The president of Westport Yachts has said virtual boat shows could be "the thing of the future".
Speaking during the 11th episode of At Home With BOAT, Wakefield said virtual boat shows may become "the new standard" for viewing boats. It comes after a number of brokers launched virtual shows to fill the void left by cancelled events due to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to Wakefield, the global crisis is a “wakeup call” for the industry, predicting that owners listing their boats for sale will be much more cautious of having people on board. “It’s new territory but we’re working through it", he said.
Despite widespread disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Westport Yachts announced two deals in the last week, including a Westport 130 brokerage boat and a new build 50 metre Westport 164. “We feel fortunate to have things happening right now”, said Wakefield. However, he appreciated that such success "[doesn't] happen overnight".
"It’s not like a guy is on his way home from work and says ‘I’m going to be a little late I’m going to buy a 50 metre Westport’," he said. "We wish they would, but it doesn’t happen that way. It’s a long-term relationship."
Meanwhile, on the new-build side, the pandemic has temporarily halted construction. There are two Westport 112s currently in build, which have been postponed under new safety measures and force majeure.
Force majeure is a contractual clause where builders can alter or even suspend their obligations to the client under extreme circumstances. “It’s been in every contract we’ve ever signed but this is the first time ever we’ve had to use it", said Wakefield.
"We’re anxious to get this behind us" he said. “We just want to build boats. That’s what we love doing and that’s what we’re good at."
In the episode, Wakefield also discussed the enduring success of the Westport 112. First launched in 1998, the model became an instant hit with owners looking to take the leap into bigger boats. The model has since undergone numerous upgrades and restyling, but is still as popular as ever with hulls number 63 and 64 in construction. “The boat just works”, he said.
He also revealed new details about Westport’s new 52 metre flagship. Announced in August 2019, the new model is based on the same hull as the 50 metre, will be “Bahama-friendly” with a shallow draft and accommodation for 12 guests.