UN­CHARTED WA­TERS

Asia is in the grips of a boat­ing revo­lu­tion, as the op­u­lent world of yachts looks to­wards the Pa­cific for the next great ad­ven­ture, writes Tam­sin Cocks

Business Traveller (Asia-Pacific) - - CONTENTS - simp­son­ma­rine.com; beneteau.com

The lux­ury yacht mar­ket is fi­nally wak­ing up to Asia’s prom­ise, with events, mari­nas and yacht bro­kers tout­ing the re­gion’s po­ten­tial for fun and re­lax­ation on the ocean waves

We’re sit­ting aboard a Beneteau Ocea­nis 55 in Hong Kong’s Aberdeen Har­bour. Even to a com­plete land­lub­ber like my­self it’s clear this is a beau­ti­ful boat. From the smooth, stream­lined hull to the spa­cious, tan deck and but­tery cream so­fas, the de­sign res­onates with clas­sic French el­e­gance in every de­tail.

A quick snoop be­low re­veals smartly ap­pointed cab­ins and a sur­pris­ingly lux­u­ri­ous liv­ing space. Three dou­ble-bed cab­ins fea­ture glossy ma­hogany pan­elling and en-suite bath­rooms, while the main gal­ley boasts a fully func­tional kitchen and large en­ter­tain­ing area.

and we ease out of the ma­rina past the iconic Jumbo Float­ing Restau­rant. High up on our left, the brightly coloured roller coast­ers of Ocean Park cling to the rocky moun­tain­side, while in front lie ver­dant is­lands sur­rounded by calm, lilt­ing seas. Out of the chan­nel, the sails are re­leased and a gen­tle breeze guides us in a few lazy loops around the bay, a pro­found sense of peace and free­dom in­stantly wash­ing over us.

As­sem­bled aboard is a mot­ley crew of prospec­tive buy­ers, sail­ing en­thu­si­asts and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Simp­son Marine – Asia’s lead­ing yacht bro­ker. I’m en­thralled by the es­capades be­ing re­counted, of fam­i­lies who have gone travers­ing the globe for months at a time, liv­ing on a healthy dif­fer­ent cul­tures away from the tourist trail and even keep­ing up with school or emails via 4G in the mid­dle of the ocean.

Con­ver­sa­tion turns to the bulging cal­en­dar of events in the sail­ing world: de­mand­ing races, glit­ter­ing so­cial events and not-to-be-missed shows. In Hong Kong, the lat­est buzz was the 2017 Aberdeen Boat Club & Beneteau Four Peaks Race held in Jan­uary, a gru­elling overnight chal­lenge that saw 21 crews take part.

“This race is not easy,” warns Ewa Stachurska, group mar­ket­ing man­ager of Simp­son Marine. “It takes place over two days, with four moun­tains that you have to run as well as sail­ing be­tween lo­ca­tions take a kayak and get wet. And of course, you’ve got to be quick, so that might mean run­ning at night.

“It re­ally takes a lot of prepa­ra­tion. The teams go around all the peaks in ad­vance and make con­tin­gency plans – what hap­pens if there is no wind; which is the best path up the moun­tain… so there’s a lot of tac­tics, which is part of the ap­peal and the fun of it all.”

WINDS OF CHANGE

The craze for yacht­ing in Asia-Pa­cific burst onto the scene just 15 years ago, brought by the ex­pa­tri­ate com­mu­ni­ties from the US and Europe. Ac­cord­ing to Andy Tread­well, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of the Sin­ga­pore and Thai­land Yacht Shows, there has never been much of a cul­tural affin­ity with the sea in Asia, but this is chang­ing rapidly.

“The ma­jor­ity of the world’s yachts spend the sum­mer sea­son in the Mediter­ranean, go­ing west to the Caribbean around Oc­to­ber. But in­creas­ingly, yacht own­ers are in­ter­ested in head­ing to Asia. Not only does it of­fer premier cruis­ing grounds, stun­ning beaches, rich cui­sine and world-class hospi­tal­ity, but the in­fra­struc­ture is rapidly im­prov­ing.”

The re­gion also has the added al­lure of be­ing “un­charted ter­ri­tory”, with a vast aquatic play­ground ap­prox­i­mately five times the size of the Mediter­ranean and des­ti­na­tions only a few hun­dred miles’ sail­ing apart.

Within South­east Asia, Stachurska re­veals Hong Kong is the most ma­ture mar­ket, par­tic­u­larly for day or week­end sail­ing thanks to a com­bi­na­tion of beau­ti­ful is­lands, good winds and a re­cep­tive au­di­ence. For longer ex­cur­sions, Thai­land is the des­ti­na­tion of choice, where you can sail all year round ex­plor­ing the Gulf of Thai­land or the mag­i­cal karst to­pog­ra­phy on the An­daman Sea. Like Hong Kong, the yacht scene in Thai­land is sup­ported by solid in­fra­struc­ture and friendly gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tives, mean­ing first-rate mari­nas, eas­ier rules and reg­is­tra­tion and lower tax.

In Tai­wan, though it has a long his­tory as an im­por­tant yacht pro­ducer, it was il­le­gal to sail in its sur­round­ing wa­ters un­til 2010 – a slight im­ped­i­ment to the growth of a yacht­ing life­style. Since then, how­ever, the in­dus­try has flour­ished, with a num­ber of pre­mium fa­cil­i­ties and no­table events such as the an­nual Penghu Re­gatta, which sees en­thu­si­asts cruis­ing around the ar­chi­pel­ago of 90 is­lands in the Tai­wan Strait. China has also been slow off the mark, with con­straints such as the well-doc­u­mented an­ti­cor­rup­tion drive and, again, reg­u­la­tions ham­per­ing the mar­ket. How­ever, given the coun­try’s pen­chant for lux­ury goods, in­dus­try in­sid­ers are con­fi­dent this is still a lu­cra­tive mar­ket, with re­ports sug­gest­ing the num­ber of leisure boats and yachts in China will reach 100,000 by 2020 from just 3,000 in 2012.

Else­where in the re­gion it’s a story of un­tapped po­ten­tial. In­done­sia’s 17,508 is­lands of­fer amaz­ing draws for avid mariners, though there is a cum­ber­some amount of red tape and high taxes to over­come. Both the Philip­pines and Myan­mar’s Mer­gui ar­chi­pel­ago are emerg­ing hot spots for the ad­ven­tur­ous, but lack of ser­vice sup­port cen­tres turn off many ca­sual sailors. Af­ter all, as Stachurska points out – if you were driv­ing a car, you’d want to know there was a garage nearby.

SUPERSIZE ME

In Asia, like the rest of the world, power­boats are by far the most pop­u­lar op­tion for lux­ury cruis­ing, the pref­er­ence be­ing for mo­torised ves­sels that re­quire fuel to jet around the ocean ver­sus sails. They’re eas­ier, quicker and usu­ally more com­fort­able to live aboard, though nois­ier, more ex­pen­sive to run and less ecofriendly. Cata­ma­rans in par­tic­u­lar are ex­tremely pop­u­lar, the twin hulls pro­vid­ing sta­bil­ity and ex­tra top­side space for en­ter­tain­ing.

How­ever, an­other big trend at the mo­ment is the ex­trav­a­gant world of su­per yachts. For the ul­tra rich, it is the ul­ti­mate ac­ces­sory. Broadly cat­e­gorised as any­thing above 100 feet (30 me­tres), these su­perb

ves­sels dis­play the high­est lev­els of crafts­man­ship and come with all the bells and whis­tles.

Ac­cord­ing to a joint re­port by yacht spe­cial­ists Cam­per & Ni­chol­sons and Wealth-X, the global author­ity on wealth in­tel­li­gence, there are 4,476 in­di­vid­u­als in the world who own a su­per yacht, with the av­er­age price com­ing in at a cool US$10 mil­lion. Of course, there is no up­per limit. Stachurska re­veals some fig­ures from the pre­mium San­lorenzo brand in Simp­son Marine’s port­fo­lio (five of which they’ve sold in the last few years). One ex­plorer-type su­per yacht costs a ca­sual Ð20 mil­lion (US$21.5 mil­lion), while an­other 52-me­tre su­per yacht, fully cus­tomised with a steel hull, will set you back an eye-wa­ter­ing Ð30 mil­lion (US$32 mil­lion).

But no su­per yacht would be com­plete with­out its ac­ces­sories – and we’re not talk­ing in­flat­able noo­dles. The range of lux­ury wa­ter toys has ex­ploded to James Bond lev­els, with minia­ture planes, jet-pro­pelled fly­boards, sub­marines and sonar sys­tems all be­ing de­manded by these ul­tra-high net worth mariners.

LEARN­ING THE ROPES

For us mere mor­tals, the best chance of board­ing such a craft is through a yacht char­ter. Char­ter­ing has nat­u­rally surged in pop­u­lar­ity as a hol­i­day op­tion with the growth of the in­dus­try, and caters to all seg­ments and bud­gets. On any given week­end, Hong Kong’s nu­mer­ous bays are dot­ted with junk boats, hired for the day by groups of party rev­ellers look­ing for a taste of the high life at sea. Com­pa­nies like Simp­son Marine pro­vide more lux­u­ri­ous ex­pe­ri­ences, of­fer­ing bare­boat or fully crewed char­ters – com­plete with on­board chef – for longer voy­ages. It’s also an ideal way to dip your toes in the wa­ter and test a range of boats be­fore com­mit­ting to skip­per­ing a ves­sel and tak­ing to the high seas.

An­other way to ease one­self into the life of a sailor might be to at­tend one of the var­i­ous ex­hi­bi­tions that oc­cur through­out the year.“There is no bet­ter way to dis­cover the yacht­ing world than vis­it­ing a prom­i­nent boat show,” says Tread­well.“You will meet a range of in­dus­try ex­perts and fel­low yacht en­thu­si­asts who will be able to pro­vide you with valu­able ad­vice.”

Com­ing up on April 6-9, 2017 is the sev­enth edi­tion of the Sin­ga­pore Yacht Show (SYS) at ONEº15 Ma­rina Club in Sentosa Cove. The lead­ing in­dus­try event is open to all, and of­fers an im­mer­sive por­tal into the marine life­style. Docks burst­ing with the lat­est yacht mod­els from the world’s top ship­yards at­tract di­verse crowds, from ca­sual ad­mir­ers to avid sailors. And while the yachts are the main at­trac­tion, there is a whole sub­sec­tion of en­ter­tain­ment to en­joy.

“One of the re­sound­ing suc­cesses of the last edi­tion was the on-wa­ter demon­stra­tion plat­form, where a range of spec­tac­u­lar toys [such as the Quadro­foil jet ski and fly­board] were ready to be tried out by some of the more dar­ing spec­ta­tors,” re­veals Tread­well.

At­ten­dees can also ex­pect a pres­ence from all other sec­tions of the lux­ury mar­ket, from watches and jew­ellery to cars and fine din­ing, along­side glam­orous par­ties and high-end en­ter­tain­ment. In fact, the so­cial as­pect is an in­te­gral part of the yacht­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

“Of all the lux­ury seg­ments, what is nice about this in­dus­try is that it’s kind of laid back,” says Stachurska. “Whether some­one owns a small yacht or a mas­sive su­per yacht, most of the time they’re very ap­proach­able peo­ple who share a pas­sion for boats, for wa­ter and for re­lax­ation. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about – re­lax­ation and plea­sure.”

Clock­wise from above: A fly­board demon­stra­tion at the Sin­ga­pore Yacht Show (SYS); the sun sets on the ONEº15 Ma­rina Club; and crowds ex­plore the lat­est yachts at SYS

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