The Monaco Yacht Show, which runs for a few days around mid-September each year, is arguably the world’s most extravagant game of one-upmanship. This year more visitors than ever, over 30,000, came to gawp at over 100 superyachts with a collective value of over $3 billion, tied up in the principality’s Port Hercules. But the yachts were only the beginning. Monaco is essentially a bazaar for the 0.1%: everywhere you look there are hawkers in pop-up tents trying to sell things that you never knew you needed. There were submersibles that can take six people to the bottom of the ocean; armour-plated Land Rovers; jet-skis and 3 D goggles; military-style helicopters and flying boats. Among the variety of servants for hire were armed guards and on-board DJs.
In this world, size counts for a lot. The bit of the yacht industry that has recovered most strongly since the financial crisis is the “monster yacht” segment. The Superyacht Intelligence Agency says 62 yachts of 70 metres plus were delivered in 2011-16 with hundreds more in construction. The biggest spenders now are the Americans, who account for a third of the market, and the British, who account for a tenth.
Extravagant toys are the other obvious signifier of status at sea. Now that helicopters and on-board swimming pools are taken for granted, the battle has moved onto new ground. The hottest fashion is for “support vessels”. Why load down your 150 metre yacht with toys when you can put them on a smaller support ship and have them provided to you on demand? One ancillary vessel in Monaco displayed a typical collection of must-haves: a Vespa scooter, a speedboat, diving equipment, water- and jet-skis. They are particularly useful for transporting your very own submersible. (Nothing, it turns out, splits the superyacht world like the debate over the merits of round submarines that are shaped like pods versus long submarines that resemble cigars.)
Getting the most out of your yacht doesn’t just mean adding more deck space. Boat owners are learning how to squeeze more out of existing resources. They convert their helipads into squash courts by day and into cinemas by night. They are also investing heavily in the virtual world. The idea of getting away from it all doesn’t encompass getting away from broadband: even sailing boats come with ugly-looking radar dishes. JStar, an American startup, offers a voice-command system so you can bark orders at your smartyacht just as you command your smarthome.
Such conspicuous consumption makes sense of a sort. Many ultra-rich people want to display their wealth in a way that even the most ignorant oaf can understand. But they also want to be able to retreat into their private empires. You can display your yacht in a way that you can’t show off your house or hotel suite, because there is always the option of weighing anchor and taking it into the middle of the ocean where you don’t have to socialise with anybody except the glitterati. Superyacht owners are always dropping in on each other as they criss-cross the seas, to compare not just their vessels but also their guest lists.
But there are plenty of more subtle ways to outdo fellow yachties. Some boat makers emphasise simplicity rather than style: one says you want your yacht to be a floating beach house rather than a floating Versailles palace. There is also a pronounced fashion for old-style adventure rather than just playing with the jet-skis. A new generation of superyacht-owners want to make passage for far-flung places such as the northernmost Norwegian fjords or even to Antarctica. Young tech entrepreneurs, in particular, are more interested in chalking up experiences than piling up possessions.
Whatever the buyers’ motivations, a thriving business has resulted. When the Monaco Yacht Show started in 1991 there were just 1,147 superyachts (that is, yachts longer than 30 metres) in the global superyacht fleet. Today there are over 5000 with hundreds more under construction. Warsash Superyacht Academy, which trains people to work on boats, calculates that the industry has an annual turnover of between $30 – $50 billion and employs well over 150,000 people. The industry not only includes those who make the boats, outfit them, staff them and insure them. One company, DYT Yacht Transport, even boasts the world’s first purpose-built yacht motor vessel to carry yachts to the Caribbean and other typical hangouts round the world.
By constantly displaying their boats and looking at other peoples’, they ensure that the market remains dynamic. Yacht brokers like Torrens Luxury Collection resell boats; interior designers adjust them to new owners; and glossy magazines sell their virtues to potential new owners and charters.
Article created by Torrens Luxury Collection, Gold Coast Australia. For more Luxury Yachting articles and blogs just go to www.torrens.yachts/blog or contact us on 1300 148 648.
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