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Flight Deck REPORTS – Sailing Yacht Review | 2018

from-the-flight-decks-2018-sailing-yacht-review-cartoon

‘Coffee making skills require improvement…’

BY ALAN MCILROY

2017 proved to be a very busy record year in the brokerage market as the weak pound continued to drive foreign buyers to our shores. During the spring and summer we were busy with the sales of sailing yachts of around 15 metres and above. There was much less confidence in the market below this size with some 12 – 13 metre yachts sticking despite being competitively priced. However 2018 heralded a change in the market, and we raced off to a rapid start, and those 12 and 13 metre ‘stickers’ became hot news and the yachts that everybody wanted to own; perhaps vibrant stock and housing markets had an influence?

At the risk of sounding a little repetitive there are a number of elements key to a successful yacht sale – location, condition, correct pricing and comprehensive marketing.

Location plays a key role, it is simply a question of foot fall and basing your yacht in a location accessible to the market. Our shipyard in Lymington is a very well presented in-house full service yard. Another benefit of this is the comfort and peace of mind it can engender with a purchaser. Buying a substantial blue water yacht is just the beginning of the voyage, so having the support of a good yard the all trades under one roof, controlled by competent and experienced project managers is a comfort and can assist in the purchase process. The site is also very reachable in less than an hour and half from Heathrow and under 2 hours from Gatwick airports and even closer to Southampton, Bournemouth and Farnborough.

Lymington may not always be the viable solution, but the underlying message is that location is key, and where possible the yacht should be marketed from a recognised easily reachable yachting centre whether here in the UK, the Mediterranean or further afield.

While it may sound a tad obvious, the condition of the yacht is important. A little investment prior to marketing will make all the difference. A prospective purchaser will form an opinion within seconds of stepping aboard. Some investment before they do this will increase your chances of a sale enormously. In Lymington, all incoming yachts for sale are appointed a specific project manager who has years of experience preparing craft to show at their best and is on hand to provide buyers help with commissioning and any titivations needed before sailing into the blue yonder.

While 2017 was a very busy year, it was also very apparent just how price sensitive the market was and continues to be. We continually review the market and it becomes clear very quickly when a yacht is ambitiously priced. Given the fluctuations in currency of recent years, having your finger firmly on the pulse has become more important than ever. Put an unrealistic price tag on your yacht, and the enquiries will not be forthcoming. This means that a proactive approach is required, monitoring the level of interest both from online activity and direct feedback from prospective purchasers. Sharing this information with owners enables them to make informed decisions and to remain ahead of the curve.

At Berthon we continually strive to improve our offering. While we still employ the more traditional forms of direct marketing, direct mail and yachting press, we also take an extremely proactive approach to online presence and increasingly important social media and online video.

Our traditional niche market continues to be the high quality blue water cruising yacht sector where we keep an eye on changes in trends and new developments. In line with our blue water credentials we continue to support events such as the ARC and World ARC, and of course we host the very popular Bluewater Cruising weekend at site in Lymington, with their parent company and our friends at the WCC. We also make the annual trip to Las Palmas to wish all our clients participating in both the ARC and ARC+ a bon voyage.

On the subject of trends, there will always be a place and demand for medium to heavy displacement cruising yachts, sporting longer keel profiles, with cutter rigs and skeg hung rudders. These are the ingredients for the ultimate in comfy cruising. However, even the more traditional builders are acknowledging the advances made within the racingfraternity, and as is always the case these developments influence the cruising market. A good example of this in recent years are sail plans where tall, narrow mains and overlapping genoas are slowly becoming a thing of the past. There are also an increasing number of buyers often from a racing background who are less wedded to the traditional approach. They want to make the move from racing to cruising but are keen to hold on to many of the performance attributes that they are used to. For them, balanced (and sometimes twin) rudders, fin keels, foxed bow sprites and a more contemporary look are must haves.

In recognition of this trend, we became the agents for Solaris Yachts in 2017, of which you will read more elsewhere in this publication. The common denominator blue water sailors share whether going down the more traditional route or performance cruising, is both the desire and requirement for a properly built offshore yacht. Here Solaris delivers and in spades.

Yacht broking is very much a people business and we are very privileged to deal with clients that share our passion for yachts and the adventures they can deliver (magic carpet is a term we’re fond of using). It is hard not to share the enthusiasm that our clients have for their sailing projects, as we form strong relationships while working with them to realise their dream for their perfect yacht, often over a long period*. A few of our favourite projects from 2017 are below –

  • Discovery 55′; departed Lymington June 2017 heading Gibraltar, Canaries, Caribbean, Panama Canal and onward for her circumnavigation.
  • Discovery 55′; purchased in Kiel Germany so rather than return to the UK the Owner took the view “we’re here now so let’s explore the Baltic!”
  • Bowman 40′ purchased refitted and sailed straight to Costa Rica.
  • Oyster 72′; after a short pitstop in Berthon’s Big Blue Sheds, departed for the Caribbean, Panama canal, through the Pacific to New Zealand and has now shipped back to Europe ready for her next adventure in the Mediterranean and henceforth onto the East Coast of the USA.
  • Dixon 63′; which has cruised from Palma to Greece and which is now looking forward to exploring the Eastern Mediterranean at her leisure.

Before I close, I wanted to give those contemplating blue water of all hues a date for the Diary….

The Bluewater Cruising weekend is the 16th-17th June 2018, hosted here at Berthon, 2018 will be its 4th year. A busy weekend of seminars, practical demonstrations, guest speakers, and a broad selection of Bluewater yachts to view. Also the chance to talk to the experts who will be able to share their knowledge about everything from water makers to insurance, to refit to delivery; and not forgetting the writer and his colleagues. See you there… Apply Here.

A word from Sophie Higgs, who works with Alan in the Sailing Yacht division.

My second year at Berthon has sailed by with more yachts sold, contact with a raft of new clients, and more adventures as more travel beckoned me hither and thither to see yachts and clients alike; I have sold yachts from as far away as the Caribbean and as near as the Isle of Wight!

I have learnt more about what sells yachts and how important presentation and price are. Well priced and presented yachts did not hang around for long in 2017 as demand was high.

I was lucky enough to take part in the 2015 ARC, and in November 2017 I went out to the start with Alan. It was great to be back in sunny Las Palmas and walk the docks once more. Even better was seeing clients who have bought yachts from us and were finally there at the start ready to fulfil their dream.

Last year, we saw plenty of Euro buyers as the sterling has remained weak. Based in the UK office we are in the fantastic New Forest so there aren’t many clients who don’t arrive at the office with a smile having seen a pony, donkey, a long horn cow or even a pig on their way to Berthon.

My broking skills are growing and the team are hopeful that the coffee making will also improve, especially since we have one of those special whirring machines. I am thoroughly looking forward to my third year here at Berthon selling yet more yachts and seeing more clients head off with the right yacht for their planned adventure.

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