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Highlights and On Demand Video: Life Under Sail | Live Discussion

9 September 2020

What are the challenges facing the sailing yacht industry? Why are sailing yacht orders falling? What do new buyers want from sailing yachts of the future? To answer these questions and more, BOAT International gathered some leading lights from the sailing yacht industry for an online event in May.

The Life Under Sail | Live Discussion was hosted by BOAT International editor Stewart Campbell, who was joined by Henry Hawkins, executive vice president of Baltic Yachts, Andrea Micheli, commercial director of Southern Wind Shipyard, and Giovanni Pomati, CEO of Nautor Group.

The full recording can be viewed on demand below.

Due to the overwhelming number of questions asked during the session the speakers have kindly responded to the following:

Q: The trend seems to be tending towards cruising and comfort - how can we maintain interest in racing - and dual-purpose yachts? 

A: (Andrea Micheli) We can maintain interest in superyacht racing and in performance oriented cruisers by supporting events that value dual-purpose yachts. As a matter of fact, thanks to today’s technology owners don’t have to choose between comfort or performance, they can balance the two on the same yacht. Our challenge is to mentor our audience on the value of this balance.

Modern composite performance sailing yachts can offer exceptional cruising experiences while still delivering exhilarating sailing adventures. Powerful sail plans and sophisticated construction techniques are finalised both for extra speed in strong breeze or while racing and, very important while cruising, to allow owners to sail instead of motoring in light breeze.

Sailing with no engine, no generator and no noise other than the sound of silence in light wind is the ultimate experience aboard a modern composite sailing yacht: it becomes a matter of style, elegance, beauty and value of time. And the same yacht will deliver thrilling performance and emotion while racing and/or sailing in strong breeze. Mastering the balance between maximum comfort and galvanizing performance comes at a higher price tag, a fact that we as shipbuilders need to explain and justify to our potential owners.

Q: How much do you think new technologies (foils, hybrid propulsion, energy production) might affect the appeal of sailing yachts in the future? We are talking about more comfort, speed, environment sustainability and volumes available for owners and guests.

A: (Henry Hawkins) Sustainability and environmental considerations are at the forefront of people's minds throughout all aspects of their lives today. New technological developments have enabled Baltic to offer solutions not previously available, be they electric drives and regeneration or the use of DSS foils. The potential of sailing yachts to offer a zero or near zero emission profile is clearly high and this is something we are seeing appeal more and more to our clients with firm requests being made in early discussions. With all innovation, assessment of the true benefit and overall costs are key.

Q: Has the focus on the motor superyacht as the option for a relaxed, glamorous lifestyle put the sailing yachts at a disadvantage? 

A: (Andrea Micheli) We should not focus on the increasing number of motor yacht owners but on the potential new owners that passed over on sailing yachts. From the cabin of his motor yacht a new owner is still closer to the sailing yacht industry than from his ranch or mountain chalet. The owner of a new displacement yacht or of a new explorer yacht should be considered a potential new sailing yacht owner and treated with respect and patience; that owner could be converted to sailing in the times ahead.

It is up to the sailing yacht industry to draw motor yacht owners and crew into what we consider to be a more enjoyable, sustainable and elegant way of enjoying life at sea. This monumental effort should be shared among as many sailing yacht industry players as possible to gain strength and momentum.

The sailing yacht industry should be very aware and vigilant because a growing power yacht industry offers opportunity not only to the honest crews, services companies, shipyards, brokers and surveyors but also to the less talented and scrupulous players. These are the people who put strain on our boutique sector of the industry. 

Q: Is there any focus in designing boats to be able to be "off the grid" for longer?

A: (Henry Hawkins) Sailing yachts have the inherent ability to be off the grid for longer and with an increased focus on energy efficient systems, regeneration and solar technologies becoming more common this is more true today than ever before. We have recently worked on several projects where extended cruising has been top of the list which reflects itself not only in power generation and usage considerations but also in cold storage and rubbish/waste storage provision and perhaps most importantly the adoption of easily maintained and robust systems.

Q: How does the panel think the “younger generation” and their attitude towards relaxing without “working” (given sailing takes some effort) has impacted the market for sail boats?

A: (Andrea Micheli) Sailing is more than a sport: it can be considered an art, a science, a hobby, a job and a passion. We should adjust our language for a new or different audience. The key is to get in contact with the people, because sailing is about people and their desires, and not only about the mechanics and technicalities of moving a yacht through wind. 

Some younger people are less motivated and prefer electronic devices and images of beautiful places over the real world. But there are also plenty of active, enthusiastic and environmentally conscious young women and men. If we capture a tiny portion of this demographic our industry will flourish with this future generation.

The focus should be on the extraordinary flexibility that sailing offers as a means of enjoying leisure time. The pleasure of acceleration and wind power will intrigue the video gamer and the equipment aboard will captivate the aspiring engineer. The young couple will enjoy peaceful time together on the water. The travel and adventure aspects of sailing also create real life experiences and stories to be told or shared live or on social media.

Q: On the subject of racing, with the recent launch of Canova and of course going slightly further back to a number of the maxis, can you see foils becoming a more common sight on luxury sailing yachts over 24m?

A: (Henry Hawkins) Absolutely but to be clear it is for a multitude of reasons not just out right performance and racing. From what we have seen and learnt with Canova and the DSS foil, a clear brief and direction at the beginning of a project is key. To take full performance advantage of foils, a very weight conscious project will need to be undertaken. If, however, comfort (heel angle and pitching) are the main priorities with the bonus of performance second fiddle, a different approach can be adopted. Either way, I do think that as confidence grows and more people become comfortable with the concept, we will see more foils appearing.

Q: We all agree regattas are a really important environment to bring in new people to experience the superyacht world, is there a way we can encourage some more superyacht regatta charters?

A: (Andrea Micheli) Our answer to the demand for regatta charters was to create the Southern Wind Sailing Academy, a sailing school created to train owners or potential owners and their crews and introduce them to regatta sailing. Working in tandem with the SWS charter department, the Sailing Academy has been offering training, organising racing charters, taking care of the range of logistics required and supporting both owners who want to race and charterers who want to experience something new.

Superyacht regatta charters can be difficult to arrange due to a scarcity of available yachts that are suitable for champagne racing. These yachts have to be of a certain quality and have the proper technical characteristics and equipment, including sails, to compete. Their owners and crew must be familiar with racing and they have to trust that our Sailing Academy will take care of their yachts.

Organising superyacht regatta charters is complicated and requires a multidisciplinary team with consultants on legal and administrative aspects, logistics, equipment and crew. Making the above skillset available requires motivation, passion and long-term vision but these are the reasons we decided to set up our Southern Wind Sailing Academy, to offer education on racing along with charters.

Meanwhile, tickets are on sale now for the BOAT Live: Life Under Sail event, which will take place on Wednesday, November 11 at the Yacht Club de Monaco.

Returning for its second year, the event will see superyacht owners, CEOs, designers and thought leaders discuss all aspects of the sailing yacht industry.