Asia-Pacific “Next Big Thing” For the Superyacht Industry
Feadship marketing director Farouk Nefzi’s assertion that Asia-Pacific is already the “next big thing” for superyacht yards, reported exclusively in Yacht Style earlier this year, raised eyebrows.
WORDS Bruce Maxwell PHOTOS As Credited
Could old money Europe, world #1 economy America, Middle East oil sheiks and Russian oligarchs really be overtaken by Asians, particularly Chinese, plus a few resurfacing Japanese, and the financial elite of Australia and New Zealand?
As Feadship alone had six vessels at various stages of construction and delivery for Asia-Pacific owners, it was hard to find fault with his statement. One order, perhaps two, have been the extent of concurrent Asia-Pacific builds by superyacht yards in the past. Six was simply staggering.
Lürssen’s recently announced 120m Project Thunder, an Espen Øino design, is clearly Asian. “The name is derived from Leigong, a mythical god in Asian culture”, said a Lürssen lady. “The vessel will be delivered toward the end of 2018, and is expected to cruise mostly in Asian waters”.
Benetti, which like Feadship established a presence in Asia several decades ago, has a whole fleet of superyachts in Asia-Pacific seas and oceans, most of which qualify for Top 100 in the following pages. The largest vessel in the yard’s history, at 107m, is presently under construction at Livorno for a well-known Australian, reports local media, with delivery in 2019.
Sheds at picture-postcard Royal Huisman are taken up with construction of an 81m schooner for another Asian buyer, after the yard delivered a 43m sloop, Sea Eagle, to Taiwan’s Dr Samuel Lin, who has founded the Tang Prize, a biennial award aimed at matching Norway’s Nobel Prize, “to encourage more research that is beneficial to the world and humankind, promote Chinese culture, and make the world a better place”.
There are many other examples, including strong custom and limited edition sales for Amels in Australia and Asia, and for increasingly larger SanLorenzos, which like Sunseekers have inbuilt Chinese equity, but perhaps it is the philanthropic Dr Lin who provides subliminal clues about new-breed Chinese superyacht buyers.
They are certainly nationalists, despite the current Taiwan Straits divide. This applies equally to the wealthy Chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia, and to those in most major cities around the world. Confucianism and Taoism may have bowed to the semi-socialist dictates of governing 1.5 billion people, but capitalism flourishes too, and sophisticated customs and cultures still pervade. Chinese invented the compass, the stern-post rudder, gunpowder, paper making, and the printing press.
Farouk Nefzi says flatly that Asia-Pacific billionaires are almost on a par with those of Europe and America, and increasing at a far faster rate. He warns that the superyacht industry isn’t keeping pace. Essential marketing in the region is far too low. As a result, only the core yards are benefitting. Others are contracting. Prior to his marketing and branding role at Feadship, incidentally, Nefzi ran Holland Yachting Industry for many years, and is regarded as a forward-looking guru of the superyacht scene.
The 73m Feadship Hasna has just been delivered to a prominent Australian home loans entrepreneur, and a 69m sold and still managed by Thailand-based Australian dealer Joshua Lee, the son of a former Cathay Pacific pilot, was being officially named in early September.
But the others revolve around a group of like-minded colleagues in Hong Kong, and the 44m Moon Sand, which was #100 in Yacht Style’s Top 100 Superyachts of Asia-Pacific last year.
We can’t go into detail, but suffice to say they wanted vessels that were slightly smaller, allowing better options and berth availability at marinas in Scandinavia, Europe, the Indian Ocean and Asia, while still retaining the Feadship pedigree and performance. Feadship didn’t build smaller vessels, but when it came to four such orders, the directors said okay, and a new 34m class was born. They keep turning up on the China Coast, Letani being last to arrive.
Hong Kong business people have always had a penchant “for buying by the brace”. Sai Kung boaters will recall a pair of throaty offshore powerboats suddenly appearing at Club Marina Cove in the 1980s, and the trend continues.
Originally-named Family Day and Lady Lau were much-used Codecasa 65ms for Hong Kong owners. Built with the same hull and complex systems, they achieved considerable cost savings, yet in profile look nothing like each other.
A fine line is trodden between look-alike or completely custom vessels, however, and colours also enter the equation. Luxury car buyers, for example, will often only order a model if it comes in a colour that nobody else has, making it distinctively theirs. When the first Porsche 911s appeared, this was a serious problem that prominent Hong Kong dealer Herb Adamczyk ran into.
Sales agents have much-reported opinions about what sort of boat Chinese would really prefer. In earlier days, plenty of shade was a prerequisite, because lighter-coloured skin was more distinguished than the dark brown hues of sun-exposed farmers and indeed seafarers. Ensuring mahjong tables and karaoke sets were aboard was regarded as essential. More entertaining space was preferable to elaborate bedroom suites, as smaller motor yacht owners often limited their voyages to day trips.
Fung shui and geomancers still play a part. Nowadays these stereotypes are fading somewhat, although the quest for better stability in a seaway and at anchor, to allay seasickness, is an ongoing concern. Solutions include buying bigger boats, fitting better stabilisers, and multihull configurations such as the White Rabbits in Singapore.
The bottom line is that if Arabs are more conservative in their use of superyachts, and the Russians and Indians are known to throw a wild party or three, then the Chinese are probably more like the Europeans and Americans, and the Japanese seem to be making a comeback too.
Those who have accumulated the significant wealth required to own and run a superyacht doubtless have traits in common anyway, and that is definitely true of the IT billionaires, of which China now has a significant number.
Another factor in the Asia-Pacific market is an underlying hankering to “do-it-yourself”. Early superyachts like Van Triumph in Hong Kong and Evergreen in Taiwan were built at Asian commercial shipyards. Asean Lady came from Yantai Raffles on the Bohai Gulf, and lately New Zealander Graeme Hart has come up with his 107m Ulysses and 116m built at Kleven shipyard in Norway.
Like Hart the Singapore owner of White Rabbit E, kept at Marina at Keppel Bay, has previously owned Feadships. But WRE was built at North West Bay Ships in Hobart, Tasmania, and the next 84m WRG, styled and design by Oceanco luminary Sam Sorgiovanni, is nearing completion at Echo Yachts south of Perth, only a short flight from the city state.
Echo Yachts has already built a composite 46m “tender and toys” vessel for WRG, called Charley, which was shown at this year’s Singapore Yacht Show. Such confident orders indicate, says Echo MD Mark Stothard, that yards like his are capable of very high-quality one-offs and custom series at attractive prices, but only astute Asian owners have so far realised what can be done. Next door to Echo is German-owned SilverYachts, which has built four vessels to 77m, and Austal, supplying many of Asia’s fast ferries.
The system works in reverse too. Back in the 1980s Pekka Koskenkyla, the founder of Nautor’s Swan, built a series of Mirabella super sailboats near Pattaya on the Gulf of Thailand, flying in specialists in each related trade. The same technique was used for the classic Nero, largest vessel shown at Monaco only a few years back. Corsair Yachts of Britain was in charge of that project, but the build took place at Yantai Raffles, now Pride MegaYachts, in China.
In fact many of the medium-to-large motor yachts and sailboats sold in the West today, including some very well-known brands, are actually built at yards in Taiwan and China, under careful supervision, but that is another story.
Cheoy Lee, launched in Shanghai in 1885 and based in Hong Kong from 1949 until a recent move back to Doumen near Macau, was China’s first superyacht yard, and still builds on demand between commercial orders. Shaw Vee King’s Sea Shaw in Singapore, for example, had her hull built at Yantai Raffles, and she was completed at Cheoy Lee, overseen by Dutch designer Frank Mulder. Heysea Yachts is the latest mainland up-and-coming 40m+ builder.
Last but by no means least, Horizon in Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s second city, is Asia’s largest boat builder, and it hovers around the top 10 in the world. It too is gradually building bigger superyachts in both composites and steel, and vessels like Sunone, which commutes between Kaohsiung and Shanghai, made Yacht Style’s Top 100 list last year.
The list itself includes superyachts kept at Asia-Pacific marinas, some of those built here and others that are Asia-Pacific owned but are cruising elsewhere. Visitors that have spent a reasonable time in Asia-Pacific waters during calendar 2017 or are expected early 2018 also qualify, and a few new builds nearing delivery are mentioned too.
As with all such lists, some subjective decisions have to be made, and a few vessels may be missed, but a wide spectrum of reliable sources contribute to this annual Yacht Style compilation, so we hope it reflects the latest state of play as accurately as possible.
Remember some of these vessels are available for charter, and doing so for a week or two is a good way to get an initial feel for the superyacht lifestyle, in which experienced captains and crews try to give owners and guests truly unique cruises. Asia-Pacific waters are in general the most pristine in the world, and our cities are among the most fascinating.
Finally, this year we have added a page to list some superb superyachts that fall just outside the latest Top 100 cut-off, and a new aft section of “selected stories”, in which aspects of the Asia-Pacific superyacht scene are discussed in more detail.