The CEO of Camper & Nicholsons International—a yachting (including brokerage) business founded more than two centuries ago, and with a dozen international offices—Casani explained the changing mentality behind individuals who are willing to purchase a superyacht.
We believe the market is completely changing. ‘Brokerage’ used to be putting together a buy and seller. Now, that’s not enough. We have to provide services, manage assets, supply crews. An owner buys a yacht for fun, to have without problems. So we supply a global package of services, including teams of managers who are experts in different areas.
A ‘superyacht’ is at least 80 feet (24 meters) long, is privately owned and includes professional staff. About 80% of these run under motor, while 20% are propelled by sails. The words ‘professional staff’ are key. For motorized craft, superyachting (let’s consider that a verb) does not involve phoning friends on the spur of the moment to drive over to your dock with their fishing rods and a bucket of bait so you can all putter over waves during dusk. Instead, you’ll more likely phone your brokerage company days in advance, identify the number of guests expected, their dietary preferences and your expected route, then wait until you hear that a contingent of professional (and appropriately dressed) staff will be available, that the galley is stocked and that a route has been pre-programmed using software identifying the eco-friendliest and least crowded destinations anywhere between Rotterdam and Rapa Nui.
Technology is critical toward enhancing this motorized yachting experience. Casani continued:
We’ve also merged with a technical company to improve charters and allow for online booking. We need to speak the language of technology. We have five engineers working full time, so do not outsource, but keep development in-house.
Giovanni Alessi Anghini—Chief Innovation and Technology Officer at Camper & Nicholsons—compared the slow uptake of technology within the yachting world to having a Ferrari vehicle, but only using first and second gears. Technology, he explained, can be used more efficiently to distill charter feedback, or analyze fuel usage, on the same software platform. It can be used to comb through customer desires so that that information is incorporated into the latest yacht designs.
Major yachting festivals in Europe are scheduled during the usually delicious temperatures of September. They include the Cannes Yachting Festival (September 10th—5th), the Genoa International Boat Show (September 19th—24th) and the Monaco Yacht Show (September 25th–28th).
In comparison to visiting the hyper-crowded launch of any famed sailing race—such as the Route du Rhum in the oceanside city of Saint Malo of northeast France—attending the Cannes Yachting Festival is a comparative breeze. Walkways are carpet covered, neat wooden boxes are provided to stow removed footwear along gangways, open spaces are relatively uncluttered, catered onboard cuisine can be exquisite and a relaxed sunny southern French sense of ambience pervades the scene. If any visitors’ drawl or twang or wanton display of seafaring ignorance indicates a potential lack of savoir-faire—who cares? Owners and sellers from France, Italy, Australia or the U.K. provide practical on-board tours that above all respect curiosity.
The world of superyachting is diverse, complex and dynamic. You can learn much about this universe from flipping through pages of any glossy magazine dedicated to such boats. Advertisements promote onboard features such as an Italian aperitivo bar, movie theaters (including Imax), helipads, ‘beach clubs,’ marble-finished (or glass-sided) elevators, hot-stone massages, golfing (where you whack biodegradable balls), 40-foot (12 meter) long swimming pools, 60-foot (18 meter) high boats, whitewashed oak floors, leather upholstered headboards, American walnut joinery, personal submarines with Aston Martin engines, quad bikes and 24 foot (7.3 meter) long catamarans. Many yacht interiors look grander than upscale Las Vegas hotel suites. And don’t forget the ‘shadow yacht,’ able to carry your excess toys—such as quad bikes, laser dinghies and ATVs.
Though the superyacht world can appear luxurious, it is still—fortunately—associated with protectors of the sea. The same glossy magazines that highlight onboard ‘sulfate free champagne’ and ‘folding electric consoles’ also include captivating stories about maritime explorers such as Thor Heyerdahl or Sylvia Earle. Respect for maintaining clean oceans—and for cleaning oceans—is becoming ubiquitous in the modern world of yacht sales. When a hybrid superyacht, such as Cecilia 165, includes a 3-seater submarine that can be deployed in 15 minutes, that feature is not just for impressing prosecco sipping dinner guests; it provides a platform for scientific research and exploration down to a depth of 980 feet (300 meters). The ability to maneuver through and explore depths off, say, South American coasts, is an eye-opening adventure prospect; it also provides a means to allow more people to explore and appreciate (and share via Instagram) the mysterious ocean universe beneath gray and scudding waves.
This combination of enhanced digital (and marine) technology and professional crews may tilt the focus of superyacht lifestyles to being inclined as much toward niche exploration, as toward high performance and luxury.
As CEO responsible for the sale—and chartering of—some of the most prestigious yachts on the oceans, Casani knows the importance of watching emerging patterns, and preferences, develop.
The challenge is changing our mentality. Cycles of business change every few years. It’s a continuous evolution. We need to anticipate change.