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By Triton Editor Dorie Cox
Major megayacht builders from across the Atlantic Ocean have taken notice of Palm Beach’s boat show. Four European builders made their way to exhibit at the 32nd edition of Palm Beach International Boat Show and a Superyacht Villas section was featured at the center of the show, which ran March 23-26.
Feadship Royal Dutch Shipyard had a worthwhile show as a first-time exhibitor.
“We’re here because it feels like our clients are starting to come to this show,” Capt. Ted McCumber, new commercial director of Feadship Americas. This was his first year at the Palm Beach show. The builder has had an office in Ft. Lauderdale for 40 years and always exhibits at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.
“It was a couple of years ago that M/Y Attessa II was at the show and it sold in three months,” Capt. McCumber said. “At that time, the guys in the yard said this might be the show to go to.”
“Our clients enjoy meeting with us in person,” said Farouk Nefzi, marketing and brand director of Feadship. “There is historical value for us to be here. It is a big fleet that is sailing here.”
The company was started to market to the Americas, including Latin America and the United States, he said.
“The history is reflected in the origin of the acronym, First Export Association of Dutch Shipbuilders,” Nefzi said.
Johan Dubbelman, sales manager with Moonen, said the Palm Beach show is a good fit for his company, a Dutch shipyard that builds semi-custom yachts up to 160 feet.
“I think this is a good bridge between Europe and the United States,” Dubbelman said. “It feels like the clientele here are representative of the U.S. upper class who have experience in boating. They are more at ease and are experienced boat owners.”
The company exhibited in 2015 with 85-, 97- and 125-foot yachts, but did not have a boat for the 2016 show.
Dutch yacht brand Amels builds yachts in of 180 to 272 feet as part of Damen, and the company exhibited at Palm Beach for the first time this year. Even without a yacht to sell, the company brought the 180-foot M/Y Kamalaya and the 177-foot M/Y Spirit for show.
“The American yacht market is the biggest in the world,” said Rose Damen, commercial director of Amels. “There is no better way than to be at these shows.”
Although they have not had a display at Yachts Miami Beach, they do show at the Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show. M/Y Fast and Furious, a 180-foot, was sold at that show last year, Damen said.
Heesen is another European builder that exhibited this year. Sara Gioanola, public relations and press office manager for the company, said Heesen does not exhibit at Yachts Miami Beach but does at the Ft. Lauderdale show.
“The founder of Heesen said if you don’t go to Ft. Lauderdale, people think you’re dead,” she said. “Last year was the first year at this show. Palm Beach is a key show for the right people for this time of year.”
Show moving on up
The Palm Beach show is growing as a favorite among South Florida’s three shows: Ft. Lauderdale in November, Miami in February, and Palm Beach in March.
Horizon Yachts first displayed in Palm Beach in 2000 and has been in the same spot ever since. The company has witness the show’s growth from the front lines.
“Back then, we were the farthest north in the show, and now we’re in the middle,” Roger Sowerbutts, director of the company said. “We call it forward planning.”
Attendees and exhibitors say they enjoy the downtown location near restaurants and shops, the ease of parking and the atmosphere of the show. Many yacht captains and crew said they love working the Palm Beach show, including Capt. Martin Secot of M/Y Arthur’s Way.
“It’s great to be close to downtown and Clematis and to be able to walk the entire show,” he said.
He prefers the show more than the recent Yachts Miami Beach and the late-year Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.
“It doesn’t feel as spread out as Miami and with Fort Lauderdale, well, it’s just the enormity of it,” he said. “It’s kind of like why I like Chicago better than New York.”
From a small boat show held in a parking lot in 1982, this year’s Palm Beach International Boat Show has grown to include more than 700 boats in-water. The show, owned by the Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County, now encompasses most of the downtown West Palm Beach waterfront including all but two docks at Palm Harbor Marina.
And the numbers reflect the popularity: attendance was up 14 percent. This year’s also show saw a 17 percent increase of 80- to 100-foot yachts on display and in-water displays were up 6 percent, according to Show Management, manager and producer of the event. (In March, Show Management was purchased by Informa, producers of the Monaco Yacht Show.)
M/Y Solandge, a 279-foot (85m) Lurssen, was supposed to be the largest yacht in the show, but it sold before it could pull into its slip. The yacht was listed with Moran Yacht & Ship at 155 million euros. The largest yacht in the show was the 230-foot Lurssen (70m) charter yacht M/Y Martha Ann, which docked at nearby Rybovich Superyacht Marina because of her draft. The largest yacht in the show downtown was M/Y Double Down, a 213-foot (65m) Codecasa.
The show has definitely grown significantly, both in size of yachts and amount of boats and yachts that attend, said Taylor Craig, chief operating officer of Moran Yacht and Ship.
“It is less international than the Fort Lauderdale show,” Craig said. “It feels almost exclusively American, but that is definitely not a bad a thing.”
Look for the Palm Beach International Boat Show to continue the trend, said other exhibitors.
“It’s 100 percent worth it; it’s a great show,” said Craig said, ranking it right behind Monaco and Ft. Lauderdale. “In my opinion, it’s the second best in the U.S. and third in the world.”
The show was a success for Bob Denison, who has been involved in the show for about 20 years with Denison Yacht Sales. He said the company closed on four boats from this year’s show.
“A few small and a few big,” Denison said. “It was a solid show. I think vendors and brokers love working it because of the great eating and drinking spots and easy parking.”
He said his team made important contacts with captains, deckhands and stews, but the Palm Beach show has limitations.
“It will never be as busy or meaningful as Yachts Miami Beach or FLIBS,” Denison said.
Despite questions as to the show’s future with the new ownership of Show Management, Informa’s Group Chief Executive Stephen Carter allayed fears that a seemingly unknown company was taking over the boat show. Informa owns about 210 brands around the world and is listed on the London stock exchange. It also produces the Monaco Yacht Show.
“What we try to pride ourselves on is being an owner of companies that are themselves well known,” Carter told assembled reporters at a media briefing during the show. “We’ve been building and growing over the past few years, primarily in the United States. Sixty percent of our business is here, and it’s growing.”
Informa understands the power of the marine industry, Carter said, and it understands the role of boat shows as brands in and of themselves as well as tools to drive business to local communities. The company is committed to the growth of the international yachting industry, he said.
And the European builders have committed also. Palm Beach has firmed its place on the calendars of the other European builders who showed this year.
“Palm Beach is possibly the best show of the year to focus on the U.S. market,” Amels’ Damen said. “In that sense, it’s certainly as interesting as Monaco for Amels. We met with many potential clients. It was certainly a very strong show for us with U.S. clients.
“This season has seen more than a dozen Amels yachts cruising near Florida, the Bahamas and the Caribbean Sea, so the Palm Beach show offers us an additional opportunity to further build the brands in this part of the world,” she said.
“I am confident next year we will add this show,” she said. “It is a big investment, but if we can get a boat at this show, it is worth it. Overall, the number of large yachts on show points to the potential for Palm Beach in the future.”
Moonen’s Dubbelman said Palm Beach has moved to the top of his company’s list.
“If we have the opportunity, we will do Palm Beach first, Ft. Lauderdale second and Miami third,” he said.
It was last year, Heesen’s director of sales for North America, Mexico, Bahamas and Caribbean, Thom Conboy, said the company should consider exhibiting in the Palm Beach show.
“Thom recommended for Heesen to really be coming to this show,” Heesen’s Gioanola said. “It is becoming the show for superyacht builders.”
Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton. Triton Publisher Lucy Chabot Reed contributed to this report. Comments are welcome below.