2019 really was THE year that was! Here in the UK we were spellbound (or rather watched with morbid fascination) by the total inability of our ruling classes to decide on the future of the UK. Now, at last, a bruising election later, we have clarity on the B word that is too often spoken, and some measure of stability for the next period, once the dreaded C word ceases to hog headlines.
Of course, we work internationally and things have been just as exciting elsewhere with the USA limbering up for a presidential election, impeachment hearings ancient history and bad tempered arguments with China and others. Huge political instability in the Middle East, a new (or not so new) administration in India, and bad economic and social economic news and rumblings coming out of Europe now pale into insignificance as matters turn to health. Throughout the planet there have been reports of bad behaviour and worse, but now that countries and continents are banning movement, a whole other scenario beckons.
Aside from the man made dramas, we have had floods, fires, hurricanes and more. A courageous 12 year old has also been calling us all to account – and so the world turns.
All these events have made for a difficult year and a reset of many preconceived ideas. However, I can report that despite all this, our client base have continued to get out on the water and to enjoy waters both local and far flung. Passage planning for the Berthon Sales Division has been a question of keeping a steady course, which has yielded a great financial result with our newest office Berthon Spain putting in a stellar first year. Also, a great year for Berthon USA, and work to expand the French office to take advantage of the new business opportunity that the Pearl Yachts dealership brings. The new launch Pearl 62 at Düsseldorf this year was built for a Berthon UK client, and we delivered a Solaris 44 in 2019 and have a 64 launching this summer. Windy continues to shine, with Berthon selling around 20% of their production in 2019 and sales in the USA have seen 2 Moody 54s make their home in the lovely waters of the Newport area last year. With 2 amphibious Iguanas delivered for superyacht use in 2019, we are looking forward to seeing the first Iguana RIB roaring around in the Solent in 2020 – the first of many, we think.
Recently announced is a further addition to the Berthon family, with a new office on the Island of Orust in Sweden. Magnus Kullberg of XLNT Yachting has been known to Berthon for many years and we are delighted that XLNT becomes Berthon Scandinavia. Magnus and his team share the same values and teamwork ethics as the rest of us, and are committed to providing an excellent service. Our satellite sales operations worldwide are excited about this new office and look forward to working with Magnus to find new owners for some of his listings which spend their winters stored under cover and summers in the pretty waters of Orust, extending his reach to help more of his clients realise their wish to purchase larger yachts internationally for use either in local waters or in the warm climes of the Mediterranean or further afield.
As in previous years, we have had to work hard to find and sell pre-owned yachts of good quality. Pricing and good information delivery remains as important as ever, and to manage this correctly it is key to understand, that like the political and economic changes we are seeing, yachting is also changing, and we have to be realistic about the fact that old yachts with old kit and old design, have never been more difficult to sell. The first cut is always the kindest and yachts that are challenging to sell need to be priced accordingly and need to be imaginatively marketed. A good broker needs to ask who is going to buy this yacht – rather than just putting her onto the web and hoping for the best.
Ironically, as technology marches and we are ever more dependent on our tablets and the like, seeing and assessing yachts live has never been more important. It is a saying at Berthon that when a potential buyer asks if you have seen a yacht that you are marketing – there is only one correct answer (except in extraordinary circumstances) and that is of course – yes. Therefore, in an age where air miles are counted, Berthon brokers in all the offices, spend a lot of time going to see the yachts that we are selling, until the C word arrived, that is! Of course these days, not only can we familiarise ourselves with the yacht and compile a specification, we can also make magic with a Go Pro……Now essential, video of our yachts is increasingly becoming a key part of our marketing armoury. In this we are massively assisted by Harry our full time videographer, who edits our efforts and produces these important little films all of which are posted to our YouTube Channel and embedded in all our on line offerings. So important is this aspect of a Berthon Brokers’ job that video is now sent to Harry from all our offices for production in the UK.
Berthon Spain is growing at a rapid rate. With a strong and enthusiastic young team headed up by Andrew Fairbrass, the number of yachts under guardiennage is growing as well as the refit capability of the engineering and shipwright teams. We can locate berths in Palma, store dinghies and kit and offer advice and help on all aspects of yachting in the Balearics and beyond.
With a strong US$ and enthusiasm for yachting, American yachtsmen were spending last year. Our local USA market prefers smaller yachts suitable for East Coast waters, either motor or sail with moderate draft and easy systems. Bluewater cruising is however, very popular, and American yachties are travelling to Europe, the Pacific and further for their yachting. We are proud of the service that we are able to offer to them with a local office in Newport,Rhode Island that means that they have a Berthon broker on hand to help them navigate through the process in their time zone, send money to a USA account and use an American contract for international purchases.
Because we work as one team, we help one another and do not compete; therefore, our clients wherever in the world they are, can be sure that the whole Berthon team is there for them to assist in their sale or purchase.
Berthon France is in God’s own playground and in 2019 was busy with Windy and the gear up for the sales of Pearl Yachts. With a Pearl 80 and a Pearl 95 at the Cannes Boat Show, it was a great start and we are looking forward to working with Eduard Brinzei who joined Bruno and Isabelle in January to strengthen the Berthon France team at a very important time for its development.
GDPR is but a memory (although the protocols remain!) and we cleared the IPV (Safety at Sea) hurdle in 2019 too without incident. Again, more paperwork but mostly good common sense. I am pleased to write that so far there are no other regulation hairy mammoths on the horizon for 2020, although of course we will not be surprised to see something very large, flat footed and furry hove into view in the company from a man from some Ministry or other! What about the B word and VAT you might ask; be patient and please read on!
On new yacht sales, we are so fortunate to work with a great bunch of people building outstanding yachts of very differing types, styles and sizes from across Europe and further. They all have one thing in common, which is that they share our values of quality and service. All the yachts that they produce are of course also, incredibly cool! This is from Windy with their astonishing sports boats, epic SR range and superyacht tenders, to Pearl with their world class flybridge motor yachts from 62 to 95 feet with lovely Kelly Hoppen interiors, to Iguana with their super smart amphibious boats. For the sailing fleet we have Solaris whose range of Soto fast, comfortable cruising yachts from 40 to 80 feet are selling like hot cakes, to Moody with their Judel Vrolijk handsome looks and great innards, to Rustler who are British yacht building aristocracy. Thanks to them all for building truly great yachts, and for being Berthon extended family.
Although Boat Shows are everywhere we choose carefully, attending shows in all the major centres from Düsseldorf to Cannes, to Annapolis, Southampton and Gottenberg along with the smaller local editions. The delayed Palma Superyacht Show is another great event and we will look forward to seeing you there with a number of Berthon yachts including the largest FPB on the planet, ICEBERG.
Talking of FPB, we continue to work with Steve and Linda Dashew, who, though now retired, are a mine of information about the yachts that they designed over the years, working with us to provide the best possible brokerage service for the special yachts (both sail and power) that they have designed.
Of course, VAT is a burning issue particularly in the UK where Brexit may free UK nationals from the need to pay this in Europe. Expert, Simon Anslow, writes for us in this issue. Although, I think that I have been remarkably restrained in avoiding too much mention of the Brexit word in this review, the Berthon take on this and what it may mean for our industry in 2020 is found further on in this publication.
Saving the planet is something that we all care about and this is informing both yacht design and how we use our yachts and where. We are seeing more people looking at yachts that are capable of serious sailing, not just for personal use but also for research purposes so that we can catalogue, understand and help our planet. Others are gathering the gallons of plastic that infest our seas. This is a growing trend and projects like SONG OF THE WHALE have enormous relevance for all our futures and deserve our support.
So despite parliamentary prorogues, elections, and yet more tweets from Mr Trump, the good ship Berthon sails on into 2020, cautiously reefed to the hilt in order to weather the C storm, but nevertheless with some optimism that only a company that has existed for 143 years and with no debt can do. This new year brings more unknown hazards and challenges than even the oldest of us have witnessed but carrying on is essentially what we do best with the same excellent crew with some new and enthusiastic recruits whom we are delighted to welcome. Whatever the outcome for the first year of this new decade, we will be here and looking forward to working with you on your yachting projects. We will continue to tell it how it is, to work hard to provide the best service possible and to be on hand to help with the execution of project yachting for you.
With fair winds from us all.