The Versilia Yachting Rendezvous in Viareggio was organised by Nautica Italiana and Fiera Milano in less than three months – an achievement in itself. As the very first edition there is clearly room for improvement and growth, while given the ongoing rivalry between UCINA and Nautica Italiana there is also a good dose of Italian politics involved. But judging from the reaction of the industry representatives we spoke to, the answer to the question above is a discreetly confident ‘yes’.
“I think we do need another kind of event,” says Fabio Pesto of the Pesto Sea Group, who was exhibiting in Viareggio as part of Liguria for Yachting, a new association looking to promote Liguria’s marinas with permanent berths for superyachts. “Whether the formula is the Versilia Yachting Rendezvous remains to be seen, but this is just the first edition. We know that Nautica Italiana and UCINA are moving in different directions, but we’re focusing on the superyacht segment, so we’re more interested in this event, Cannes or Monaco than Genoa.”
“I would make a distinction between the Genoa show and the Versilia Yachting Rendezvous, which focuses very much on the luxury yachting market,” agrees Stefano de Vivo, who wears two hats as CCO of the Ferretti Group and a CRN executive board member. “The core business here is very different from that of Genoa, if we want to talk about that polemic, but one can complement the other as our needs and those of our clients are different and the events take place at different times of the year.”
By opting to launch the show in the spring at the beginning of the season, Nautica Italiana wisely avoided the packed show calendar at the end of the summer. The choice of Versilia, a part of Tuscany in the province of Lucca, to host the event was also a strategic decision:
“Viareggio’s via Coppino is like the 5th Avenue of the yachting world,” says Vincenzo Poerio (pictured above with Lamberto Tacoli), CEO of Benetti’s megayacht division, who is also chairman of the Tuscany port authority and a long-time supporter of the idea of hosting a boat show in Benetti’s historical home. “But the region has a lot to offer outside Viareggio, which is why it’s called the Versilia Yachting Rendezvous. We work in a luxury sector and here we have the seaside, the art, the cuisine, the culture, and so on. Variety is a good thing and the Cannes show, for example, offers a totally different environment.”
No doubt all of this is true, yet despite its charm and significance as a yacht building hub Viareggio itself does not have the same luxury infrastructure and cosmopolitan appeal as Cannes, an important consideration as the event is hoping to attract an international clientele. At least one exhibitor, however, does not see this as drawback:
“We’re definitely targeting the end users and [two days into the show] we’ve had a dozen or so clients drop by,” says Kiran Jay Haslam, marketing director with Princess Yachts, the only overseas builder exhibiting in Viareggio. “It’s a fledgling event, but there’s a lot of scope for it to be markedly different from what Genoa is trying to be. It’s quieter and more reserved with less overt branding, rather like the difference between Palm Beach and Miami, which is a good thing.”
With 117 exhibitors and 72 boats in the water (including CRN’s 55m Atlante and Picchiotti’s 50m Exuma), the event organisers heralded the first edition a success. It has some way to go before it can be deemed an international event and of the reported 18,000 visitors, the vast majority were Italian with 9% from other EU countries and just 3% from outside the EU. But the feeling on the ground was generally positive and even festive, which is not true of all boat shows, though some major Viareggio brands such as Rossinavi and Codecasa were noticeable by their absence.
One thorny issue that still has to be resolved is the relationship between Nautica Italiana and UCINA. Their failure to work together led the Italian government to suspend public funding for their respective shows (although on the opening day of the Viareggio event, the regional and local authorities confirmed funding worth 400,000 euros for the next three years).
“There is no doubt that we would be stronger if we were unified, but I’m an optimist and I hope that good sense will prevail," says Lamberto Tacoli as chairman of Nautica Italiana. "The yachting industry in Italy is very diverse and it’s difficult for one association to address the concerns and needs of everyone equally. In my opinion, separating the larger luxury segment from the smaller boats makes perfect sense.”
Photo credit: images by Justin Ratcliffe