Longstanding sailing yacht designer, and principal of his eponymous design studio Tony Castro, outlines below, how he feels the sailing yacht market continues to function in a somewhat 'diminished' state...
These last 12 months I only received one enquiry for a sailboat over 30m, a 53m classic sloop that I have been developing over the last few months. And there is no uptick in enquiries for larger sailing yachts either, as far as I am concerned.
In my opinion, this slump has nothing to do with the designs that we are offering or the price. It’s to do with the perception that sailing, as a desirable activity, has dropped off the radar; it’s not seen as the 'right' thing to do.
Imagine a young wealthy guy - say, Russian, just as an example - gets an appetite for a yacht. He books a flight to Europe with his wife and, when he gets to airport, he buys some reading material - a magazine about Boats, one about watches and another about cars… Does he see any sail boats at all, let alone on the front cover? No he doesn’t! So he immediately believes that a motoryacht is the thing to buy. He then thinks that the brokers, with their multiple pages of advertising, are the only people that know anything about yachts. So that's who they contact first. You can guess what happens next...
I would add a couple of things: What used to maintain sailing at the top of the list of desirable things was, to a certain extent, the glamour of grand prix racing and other great events across the world. The sailing world was full of visible grandees, and influential and amiable people. You could go racing against the King of Spain or Norway, Ted Turner, Jim Kilroy, Albert Bull, Chris Dunning, and so on. Then came the 'professional' era and the demise of the America’s Cup into this thing it is today. That has had a very negative effect on the reputation and desirability of belonging to the sailing lot, for those with money.
The mess that the organisers, and those in charge, made of the top racing events, destroyed grand prix racing, finished off all the big events and hammered the last nail in the coffin back in the early nineties! Unfortunately, nothing has surfaced since, and that kind of sailing dropped off the wish list of many. (Note: more people go sailing today than ever before but the majority have no money for superyachts! sic.)
I don’t think we should accuse the motorboat community. We only have ourselves to blame. We should have fought harder at the time for the things that were dear to us. In order to improve our lot, we need to make sailing fashionable, desirable, the 'game to play', simple, while changing perceptions.
Price has nothing to do with it. I could have built a state-of-the-art 62m sloop, at 500GT for €38m early last year, and that is not expensive in comparison to a motorboat. But that project still got cancelled.
It’s all about what wealthy people believe is the right thing to do, and their interpretation of the right boat to be seen in and invite their friends.
To rectify this situation, Castro proposes the following 'action plan':
Get a group of shipyards, designers, owners and others interested in sailing together to form an action group, 'Sailing is Best', with everyone paying a monthly fee. That money is used to buy magazine space, front covers, media interventions across the usual channels, and to sell sailing as the right thing to do.
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