Editor’s Note: For an updated and expanded version of this story, see the cover story in our May issue, or click here.
By Dorie Cox
The 32nd annual Palm Beach International Boat Show weathered several squalls on opening day. The first that hit about an hour after gates opened sent crew running to secure cushions and move displays. Many held onto their chamois cloths most of the day through intermittent rain showers.
But staff at several European boatbuilders were set up and waiting to meet the U.S. audience, including first-time exhibitor Feadship Royal Dutch Shipyard.
“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 [at a boat show]. 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.
Feadship has had an office in Ft. Lauderdale for 40 years and always exhibits at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.
“We will see how it goes; we have to try to see how it works,” Nefzi said of exhibiting in Palm Beach. “Our expectation is all about expanding our brand and networking. Being at this show reinforces our commitment to this market. This is the way to explore this show and see what it has to offer.”
Capt. Ted McCumber, commercial director of Feadship’s Americas office, said one of the owners, Henk de Vries did not attend the Ft. Lauderdale show but is on site in Palm Beach.
“We’re here because it feels like our clients are starting to come to this show,” Capt. McCumber said.
Heesen is another European builder that is expanding into the Palm Beach show. Sara Gioanola, PR and press office manager for the company, said the company 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. We plan to do this more often if it goes well. Palm Beach is a key show for the right people for this time of year.”
Last year, Thom Conboy, director of sales for North America, Mexico, Bahamas and Caribbean, said the company should consider exhibiting in the Palm Beach show.
“Thom recommended for Heesen to really be coming to this show,” Gioanola said. “It is becoming the show for superyacht builders.”
Other European builders including Amels and Moonen are also exhibiting in Palm Beach this year.
Andrew Doole, senior vice president and COO, of Show Management expects continued growth for the show.
“We’ve had SYBass (Superyacht Builders Association) meetings the last six years in Monaco promoting the Palm Beach show,” Doole said. “It is unique. Our wealthy clients are still in town for the season, right across the water. It is amazing clientele.”
The show has an area designated for the superyacht builders near the center of the show.
“We are trying to create an attractive environment for the boatbuilders,” Doole said. “We had Feadship visit the last two years and they liked the look.”
The Palm Beach show continues to grow, including more in-water displays.
“We have 700 [boats] in water ranging from 16 to 200 feet,” he said. “And with the new ownership, we expect to expand and upgrade.”
Three weeks ago, Show Management was purchased by Informa, a European events and publications company that produces the Monaco Yacht Show.
Mike Frank, director of U.S. yacht management with Camper & Nicholsons International, said he understands the expansion of the European builders at the show.
“The U.S. builders are dropping out of the market,” Frank said.
But he has high hopes for all the exhibitors for the remainder of the event.
“Today has been disappointing,” he said. “A couple of clients have called and said, ‘See you tomorrow’. It [the weather] is keeping clientele away, but it is a great show, and it improves every year.”
The charter yacht market also optimized the stormy weather. Jennifer Saia, president and charter specialist of B&B, said the slower crowds worked to her benefit.
“I’ve had many calls from clients saying they will come tomorrow after the rain,” Saia said. “But this weather is good for us as agents. Back in the day, they had industry hours for us to see each other’s boats, so today has turned into a work day for us.”
Pat Codere and Anita Dodds are charter managers at Fraser Yachts.
“It’s unfortunate about the weather; it prohibited many from coming today,” Codere said. “But this show is classier and nicer. It’s a very civilized show and easy to get around to find what you want.”
“It is quieter but I love the atmosphere here,” Dodds said. “It feels sophisticated and it makes people want to come to the Palm Beach show. The weekend will definitely be busier.”
Despite the lack of big crowds, business continued.
“We’ve had good clientele today despite the weather,” said Steve Moynihan, owner of HMY Yachts. “We have written a couple of contracts.”
And as the rain and wind slowed in the late evening, Moynihan said he is undaunted for another good show this year.
“Now that we have this mess out of the way, we’re ready for the crowds.”