Yachting has always spoken to the wealthy set. Yachts, wealth, glamour, and a lifestyle beyond most people’s wildest dreams. Just the place Men’s Passion would always choose to settle itself.
At a time when many luxury items have lost their prestige, yachting carries cachet that most cannot afford. These boats have always been seen as a true status symbol, however many zeros there are on the price tag.
Throughout history, from Cleopatra’s golden boat to the Royal Yacht Britannia, these vessels have been the choice of the upper echelons of society.
And then there is the competitive element. Roman Abamovich’s latest superyacht, which is currently under construction, is reputed to be the biggest yet at a monster-sized 167 metres.
While some superyacht owners do venture out to open sea, many never move their luxury vessels further than hops between upmarket marinas. You can get on a plane with just one suitcase and arrive in a place that’s full of your own things.
For some, there is less of a sailing side to it, they are essentially floating houses. It’s about privacy, security, familiarity. Indeed, Tiger Woods’ superyacht is called ‘Privacy’.
The global economic crisis is snapping at the heels of the global marine industry as much as any other, but many manufacturers are still reporting brisk business.
Dave Williams of Fletcher/Honda Marine says a boat is a good investment, unlike a car which loses value the second you drive away from the showroom. “We are expecting a tough time with the economy. But the Southampton boat show in September was better than ever.”
Rick Reading from Topper, which offers vessels at the lowest end of the market, said they are benefitting from the economic downturn. “Orders so far (at the show) have been OK. They are on a par with last year. There are less people but those here are serious, higher quality buyers.”
The marine industry does do a certain amount of planning. Most companies work a year to 18 months ahead so economic problems will not necessarily hit immediately.
There is also the notion that despite hard times, people still want to be able to treat themselves a little.
Chris Craft is the oldest boat manufacturer in the world, starting life in America in 1874. Now British-owned, their sales agent said the global economic downturn has not made a difference so far. Their representative at the show found customers are aware of the situation but are not put off. “Compared with last year, the mood is upbeat for us. We need to have flexibility but there are deals to be done. We felt a bit cautious but it›s been positive.”
Interestingly, buyers from mainland Europe have soared due to favourable rates with the Euro against the Pound. Potential customers are finding their cash goes further in the British marine market. Second hand boat sales are also up.
First published in Men's Passion issue #10