Since I sat down to write this section for the 2020 Berthon Book, the world has changed fundamentally and I feel that myself and my fellow shipmates aboard the good ship Planet Earth are navigating waters that have no accurate charting and it seems that satellites are in short supply and the depth sounder is uncalibrated. Who could have predicted the far reaching changes to our lives that Covid-19 would have bought, a few short months ago?
The past months have brought to Berthon, and millions of others, a whole new way of life, with restrictions in movement which would in other times been frankly unthinkable. I had always been fond of scribbling for this publication from the sanctuary of my garden shed at home, away from the noise of the office. This year in March, it became my primary place of work, home to literally tons of paper and a place of frustration when it’s charmingly rural internet signal did not keep up with the pace of office life.
In 2020, the Berthon Sales Group has learnt a lot about itself, and about the use of technology and about a new and more personal way of working. Our team in the UK, France, Spain, Sweden and the USA has never been stronger. We have all grappled with Microsoft Teams, Discord and the rest, as well as the need to communicate remotely which has meant that we have done more of it – and from a business and personal perspective – it has been brilliant!
The down time for many marine businesses has been an opportunity. We took that time to unpack our branding, update our offering, build a new website, do those training courses on the black magic that is Excel and the rest that never had a look in before, and to spend lots of time in contact with our clients.
More importantly, we have understood the market, improved our service and worked around those restrictions so needed to keep people safe with FaceTime viewings, granular information and trying harder.
For those in our industry who gave up, it has been a miserable time, whilst those who dug deep and kept going, the market is still there, yachts trade and the business continues albeit to a different rhythm. The thing about a yacht is not just about the object, but how she makes you feel, and where she can take you and how she binds you, and your friends and family together. Covid-19 is a leveller, it does not take prisoners. However, it has demonstrated the frailty of life and the importance of quality time doing things and going places with those about whom you care. This is time which may not come again.
The Berthon Book is an annual affair and as the date of its compilation drew closer, my heart sank. The idea of putting together a lifestyle publication where the importance of getting out there plus photographer to see, touch and write was daunting. I was also worried that as our contributors are specifically only Berthon clients, friends and supporters, that the last thing that they would do would be to write for Berthon in the teeth of a crisis. How wrong I was! Despite the challenges, the subjects, articles and imagery are, I think, epic. Thank you so much to them all for helping us create a lifestyle magazine from as it were, the garden shed.
Whilst I won’t pretend that 2020 has been easy, the market has been surprisingly resilient and the doom-mongers who bandied around value drops of 30% or 40% for yachts have been wholly wrong. Whilst this may have been the case in some countries for property, yachts are portable and our market is truly international. Of course there are some segments which have been vulnerable; mature, large, investment hungry yachts being most notable – but this was the case pre-Covid too. Because of the restrictions fewer yachts will be built in the next 12 months and this is good in value terms for newish brokerage yachts. This enhancement of value then trickles down the brokerage fleet.
Of course location remains a barrier – practically wherever your yacht, and this is a limitation that will remain with us for a little while longer.
New yacht deliveries were unaffected in 2020 with international deliveries of Windy, Pearl, Solaris, Iguana, and Moody, some delayed due to shut downs, but this part of our business has been relatively straight forward. Of course the future of boat shows with the nightmare of keeping people safe, both exhibitors and visitors, will lead to a new way of showing and marketing new yachts, although we expect that the major boat shows will survive and return post Covid-19.
As the 2021 season stretches ahead of us, we have good levels of interest and clients have the appetite for new build which is great. The shipyards that we represent have all adapted, made the needed changes to keep people safe and are carrying on building yachts, thereby proving what we always knew, which is that they are the best of the best.
It has been a dramatic year across the international offices and we have all worked closely together to coordinate our activities to deliver the best possible service.
In the UK, it was a super difficult time when the Berthon Shipyard shut in March, sending over 100 amazing craftsmen home as well as the bulk of the management team. We followed but kept on working and managed sales via FaceTime, put the sales in progress to bed and gained listings. A staged return to the office in May enabled us to take advantage of the opportunities in the market.
In France, there was total shut down, but through the crisis, berths and yachts were sold, new yacht deliveries were managed and our brokerage listing portfolio uprated. The Cote d’Azur remains an astonishing place to yacht and with our active brokerage division and sales for new Windy and Pearl, the business is now gaining momentum again.
Berthon Spain has also navigated the storm with panache. The service part of the business continues to develop and whilst this was super challenging through the crisis we are rebuilding this on solid foundations, and today have simply never been busier. Simon Turner who joined us from Northop & Johnson in July, provides a great foundation for yacht sales in Spain. Our new office opposite the Club de Mar is now open and having worked with Simon for more years than I care to remember, both at Berthon when I joined the business prior to the ice age, and later as a trusted colleague broker, this is great for Berthon and a big personal plus for me too.
Berthon USA stopped for business in March. In the beginning of May, someone switched the lights on again, and with 5 deals agreed on the first Friday of May, the USA team have not stopped ever since! Prices are not under pressure, but what clients do demand is excellent service and high quality yachts that they can get out on the water and aboard without fuss and have fun. I hesitate to mention hot cakes, but the Moody brand which we represent in Newport, certainly seems to share many of the same characteristics.
Of course Berthon Scandinavia is a new addition to the Berthon family this year. With offices in the beautiful Island of Orust, and home to some of the best cruising grounds on the planet, Magnus Kullberg and his crew, formerly of XLNT Yachting, are a great bunch of people who share our ethos. Like Berthon UK, Berthon Scandinavia is agent for Solaris Yachts and our new team in Orust are the go to people for all those beautiful Scandinavian yachts like Najad, Hallberg-Rassy and the rest. Yachts that are wintered in Sweden are tucked up ashore in heated sheds with all their kit stored separately. This is a massive benefit for the new owner as teak decks, GRP, systems and the rest don’t take the wear of a yacht stored outside in the elements. The office also has a healthy business with yachts lying elsewhere and we are all working together to extend their reach and client base. We are delighted to have such charming new members of the Berthon family.
So Covid-19, a new way of working and Brexit too! This brings more challenges and opportunities as far as VAT and cruising in the Mediterranean are concerned. The Berthon Customs Warehouse is a key part of making this work, offering flexibility for our client base.
This year brought a new website and we hope that you may have already visited. We wanted to provide a simple, clear website with good information about both our brokerage fleet and also our new yacht offerings. You will find plenty of video, granular information and articles about sale and purchase that tells you the stuff that you need to know rather than what a salesman thinks you should be told. The rise in the importance of other social media channels has also seen new focus for Berthon on YouTube, Linked-In, Facebook and so on. As the months pass we will be further developing and enhancing this part of our offering so please do come and have a look often at what we are up to, and of course if you are looking for a yacht we hope that you will find your new magic carpet on www.berthoninternational.com.
Looking forward we see changes on their way in yachting and we see planet friendly technologies being in the vanguard of this. Our sister company, the Berthon Boat Company, is heavily involved in the refit of those mature yachts that I mentioned earlier and many others besides. Delivering more friendly solutions to power generation and the rest are the future. We have all recognised our own mortality in the last few, horrible months, and so going carefully and treating the planet gently is a priority for our clients and it is good to see that the industry is stepping up with the technology that will make this possible. Of course none of this is perfect, but we’ve seen fast development in the past few years.
So what of life beyond the garden shed…? We see a leaner, more efficient and more thoughtful yachting industry where we adjust for a changed world, and the needs of our clients to own yachts that can take them far, sail quickly using the best of modern technology, provide easy maintenance or fantastic yet planet friendly performance via the throttles. We also see a lower key yachting experience, where getting out on the water is confined to family and friends, and where exploring and the quality of the experience is what counts.
As you turn this page to more interesting things, you will find a diverse selection of articles on all manner of subjects and we hope that these will make you smile. We are also show casing our new yacht stable and do ask us more about any that catch your eye.
Within these pages you will also find the complete Berthon pre-owned fleet taken across 5 offices on 2 continents. Here you can choose anything from magic carpet material of exotic hue, to the last word for high latitude sailors, to a cup collection machine or maybe the clockwork yacht that drives like a Ferrari on speed or a cruiser that is wickedly indulgent. These yachts are available internationally and we look forward to chatting to you about them be it in Newport, Mandelieu, Orust, Palma or Lymington and to working with you to find the weapon of choice for your yachting plans, and to welcoming you to our Berthon family.