Yachting and life in general in the 2020s are not for the faint hearted. We have had a worldwide pandemic coupled with extraordinary political and geopolitical upheavals. We are now committed to trying to be kinder to the planet before it totally gives up on us and are wrestling with all that this entails and the frustration that it cannot be done quickly enough. As if these events were not enough, we have a tragic and very serious war on the go in Eastern Europe, a fuel crisis, inflation, enormous social unrest; and the weather (not just in the UK!) absolutely refuses to play ball.
What we learned about yachtsmen during the hiatus of Covid 19, is that they are made of sterner stuff and rather than giving up on the sport, they spent more time messing around on the water whenever they could, restrictions allowing. Not only did they do that, they upgraded and moved from home to water By Sue Grant KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON YACHTING for the freedom and safety that yachting provided. For yacht brokers this was very cool. What was also very positive was so many new entrants to the sport. The worry of Covid and the literally life threatening nature of the disease made people willing to give it go, have their safe space and take to the waves. As you will have read in previous market reports from Berthon, sales figures ramped and the market was on fire in 2021.
The threat of this awful disease made people want to do more of what counts – spending time with friends and family and to spend more time not simply compiling the bucket list but crossing the list off – line by line. Sailing across the Atlantic, Pacific, seeing an iceberg, having a sailing sabbatical or taking long and lazy summers yachting locally or in warm or temperate waters. Our clients have had a go at the lot.
The waves of enthusiasm and investment in yachting have kept coming and the wish to learn more, experience more and do more has continues. To achieve your yachting aims, the right tool has to be selected. A sports boat for lazy summer days, a bluewater sailing yacht or an explorer for crossing oceans, a lovely fly bridge yacht for family use, or easily handled sailing yachts for pottering – the list is endless, and the shopping lists have continued to be made and Berthon brokers, and our colleagues in the industry have delivered.
Like the gambler on a winning streak, the yachting industry has been waiting for our luck to turn bad, and planning for market contraction, sure that the awful news on all fronts would reduce demand and that yachtsmen would return to the office more or give up yachting in favour of a less complicated hobby.
However, so far it appears that we have under-estimated the global yachting community who are clearly not so easily put off. The sunny uplands promised by the international inoculation programme (and maybe some rather unwise politicians not so far away from this garden shed) have made way for more problems and more barriers to returning to life before Covid.
United States Attorney General Robert F Kennedy in a speech in Cape Town in 1966 said – “there is a Chinese curse which says `May he live in interesting times’. Like it or not, we live in interesting times. They are times of danger and uncertainty; but they are also more open to the creative energy of men than at any other time in history.”
Mr Kennedy with an aid of a time machine might like to have a look at 2023…!
Despite our current interesting times, the ability and wish of yachtsmen and women to KEEP CALM and CARRY ON YACHTING has been extraordinary and this trend shows no sign of abating. The brick bats of economic slow-down and a myriad of other challenges, far from dissuading people to invest in the sport seems to be having the opposite effect.
Our great friend Steve Dashew from Dashew Offshore was always of the opinion that he sold more of his designs in times of market down-turn as people looked at the economic outlook, grim news at home and aboard and assessed the chances of making money driving the office desk. Many of them decided that the funds were better invested in a go anywhere bluewater cruising yacht. They signed the order, took delivery, and ran away to sea until times were better and their dollars could then be reallocated into business ventures that would work and make money.
Once the bug has been caught and the freedom of the sea and of shipboard life have been test driven satisfactorily, it is only a matter of time before yachtsman return to the sea to experience that freedom, and to see all the amazing places and meet the extraordinary people to which long distance cruising opens the door.
It is clear to us that there are definite cycles in the yachting career of those who have been bitten by the bug. There are those that cross the ocean, do the Rally, cross the entry from the bucket list and return to shore. However, these are in the minority and for most, there are new adventures and challenges as they journey through life.
Some of them never really stop cruising. For Steve and Linda that was the case, until they finally hung up their sailing boots after literally hundreds of thousands of nautical miles and their last hurrah cruising in their late 70s from Fiji to the Panama against prevailing winds and currents in their beloved FPB 78 COCHISE. However, even now they are not quite cured. A video of the two of them going hell for leather at the wheel of their new RIB on an inland lake close to their Arizona home this February proves the point!
Every area of yachting has seen enormous growth with the possible exception of the race boat market. Covid 19 was particularly cruel to this segment of the sport as it is not possible to socially distance on the rail with 25 other souls or to do race sail changes without skilled bodies on the foredeck. However, we predict this market will upturn again and we are seeing this start from the grass roots of classes like the Cape 31 which offers fast, close exciting sailing. Those sailors will want to go bigger and to enjoy offshore racing and we will start to see larger fleets of big race boats soon. The new technology now available with foiling and all the rest will be irresistible to those who like to sail to the limit and to win.
For those with less competitive ambitions, our current difficulties have underlined the importance of time with family and friends and in the end, that is at the core of why most of us going sailing.
Many start small and work their way up, sailing locally and then more adventurously, until their yacht is over large and muscular for them so they ALL THIS MEANS THAT THERE IS STILL A CHRONIC SHORTAGE OF GOOD QUALITY, RECENT YACHTS ON THE MARKET AND PRICES ARE HOLDING. “ ” trade down and maybe change from sail to power or vice versa.
For others, their yachting career ramps as the decision to spend half a year aboard (or more) delivers long distance passages and a vast array of different cruising grounds. What is very clear is that people do not stick with their weapon of choice for oceans when this chapter is closed. They then make a definitive change when sailing with children changes to sailing with grandchildren. This often means either a smaller yacht (or yachts) or a much larger one positioned often in the sunshine. For others there is a left field choice – a barge for the European canals, a late in life racing campaign or for others a small fleet of yachts positioned in northern Europe, the Mediterranean and maybe in the Southern hemisphere as well.
Sailors do not stop sailing – McKinsey stated that it is a lifestyle choice. They simply select a most appropriate tool from the yacht brokerage tool kit, KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON. The happenings of the 21st century have not changed this.
All this means that there is still a chronic shortage of good quality, recent yachts on the market and prices are holding. When a yachtsman changes from say a Swan to a Nordhavn, the world brokerage fleet does not get larger, and the pressure on the market remains.
New yacht manufacturers are struggling with supply chain issues and inflation. Like a fleet of super tankers that take time to turn, they cannot respond to the market as quickly as the market is moving. Delivery times are extending and as we approach the new season, owners expecting to take delivery of their new yacht in ample time for the new season are hearing that their new toy has been delayed, is short a generator or worse, and are given the unwelcome news that she will be for sure, ready by July…! No wonder many have cancelled their orders and returned to the brokerage market, putting yet more pressure on prices as demand ramps again.
As the manufacturers have to allow for serious inflationary pressures, new orders which are mostly now out to 2024 are offered with large price increases. This again makes the brokerage market more attractive. Not only from a price perspective but also because a brokerage yacht may not be unmarked and may not have exactly the right electronics or upholstery. However, she exists and works, and when you explore the engine room you will find an engine, generator and everything else that she needs to take you to sea.
Now that all those new entrants to yachting have been out there doing it, they are ready to upgrade. They want to do more and since Covid 19 yachtsmen have become more adept at managing life to allow for more time doing the stuff that matters. The work life balance has swung in favour of yachting.
It has often been said that sailing is also a hereditary sport. Pre-Covid where over 90% of yachts in manufacture were motor yachts it was feared that sailing could die out completely. Of course, motor yachts still dominate but the pendulum has swung a bit and it is clear that sailing and the sailing yacht market is in better health than has been the case for a very long time. New entrants are giving it a go, loving it and doing more.
The millennial fashion of renting rather than buying has meant that boat clubs are popping up all over the place. People who have owned yachts in the past and many new entrants to the sport are loving the idea of paying a fixed fee and yachting when suits them. Some of them will go on to own their own yachts but for those that do not, the numbers of craft being utilised this way has again increased the demand for new and second-hand yachts.
The mighty yachting leviathan Beneteau recognised this trend a few years ago. This was very forward thinking and the thought then was that few would buy a yacht in the 21st century; everyone would rent and that creating outlets to provide for this was essential to their continuing ability to dominate production yacht sales, sail and power in Europe and internationally. It was completely the right idea but the decline of the yachtsman who owns a yacht, or in some cases, multiple yachts is not where we are today. Covid stopped all that.
The yachting industry has embraced the need to be greener and is innovating fast. Motor yachts powered by hydrogen, electric drive, solar, wind and the rest also provide the modern yachtsman with the ability to be more responsible and this will add to the appetite of people to dive into the azure waters of yacht ownership.
Whilst there may be tough times ahead, at Berthon we are betting on our wonderful clients to continue to invest in and enjoy the freedom and fun that can only really be found out on the water. We fully expect them to KEEP CALM AND TO CARRY ON YACHTING.