Wit and wis­dom


Yachting World - - Great Seamanship -

ails like a witch,’ con­cludes one of Berthon’s fa­mous bro­ker­age ad­verts.

The list­ings in the pages of Yacht­ing World are many own­ers’ first im­pres­sion of Berthon, and the im­pres­sion they give is one of well-in­formed charm, with a dash of wit.

Well spec’d boats are de­scribed as hav­ing ‘the full ca­boo­dle’, while a 50-footer is ‘built for fast cruis­ing with­out go­ril­las’. Of­fers are in­vited ‘within the bounds of de­cency’. Ev­ery­one reads the Berthon pages, re­gard­less of whether or not they thought they were in the mar­ket for a boat.

Berthon’s char­ac­ter­is­tic tone was the brain­child of Sue Grant, the MD, who joined the com­pany nearly 30 years ago. Bored by the con­ven­tional bro­ker­age de­scrip­tions of the time, she took in­spi­ra­tion from a

scol­lec­tion of bru­tally hon­est Lon­don real es­tate list­ings, and cre­ated Berthon’s tongue in cheek style. De­spite the fact Berthon now sells some 200 yachts a year, none of the ad­verts is bought in from a copy­writ­ing agency – in­stead each is writ­ten by the Berthon bro­kers who are sell­ing the boats. That’s be­cause cap­tur­ing a boat’s whole his­tory and per­son­al­ity in just a cou­ple of lines is thanks to the Berthon ethos of know­ing each yacht in­ti­mately, from the tech­ni­cal­i­ties of a re­fit to which are best equipped for ‘po­lar bears and pen­guins’ sail­ing. They try to get to know ev­ery owner equally well – some 50% of their busi­ness is to re­peat cus­tomers.

Much of that knowl­edge comes from ex­pe­ri­ence – Sue Grant es­ti­mates that the bro­kers have 150 years of ex­pe­ri­ence in sell­ing boats be­tween them. The whole Berthon bro­ker­age op­er­a­tion in­cludes 27 peo­ple work­ing across four lo­ca­tions – Lyming­ton, Man­delieu-la Napoule in the south of France, Rhode Is­land, USA, and newly, Palma de Mal­lorca in Spain.

Bro­ker­age is just a small part of what Berthon does – some 150 staff are em­ployed at the Lyming­ton site, work­ing on ev­ery­thing from the re­build of a 1925 classic day­boat to the full re­fur­bish­ment of a mod­ern 88ft mo­to­ry­acht, main­tain­ing lifeboats and mil­i­tary ves­sels, as well as re-sprays, re­fits and re­pairs on leisure yachts and mo­tor­boats of all types and vin­tages. A full gar­di­en­nage ser­vice is now of­fered in Palma.

Berthon bro­kers are thor­oughly trained in-house; this is akin to an ap­pren­tice­ship. Sue Grant be­lieves it takes a min­i­mum of five years to learn the craft prop­erly, and many have been with the com­pany for many more years. Each bro­ker has his or her own area of spe­cial­ism (so aren’t com­pet­ing against one an­other for com­mis­sion) but they all work as one team.

Sue Grant her­self has a near-pho­to­graphic

‘It takes a min­i­mum of five years to learn the craft to be­come a bro­ker’

mem­ory for the yachts her clients have bought and sold. She can rat­tle through in foren­sic detail the his­tory of not only any yacht you care to point at in the Berthon yard, but also many of the yachts on the mar­ket (it’s surely no co­in­ci­dence she has a vol­ume of Sher­lock Holmes next to her desk).

All know­ing

But there is an­other mem­ber of the team who is equally all-know­ing: Bob.

Bob is not, in fact, a tweed-wear­ing gen­tle­man of a cer­tain age, but Berthon’s cus­tom de­signed data han­dling sys­tem (the acro­nym re­flects an of­fice love of Black­ad­der!). The sys­tem is a unique (Gdpr-com­pli­ant) data­base of in­for­ma­tion on all the yachts that Berthon has for sale, or has sold, and own­ers. Con­stantly up­dated by the bro­ker­age team, it gives Berthon an un­ri­valled tool in match­ing boats with po­ten­tial buy­ers.

Bob also man­ages the mar­ket­ing ac­tiv­ity of each boat – be­sides print list­ings, Berthon pro­duces much of their pho­tog­ra­phy in-house and in­creas­ingly of­fers videos of yachts for sale, to­gether with a very ac­tive so­cial media strat­egy and a strong pres­ence at boat shows and events such as the ARC.

Berthon sells a huge di­ver­sity of yachts. They of­fer new sales of Ad­vanced and So­laris yachts, as well as Iguana, Pearl and Windy power sales, and are well known for and ex­pe­ri­enced in sell­ing pre-owned Dis­cov­ery Yachts. Their ded­i­cated per­for­mance and rac­ing yacht sec­tion man­ages ev­ery­thing from for­mer Volvo Ocean Race yachts to TP52S and IRC weapons, while the cruis­ing list­ings reg­u­larly fea­ture fully re­fit­ted 80-foot­ers, much loved fam­ily boats and a huge choice of blue­wa­ter de­signs.

Hence, there is no such thing as ‘typ­i­cal’ Berthon owner. How­ever, Sue Grant says that they all share a com­mon char­ac­ter­is­tic: “The rea­son that we are im­mensely priv­i­leged in what we do, is that our clients are pas­sion­ate about yacht­ing. This suits us very well be­cause ev­ery­one here is equally pas­sion­ate about sail­ing and be­ing on the wa­ter.”

That’s not to say all own­ers are highly ex­pe­ri­enced. There is noth­ing the Berthon team en­joys more than find­ing the right yacht for a new owner at the start of their sail­ing jour­ney – even if that’s not nec­es­sar­ily the boat they thought they would buy.

Hav­ing matched the right yacht with the right buyer, com­plet­ing the sale is where Berthon’s ex­per­tise comes in. Berthon uses its own con­tract, drawn up with mar­itime spe­cial­ist law firm Hill Dickinson. The team prides it­self on a dili­gent ap­proach to check­ing own­er­ship and in­ven­tory doc­u­ments, and a thor­ough knowl­edge of the in­tri­ca­cies of RCD, VAT and tax­a­tion in each ter­ri­tory (and if they don’t know, they take spe­cial­ist ad­vice). Client ac­counts are held separately by the Berthon Group, it­self re­as­sur­ingly a net lender to its bankers.

As Sue Grant points out, no­body re­ally needs to buy a yacht, and there are many po­ten­tial pit­falls along and stum­bling blocks on the way to a sale. A lit­tle wit and plenty of wis­dom smooth the way. berthon.co.uk

The beau­ti­ful Humphreys 77 Aglaia has been re­fit­ted at Berthon and is now ready for sale

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