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Life Under Sail: Industry Experts Debate How to Attract New Sailing Owners

27 November 2019• Written by Miranda Blazeby

Sailing yacht design must become simpler in order to entice new blood into the market, a panel of top industry figures has said.

Shipyard bosses and sailing yacht brokers discussed how to reach the next generation of sailing yacht owners at BOAT International’s inaugural Life Under Sail summit at the Yacht Club de Monaco.

The panel discussed how to attract the next generation of sailing owners into the market

Figures from BOAT’s 2020 Global Order Book show that there are currently 59 sailing projects underway, in comparison to 748 motor yacht projects. This means that sailing yacht projects account for just 6.9% of the total Global Order Book.

Reflecting on the shrinking sailing yacht market, Burgess chief executive Jonathan Beckett said that “there is a big divide between the motor yacht and sailing yacht clients”.

One way to bridge this gap and bring new owners into the market would be to break down the barriers around sailing and make the sport more accessible, the panel said.

Henry Hawkins of Baltic Yachts

Ferretti chief operating officer and managing director of Wally Yachts, Stefano de Vivo, called on designers to “make sailing boats more usable.”

“You have to look at your competitor and when you get bigger your competitor is the motor yacht. For the same price, you get a lot more volume on a motor yacht,” he said.

Founder and managing partner of Y Yachts, Michael Schmidt, agreed: “For me, it’s very simple. As an owner of a sailing yacht, I want to be able to understand it, use it and have no maintenance. I think we must make the boats as simple as possible.”

Stefano de Vivo warned against targeting motor yacht owners with sailing catamarans

During the wider summit, there was criticism that yards are pricing owners out of the market by focusing on the development of high-performance sailing yachts.

Henry Hawkins, chief executive of Baltic Yachts, admitted that the Finnish yard had found itself in a “spiral” of building in carbon fibre.

“There are areas where, yes, carbon can be clearly used to a benefit but there are also areas where we don’t need to use it and there are other materials that can take over,” he said.

The summit took place at the Yacht Club de Monaco

Beckett argued that sailing yacht catamarans could encourage more motor yacht owners to move into the sailing market.

“There is generally a lot more space and comfort on a motor yacht than a sailing yacht,” he said. “I think it is time to look at the possibility of creating more stable sailing yachts with more facilities on board as a halfway house between motor yachting and sailing.”

He added: “I think we’ve got some clients in the sailing yacht sector that would be very interested in that.”

Commercial director of South African sailing yard Southern Wind, Andrea Micheli, agreed: “We see the catamaran as a more comfortable sailing yacht – it’s a good way to attract new people into the industry.”

However, de Vivo warned against this approach. “I think if you tackle it from comfort and deck space then you’re always going to lose out to a power boat,” he said. “I think that’s why we’ve lost a lot of clients from sailing to power boats.”

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