we completed the build and set sail on the maiden voyage – one from which I never looked back.
What motivated the founding of SuperYachtsMonaco?
I started the company with my business partner with the purpose of it being a sales outlet for a specific shipyard which he had bought with my help. The yachts were going to be built at the yard in Germany and we were going to sell them via the sales office in Monaco, which is of course an epicentre for UHNWIs who were our prospective clients.
However, timing was not ideal. We started SuperYachtsMonaco at the end of 2007 and very soon were engulfed – along with the rest of the world – in the global financial crisis of autumn 2008. To make a long story short, my partner decided to sell the shipyard in order to concentrate on his core business but we re-purposed the company and offered brokerage services, much the same as we do today. With hard work we gained some traction, survived and then prospered.
What we thought was missing in the market was a less corporate and more straightforward way of doing business. We figured that purchasing a yacht was supposed to be something pleasurable for people in high pressure working environments who were often surrounded by ‘yes men’. We decided to tell it like it is and to help demystify the process. This has been a very successful approach for us.
In what ways are the new generation(s) of HNWI changing the superyacht market?
Many. In terms of design, they’re demanding more radical styles and more functionalities, which is a reflection of the enormous amount of choice and options they find in their daily lives. They want yachts to do more and more impressive things.
For example, in the past, a yacht may have been viewed as a retreat and place to have privacy with one’s guests. Of course, there were parties too but essentially a yacht was a floating luxurious hotel with dining and a chef and not too much more other than the ability to change the scenery on a regular basis. The current generation want all of the above and more… The yacht needs to be larger and more luxurious with a plethora of entertainment and activity choices ready at a moment’s notice.
Popular entrainment options include tenders, jet packs, wakeboarding, water-skiing, paddleboards, helicopter exploration, DJ set up with famous DJs brought in, Imax cinema systems, Michelin star chefs, spas, gym sessions with personal trainers and much more. The concept remains the same but the extremities of luxury are much further out on the perimeter!
What about in terms of design?
We see the industry currently in flux as the disruptive nature of ‘digital’ impacts yachting as it has every other industry. New-generation clients are able to search for yacht sales and charter using their mobile phone which, in theory, brings them a new level of convenience, but in practice it lowers the barriers to entry into our industry to a point that it becomes flooded with pretenders. Therefore, it’s more important than ever to work with trusted people in a market based on high-value products. It’s not all bad news, as proper people and professionals exist but clients need to do their research and reference check carefully to find them. Clients are in fact well advised to be loyal and to establish relationships of trust, like we do with our clients.
How do you think the industry will change further in the future?
I see the yachting industry continuing to grow, partly for the reasons it became popular in the first place – it’s exclusive, it grants ultimate privacy to those engaged in it, it allows for travel to places with limited access and it’s a status symbol above all others. The trend towards more remote destinations (like Antarctica, Greenland, Patagonia, Madagascar) is likely to continue as the more adventurous younger generations aim to go further afield and seek experiential travel experiences but, at the same time, we expect the construction of new ports closer to home in the hotspot areas such as the Mediterranean to increase.
Does the pace of change cause frustration amongst some owners, as their boundary-pushing vessels become relatively ordinary so quickly?
I don’t think so. Owners purchase new things constantly, like supercars, which are outdated quickly so they know the way it unfolds. Some of them enjoy the process of the salesman persuading them to upgrade to the latest version available, others will take a different path where they work with a designer to create something unique and custom built. Once you are sitting on the sundeck of your yacht looking out, things seem very fine indeed, even to the extent that if your yacht is a bit outdated and less beautiful than others you will find that you’re probably enjoying yourself as much as the next man on the adjacent larger yacht.
The perfect result for any owner is to own something that is considered ‘iconic’ and is therefore relatively immune to the passing of time, but this is very hard to achieve and this is why there are only a few truly iconic yachts.
What’s your personal definition of luxury?
Luxury for me is being able to switch off from my phone and all online activity whilst having the full confidence and trust in a delegated person to properly manage all my business and personal affairs.