How to buy a super yacht

A luxury yacht is easy to purchase and can be a home away from home, but it pays to understand what it takes to operate and maintain a large sea-going vessel.
Luxury yachting is a pursuit of the leisure class. Recent Hollywood screenings have heroines daydreaming of the carefree life aboard a luxury super yacht while singing ABBAÆs hit "Money, Money, Money". While many of us undeniably share these longings, when it comes to actually buying a luxury yacht the dream quickly turns into a complex web of options, choices, regulations and maintenance unknowns.

A luxury yacht can be a home away from home, designed and carefully specialised to your tastes, allowing you to take your creature comforts anywhere in the world. Beyond the flexibility of a home or office away from home, a super yacht offers privacy beyond that of many luxury hotels. Staffed with your carefully selected captain and crew, your super yacht can be ready and waiting for you whenever and wherever you need it. And let us not forget the added bonus of having a private venue capable of entertaining 50 guests in Tokyo one week and Hong Kong the next.

Though easy to purchase, super yachts are very complicated objects. ôA super yacht is a small power plant, small water treatment plant, small hotel and small restaurant all in one small space, shaking around in a tough environment,ö says Simpson Marine yacht broker Mark Woodmansey. Just as you can walk on to a car lot or into a realtorÆs office and buy a car or a house, super yachts can be bought with similar ease but come with complex operational and maintenance issues. Like with any other major asset purchase, do your homework. A little due diligence can go a long way, especially when making a multi-million dollar purchase.

Super yachts
Not all yachts are created equal. Compared to its simple yacht siblings, the typical super yacht is over 50 metres long, can be outfitted with a gym, a five-star kitchen and multiple staterooms and comes with a steel hull for ocean travel. These enormously complex boats are luxurious symbols of conspicuous consumption and not for the budget conscious.

With up-front costs in the ballpark of $75 million, buying a super yacht is for those seriously interested in enjoying the yachting lifestyle û a luxurious, leisurely lifestyle but one with significant responsibilities. Bearing this in mind, the first step to buying a super yacht is finding a broker.

In Asia, only a few specialised super yacht brokers nurture the market. Simpson Marine focuses its services throughout East Asia, with offices in most of the region's major cities, including Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore. Seal Superyachts provides a majority of the brokerage services in Southeast Asia, covering everything from Indonesia to the Seychelles from its base on Phuket in Thailand.

Woodmansey explains that a good broker helps buyers with everything from determining what kind of yacht they want û fast, oceangoing, helicopter equipped û to recommending a shipyard or surveying possible second-hand boats and arranging after-sale maintenance and upkeep. ôYou want to find the right person, someone you can trust, to be your broker,ö says Woodmansey.

Though brokers walk prospective buyers through all the steps of acquiring a super yacht, the final decision on what yacht to buy is ultimately up to the buyer. Many buyers already know how they plan to use the yacht but, generally speaking, have little knowledge beyond. The worldÆs leading yacht builders come from Italy, Germany and Holland and include such storied names as Benetti, Denship, Fedship and Larsen. While there are small manufacturing operations in Asia, most yacht brokers see them as lower quality and not up to the standards of demanding luxury super yacht owners.

With a price tag over Ç50 million ($73 million), each yacht is carefully and precisely constructed. Annual production numbers at each of the leading yacht builders are in the single digits and construction takes two to three years. Needless to say, waiting for a new, custom built super yacht is an exercise in patience.

For those without deep pockets and ample patience, the second hand market is a popular option. Woodmansey explains that brokers have access to worldwide second hand listings and, with a buyerÆs specific requirements, can easily find the perfect yacht. A global sales network is necessary as the majority of the worldÆs super yachts are currently located in the Mediterranean or Caribbean basins.

Deals are generally closed in tax-free international waters and a crew will be hired to ferry the yacht to your home port. Now that you have your super yacht, aside from sailing off to a tropical island, what do you do with it?

Keeping your yacht
A super yacht does not need a marina. Like the old quip goes, boats and crews rot in port and the point of owning a yacht is not to keep it berthed. Keeping with super yachtsÆ need to be at sea, one of their greatest advantages is the ability to drop anchor anywhere. While anchoring off Langkawi and whiling away the days in the tropics is many a person's dream, the reality is work in the city calls.

Finding the right berthing facilities for a super yacht can be difficult. Aside from cruise ship terminals, facilities that can accommodate a 50 metre plus super yacht with a depth of at least 3.8 metres are few and far between in Asia. The Mediterranean basin, the epicentre of super yachting, has about 3,000 berths, according to some experts. In Hong Kong, the only facility capable of berthing a super yacht is the Gold Coast Yacht and Country Club. SingaporeÆs new One¦15 marina has ôpurpose builtö super yacht mooring berths and marinas in Langkawi and Phuket are also capable of handling large yachts.

ôHaving a purpose built space for super yachts is very important,ö says Gold Coast Yacht and Country Club general manager Albert Wu. ôAt our club we have berthing space for four super yachts on our C and D docks. To captains, the depth and space to turn around is very important and we offer ample of both. For owners, we are the butler to all the super yacht VIPs, whether they want privacy or service we can do it for them.ö

Owners also enjoy all the necessary utility and communications connections in berth and can take advantage of Gold CoastÆs landside fitness and spa facilities.

Individual marina debenture membership prices at Gold Coast run from HK$1.07 million ($137,000) for a mega yacht of 101-120 feet (30-37 metres) to H$2.27 million for a yacht up to 200 feet. For mega yachts longer than 200 feet, the debenture price is subject to negotiation.

For a super yachtÆs maintenance and upkeep, Gold Coast or a broker are more than willing to help coordinate with reputable maintenance companies or shipyards to keep your boat in tip top shape.

Yachting in Asia
Yachting may be best known as the leisure activity of the European rich and famous set and local marinas may not yet elicit images of Saint Tropez or the Greek Isles, but interest in super yachting is beginning to spark. Hong Kong has its own local super yacht in the form of Ambrosia, the 65 metre Benetti toy of businessman Ambrous Young.

The lack of super yacht facilities is one of AsiaÆs biggest weaknesses. ôIt is a crying shame that Hong Kong does not have a downtown marina. The definition of harbour is that it is a safe place to keep boats,ö says Simpson MarineÆs Woodmansey. With Gold Coast about 30 minutes by car from Central, the Aberdeen Marina Club too small and the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club shrinking because of harbour development, Hong Kong lacks the colourful boat-lined waterfront you find in New York and ports of call along the Mediterranean.

While facilities are slowly being built in Hong Kong and Singapore, Asia is a vast untouched market for super yachts. Both Woodmansey and Wu agree that the market is growing with potential buyers from Hong Kong, Singapore and especially mainland China. One avenue for growth is the expansion of yacht charters û common in Europe but rare in Asia.

Charters are beneficial to AsiaÆs nascent super yacht market. They keep yachts at sea and crews from rotting when an owner is unable to use the boat. Additionally, charters have the ability to spur ownership as potential buyers realise the joys of super yachting and come back from trips asking to see a brochure.

Whether you are ready to ask for a brochure or make an appointment to see a broker, buying a super yacht is a never ending adventure. Super yacht ownership offers you an unrivalled level of freedom, flexibility, comfort and privacy. So jump aboard, raise the anchor and order a glass of champagne as you set out to explore the Orient the way it was once seen, by sea.
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