The job we do daily becomes familiar to us over weeks and years, and often when others ask, “what is it you do?”, the answer is a very high-level view from inside our world.
When you are dealing with clients, who ask you the same question, it is crucial that this information is more descriptive in a way that means something to them.
In the world of SuperYachts, the industry makes certain assumptions and expectations of anyone asking questions. There is a level of awareness that experienced buyers bring, and the conversation starts at a different level.
The industry often forgets that their client’s journey before meeting them could be wide and varied. Perhaps you have had some experience of sailing, had a motorboat or at least hired one on holiday. You have played around with jet skis, and generally had a bit of fun on the water. You have been to a marina before and checked out some yachts at a local show. Your friend has taken you out on their large motorboat before, and with all the success that is coming your way, it is about time you became a yacht owner too.
The reason it is important to understand where you have come from is that the level of support varies, as well as setting expectations on the process. It is often a dark art, though it should be demystified and transparent to build a more trusting relationship. This helps to take any stress out of the journey and to avoid any surprises along the way.
This year if you are looking to purchase, charter or build a yacht, there are some recommended approaches to be successful. Firstly, you have got to make sure, really sure, that owning a yacht is for you. Chartering one for a week in the Caribbean or Mediterranean can help here. It will give you some exposure to living on a yacht for a week, albeit in the best weather conditions. Just as important as you enjoy the experience, is your close family and friends also enjoying their life onboard. Unless of course, you planned to leave them behind to sail the seven seas.
If you are confident that you are a natural yacht owner and have the support of family and friends, it is time to venture out into the world of yacht searching. This can be a daunting task. Which yacht? What age? How much should you invest? What kind of interior do you like? You will perhaps read the yacht magazines a little, look online and do some googling and find some useful links to listings. Do the listing photographs give you sufficient information or leave you wanting more?
At this stage, you are starting to build up an awareness of what you might do with a yacht. Where you would go, and what you will do when you get there. So, it is all going quite well so far. Next stop is the boat shows.
In America, there is plenty of choices. Miami International Boat Show was earlier this year, and Palm Beach International Boat Show will have completed by the time this article is published. There are many others around the country, culminating in the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, or FLIBS to insiders, which is in late October.
The choice of yachts at these shows varies. Usually, there is only a handful over 200 feet if that is the size you are interested in. Getting onboard is also a challenge, and it pays to get some support and plan to get approval up front for your visit.
Some of the top European shipbuilders will be at these shows, but there is nothing to beat a visit to a European yard like say, Benetti, who have a fantastic showcase area. Clients can go from section to section to choose the interior material, colours and lighting, and technology for your new yacht.
Some of the European car manufacturers are also manoeuvring into the industry, and you may find them at the larger boat shows. Dynamic who have partnered with Porsche Design to create a high-quality 115-foot yacht are newcomers to the industry but making a big splash. Aston Martin has partnered with Quintessence Yachts to focus on a speedy 37-foot powerboat. Reaching speeds of 50 knots, their sleek design will turn heads whether it is at your local marina or pulling up alongside a Superyacht.
Another problem with boat shows is that Superyachts on the market are not all at the show. They may have been showcased at another show, not in the region or ‘off-market.’ Sometimes owners do not want the world to know their yacht is on the market, as it could highlight a concern in their finances and affect their credibility or worse, the share price of their business.
By far the best way to start your search and the wisest approach is to seek out a yacht broker. Full disclosure, it is what I do. My focus is not on selling a yacht. My focus is on understanding what it is a client wants to buy. There is a big difference there. My choice of a yacht is not what matters. My shortlist is only a selection of yachts that appeal to me and meet the criteria discussed in an email. It is not necessarily the yacht that you would select. You may see something different. You may want something different. Your gut feelings are saying that is not the yacht for you, and the yacht broker is gushing about her. Well, I would instead ensure you understood what your gut is telling you, and going with that flow, then with another yacht that meets the size and budget requirements.
Most brokers work together in a network and already have agreements with those yachts that are in each other’s listings or even those that are ‘off-market’ and not listed but would accept an offer from a vetted client. The key is to make your decision with someone whom you connect with on some level.
Another focus of attention that is needed is the procurement process. Having an excellent team to support the negotiation with sound legal and financial advice is part of the success strategy you should have. It is all quite straight forward with the right people on your side, and this means have trustworthy allies each step of the way. Fortunately, it is a small industry and those who work together build a vast network of talented people who recommend each other because of this trust.
The world of finance is wide and varied too with a few of the big banks always being seen in and around the yacht shows. If a client is buying an asset of significant value, they are close at hand to offer solutions. Often, they are as much a part of the industry with inside knowledge on the reasons for sale and whether a particular yacht is a good investment from their perspective.
Everyone has got an opinion in this industry, so it is essential you have your own and avoid being swayed by the naysayers when you get close to selecting. The right yacht for you is not necessarily the right yacht for them. If you want a 100m Dutch expedition yacht, and they suggest a German-built classic yacht is a way forward, then that is merely an opinion. Both are valid and in different circumstances, and it would depend on how you feel about your choice.
Finally, a key thing to remember throughout the journey is to have fun. The value of a yacht tends to attract a hungry shark pool who can be over keen for your business, resulting in some behaviours that make you feel like prey. An early discussion with your chosen broker can ensure it is clear where the boundaries are and to help to provide that level of discreteness and confidentiality to avoid being bombarded. Ultimately all I want is for you to be successful and take your new yacht out for a spin and start having the time of your life.
You have earned it. You deserve it. I am ready when you are.
Douglas McFarlane is CEO of Lomond Yachts, a Superyacht broker based in the UK with international clients.