By Dorie Cox
The allure of the Palm Beach International Boat Show’s early spring timing ranks high for yacht captains, crew, brokers, builders and businesses for many reasons.
“This is my favorite show,” said Capt. Brandon Washington of M/Y Just Enough, a 140-foot Ares Marine. “I love this show. The people are not overwhelming, it’s concentrated and you get real potential prospects.”
As a charter yacht captain, Capt. Washington has seen his share of people on board and he ranks Palm Beach County visitors high in quality in regard to yacht buying and chartering. Considered the third in the large U.S. yacht shows, Capt. Washington thinks the early spring date benefits business.
“Say the yacht is in Fort Lauderdale, then it goes to Miami with a slight price drop,” he said. “And now it’s at Palm Beach. The conversation is, ‘You dropped the price twice, so what’s the real number? People are ready to make deals in March.”
Many exhibitors describe the Palm Beach show as comfortable, compact and easy to navigate. Especially when compared with the Monaco Yacht Show, the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show and the Miami Yacht Show. This one allows more time to spend with qualified visitors, said Capt. Andrew Halsband of Merle Woods and Associates.
“There’s less hustle and bustle, but there’s an energy at this show, it’s not comparable,” Capt. Halsband said. “It’s not crazy like Monaco, Fort Lauderdale or Miami. It’s more really shaking hands and digging deeper.”
Capt. Alan Tookey of M/Y Carpe Diem II, a 150-foot Trinity, said this show is more discriminating than some of the other U.S. shows.
“This is a nice place for clients to look and there are more buyers and more people seriously interested,” he said. “It seems well set up and concentrated. If I had to rank, I would say Fort Lauderdale at the top — it’s great for the social aspect — and Palm Beach is a close second.”
There is a mixed report on traffic on the docks, but there is a consensus on the quality of what type of visitor is at the show. Although several people report lighter numbers of visitors, few describe it as slow. On the 180-foot Newcastle M/Y Sovereign, visitors were continual.
“Thursday and Friday were extremely busy with people on,” 2d Eng. Neil Smith said. “We didn’t have enough people to show the boat. I would say it’s up 30 percent in traffic over Fort Lauderdale. We are really pleased.”
Aside from volume, the quality is up, too, he said.
“The visitors are more legitimate and seem to have a genuine interest in charter and/or sale,” he said. “The nature of their questions leave me to believe they are serious.”
With years of experience in boat shows, he said, “You never know what you will get, but there is positive interest from the owners. The Palm Beach show feels superyacht-oriented. It just flows.”
Capt. Craig Turnbull of the 151-foot Hakvoort M/Y Allegria said the show is worth the trip, even with a navigation challenge.
“Historically, I’m not a fan of this show,” he said. “There’s a small slack tide for a deep-draft vessel. But this show is less frenetic. It seems like there is a different clientele and we’ve already had people back for the fourth time. We haven’t seen that interest in a while.”
European yacht builders also made the trip. This year saw the premier of several major large yacht builders. German shipbuilder Lurssen and Dutch builder Oceanco, as well as Italian boat builders Perini Navi and Rosetti Superyachts, exhibited for the first time. This builds on last year’s premier of Dutch builders Feadship and Damen-Amels and returning Dutch builder Heesen.
“This show is high quality, it’s unique and it’s cool,” said Bas Swanink, sales manager of Oceanco. “Cool is the spirit of this show.”
Swanink said the company’s market is in the 300- to 400-foot range, and the United States’ interest is growing.
“America is different and there are more American yacht owners stepping into this very important market,” Swanink said. “They may look different — the age of wealth is going down — but clients never wear a badge saying, ‘I’m your next owner’. You just feel it.”
Although finding dockage in the United States for yachts larger than 300 feet is a challenge, Swanink said that’s less of a problem for Oceanco.
“Our yachts travel 365 a year,” he said. “Our yachts don’t have a berth.”
The head of Oceanco North America, Edward Roberts, thinks that overall, “people are understanding that yachting is fun and they like to be together,” and the Palm Beach audience fits that bill.
“It’s a relaxed but sophisticated clientele,” Roberts said. “You can bring your family to this show.”
Although most of these builders did not have a yacht on show, they set up in the wide, center dock, a promenade in the Superyacht Villa.
Rosetti Superyachts chose this show to introduce its concepts for 48m and 85m customizable yachts. The Italian builder has built tugs and support vessels since 1925.
“There are not so many people but they are important contacts,” company CEO Fulvio Dodich said. “We want to bring our business to the U.S. market. The superyacht market is very different.”
Perini Navi also brought details of its diverse build options for the first time.
“We’ve heard nothing but good momentum from the brokers,” said Bruce Brakenhoff Jr., president of Perini Navi. “The show is getting good reviews.”
Although the return is not always direct, most everyone considers the Palm Beach International Boat Show an investment.
“At shows, we meet people and we see them year after year,” Brakenhoff said. “Selling a boat is not an event, it is a process. We show them models and the expectation is not to sell, but to further the ball toward the goal. ”
Luca Boldrini, motoryacht sales director for the company, said securing a boat for display is a challenge.
“In Monaco, it’s easier to get a boat for the show because there are many of the larger boats in Europe,” he said. But he said it is important to exhibit.
“Palm Beach has always been wealthy and is accustomed to this,” Boldrini said. “People come with their friends, there’s infrastructure, they like it here. This is one more reason to show here.”
This show will create another date for them, he said.
“America is big and they have a great passion for the sea and cruising. They like to use their boat and many more of them live on board.” Boldrini said.
He agreed with Brakenhoff in that the company rarely has a sale during shows.
“We don’t sign contracts at boat shows,” Boldrini said. “These are something to develop, a journey to meet new people. It’s a sign of respect to meet them in person, so we invest money to show that we’re here at their disposal.”
Dorie Cox is editor of Triton Today. Comments are welcome below.