“Yachting is family,” says Defne Ozer, a bright and highly astute young businesswoman now taking over management of Aegean Yacht, her family’s shipyard in Bodrum, Turkey, where three yachts are currently under construction.
Having visited the annual Monaco Yacht Show, which returned to the Principality this September after a one-year Covid-induced hiatus, it is hard to disagree.
More than a standard industry trade show, MYS, as it is known, gathers with a true sense of community, oriented toward crafting a product that combines artistry, diligence, aspiration, enjoyment, nature, luxury, and privacy – all things we are losing in an ever more debased world where dour egalitarianism is enforced by guilt masquerading as empathy.
Marveling at Nahita, a racing yacht launched by Italian manufacturer Wally Cento in 2018, Philip Allen, a member of the Royal Channel Islands Yacht Club, commented that it is “the embodiment of designer Luca Bassani’s vision for the brand … the fusion of technology, style, and high performance has since been imitated by many but equaled by none.”
Pandemic conditions and urban breakdown seem to have made demand bloom.
Just as large numbers of disappointed New Yorkers decamped for Palm Beach and other more desirable locations over the past eighteen months, so, too, did many new as well as experienced yachtsmen take to the waves, resorting to floating homes that offer the ultimate in social distancing.
In the South Florida private school scene, it has not been unknown for parents choosing the Zoom option to have their children phone in classroom time from remote currents of the Seven Seas.
The worst may be over, but demand has by no means slackened.
Robert Allen (no relation to Philip), the name partner of Palm Beach and Miami-based Robert Allen Law, arguably the world’s leading law firm specializing in yachts, perceived “a shared sense of relief and a great deal of optimism about the future of the sector.”
Despite the continuing pandemic – masking is required in all public places in Monaco, including outdoors, and “health passes” are a near-universal requirement – “attendance far exceeded expectations.”
This was true even though the show boosted the daily price of attendance this year to 550 euros – up from 350 just two years ago – to discourage touristic visits.
Even in a pandemic economy that may be facing global crisis, the allure of yachting is powerfully in evidence. “Altissima” – highest of all – said Giovanna Vitelli when I asked her in a pleasant Italian conversation about demand at Azimuth Benetti, a firm founded by her family in the 1870s where she serves as vice president. “People want boats because they are safe and free places.”
Benetti CEO Marco Valle agreed – 2020 was “a great year,” he enthusiastically assured an audience gathered for a sumptuous dinner at Monte Carlo’s Hermitage Hotel after one of the show days.
Zazou, the 213-foot yacht everyone at MYS was talking about, took pride of place among Benetti’s displays. Launched in July on commission for an undisclosed sum by an unnamed private owner who only uses it for family purposes, the boat features an onyx dining table for twelve, a massage room, and a capacious media lounge, among precise custom finishes all sourced to Italian producers.
Benetti, Vitelli assured me, has no shortage of customers in the same category, and is now producing yachts designed with a “game-changing” feature, an “oasis deck” with a swimming pool that rests nearly at ocean level.
The sales scene seemed sharp. Visits to many yachts were strictly limited to buyers or investors sent to represent them. SES Yachts, an Istanbul-based Turkish manufacturer, was happy to show me its sleek new three-masted Grace III, a 127-foot sailing beauty with a deck entirely made of Burmese teak, but I could not tour below deck because its buyer was there in last-minute meetings.
CRN Yachts’s Azteca, a 236-foot behemoth built in 2009 that requires a crew of up to 25, was on sale for 65 million euros, with payment accepted in bitcoin. I managed to see the whole thing, but as I completed my tour I was told an offer was expected later the same day.
Critics may charge that yachting is wasteful and self-indulgent. But the industry has changed. Vitelli estimates that most of her company’s new customers list “sustainability” as a leading factor in their preferences for purchases and commissions.
The company’s new hybrid engines, which rely on hydrogen, are on track to reduce emissions by 70% in the coming years.
With annual operating costs that can run into the millions, saving on fuel is as desirable a feature as even the most outlandish amenities.
Anders Kurtén, CEO of Finland-based Baltic Shipyards, mused from the deck of a Path-class yacht, a four-masted sailing vessel with features designed for Arctic as well as Mediterranean sailing conditions, that large diesel-powered yachts may face extinction in the not so distant future.
Yachting’s economic effects are also a win.
The old cliché that yachting is a pastime that resembles standing in a cold shower while tearing up $100 bills is far from accurate.
Zack Hamric, CEO of Azul Marine Lending, a Florida-based finance company that specializes in high-end yacht loans, considers the industry “the ultimate redistribution of wealth.”
“Not a single dollar is wasted,” he told me over lunch at the elegant Yacht Club de Monaco (which is fittingly designed in the form of a megayacht), “it is spent with the countless number of suppliers of raw materials, electronics, motors, and the shipyards themselves – thousands are employed in the industry.”
“After a couple of years go by,” he continued, “the owner orders a new yacht and the cycle repeats itself.”
“You couldn’t take that much money from a man without putting a gun to his head,” Hamric added.
Paul du Quenoy is president of the Palm Beach Freedom Institute. He holds a Ph.D. in History from Georgetown University. Read more — Here.
© 2022 Newsmax. All rights reserved.