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Performance Yacht Review | 2020

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By Ben Cooper

Sunday evenings have returned to bliss – Top Gear is back. New presenters, fun stunts and watchability that is unparalleled on the other channels. Probably the only programme the whole family will watch together.

I had a moment during a recent episode (sorry Ed. I am always the last to file the Market Report) when a question was posed during a test of the new Porsche electric family saloon: “Can you really now have it all?”

This car was fast, really very fast. Faster than most supercars. Faster than a space rocket (perhaps over-zealous presenting). It had 4 comfortable seats. It had luggage room. It was relaxed around corners and the only thing it could not do perfectly was go off road.

That got me thinking. What if it could…? A quick swipe up, across and tap and I had the answer – there are a new breed of cars that can do all of this. Perhaps not quite as supersonic, but can be beasts on the road, capable off road, and still take the family on holiday very comfortably.

Just like my cat Monty, who sleeps with one eye open and one ear up, I have part of my brain permanently wired to yachts and ultimately began to draw parallels.

Performance cruising is not a new genre. Shipman et al invented this a while ago using form stability, carbon masts and rigging to lighten the load, increased righting moment and gave much more volume below. Much as Audi did about the same time with the incredible RS6. Comfortable and fast.

One area of the market though, as per the aforementioned Porsche, that was always reluctant to join the bandwagon were the off roaders – the bluewater sailors who were the lovers of Oyster, Discovery, Hallberg Rassy, Najad et al. In the past manufacturers have tended to keep their offerings for Performance cruising to coastal sailing spec. Open deck layouts, flush decks with the sleek and racy image.

However, recently some manufacturers have twigged that a combination of performance and comfort with careful design can cater for this market. A stroll around Boot Düsseldorf made the Solaris 64′ jump out as a very capable offshore cruising yacht, with ample deck space for coastal lounging, yet with performance vital statistics married into a very safe and secure cockpit with sensible sail handling for shorthanded offshore sailing. Solaris had a huge amount of interest in the larger yachts at the show, and more interestingly, for bluewater use.

There are others as well, and the Advanced Yachts 80′ I recently sold has a similar philosophy racking up more bluewater miles than you could imagine, without any issues whatsoever: quite an achievement.

Looking into the crystal ball I am eagerly waiting for the first manufacturer to produce a serious scow hull form for cruising. This is the direction the serious offshore racing yachts have suddenly headed off into and it is proving to be hugely successful.

It makes a huge amount of sense. Large volume, righting moment, stability and performance. But it will have to overcome aesthetic prejudice which will take a year or two, yet. I could insert a motoring parallel, but there are so many.

In the racing world, we are seeing a rather interesting change in the market, or rather in the way yachts are being bought by owners.

Since the rise of the internet, and instant information, buyers are more involved and informed when making a purchase or enquiry. It is natural and there is a huge amount of information out there. Buyers also generally have a trusted cohort, who will all have an opinion and advice.

However, over the past 2 or 3 years, I have seen a change that buyers are more interested to be involved with the detail directly and understand yachts and the wider market in much more detail. There has been a slow reduction in stock over the past 5 – 8 years for 40ft+ racing yachts and care is taken from buyers to understand what the potential is for a yacht as well as its track record.

As a broker I have to keep on the front face of this new trend, to a more indepth level to help through the buying process. It is comforting to know that the majority of sales are of yachts that are not the original enquiry. Also to see any potential for yachts that may have not been successful on a grand prix level, but would shine offshore, or in club racing, or perhaps she is ripe for optimisation and offers potential at a lower cost. Obversely, the level of premium to be paid for a top level yacht.

The market continues to move and foiling will be the next big thing but costs need to come down and designs easier to use. The dreaded Brexit has not dampened spirits yet but travel bans will cut short the upcoming season. For UK yachtsmen, there is potentially a very good opportunity to sail VAT free in Europe on a TA, leave for the Caribbean before 18 months are up and return once again.

I think the next few years will steady down, supply is a small issue as less yachts have been built over the last 10 years than the previous by a long way, but that will pick up and secondhand racing yachts if well maintained and kept competitive will not depreciate too badly. A bit like the classic car market, but that is a different story…

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Ben Cooper
Tel: +44(0)1590 679222
E-Mail: ben.cooper@berthon.co.uk
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