“It started around 20 years ago when Palma was seen as a great place to stop off because of its location in the Med,” recalls Steve Branagh, director of RSB Rigging. He explains that the island is an easy place for yachts going to and from Gibraltar to get equipment fixed and then continue on to the next destination. At a time when ‘superyachts’ were much smaller in size, it made sense that mostly sailing yachts stopped off on their way to or from an Atlantic crossing, something motoryachts of the same size were not able to do, and the community has stemmed from there.
As well as providing a vibrant city, with varied cruising and convenient access, the benefits of Mallorca’s extensive network of quality contractors and suppliers for sailing yachts is clear. “Being able to get almost any of the work that you would find on a sailing boat done with the contractor base that is on the island is the biggest asset,” says Branagh. “It is a huge advantage for a sailing yacht to be parked in the middle of Palma and have that number of skilled people available.”
“There are a number of different sail makers, hydraulic companies, mast companies and rigging companies, so there is competition, and competition leads to a fair market for the clients,” agrees Quinny Houry, director of Doyle Sails Palma. “As a result, you have a choice of who to work with, unlike many other places in the Med, where there is only one supplier that is inundated with work and therefore can charge what it wants.”
While other sailing destinations, such as Valencia and Tarragona, draw boats in with very good berthing prices, Houry explains that these savings can often be turned on their head because the very best sailing-specific expertise is located in Palma. “What can happen in these places is that you start to run out of contractors who are able to do the work,” he says. “So contractors from Palma are flown in to do the work. The costs for accommodation and daily charges get factored in and the overall price can escalate.”
Palma’s island backdrop can be both a positive and negative for sailing yacht clients and companies. While it means that the expertise is concentrated within a small radius, it can sometimes limit the companies in terms of facilities and infrastructure. Previously RSB Rigging were lifting rigs that were 63m and under, which the cranes on the island are fully capable of handling. With sailing yacht deliveries getting ever larger, this could potentially be a challenge.
Based on its reputation, Palma is becoming more and more popular with the sailing fraternity and it is now the norm that the yards are full and companies busy all year round. So how will it continue to grow in the future? “There is obviously going to be a natural ceiling,” admits Henry Hawkins, CEO of Baltic Yachts. “I think it will just come down to a more efficient use of time and space. You can’t just turn up like in the good old days and expect to be hauled out a week later – it has to be planned. And that is what the companies within Palma will be facilitating: you will see less of captains organising their own refits because they need the support.”
For Houry, Palma’s future will see an increased focus on sailing. “I think it will become more specialised in sailing yachts and create the space for more of them because the industry here needs it,” he explains. “Yes, there are companies that can do both, but the hydraulics companies, the rigging companies, the sail makers and the winch manufacturers are all moving here and now nearly all the major shipyards that build sailing boats are setting up here, which will mean a greater priority on their work and clients.”
Palma’s evolution as a hub for sailing technology expertise has been a natural one, based on its ideal location, island setting and appeal to yacht owners and crew, but its explosion of popularity in recent years has been down to the companies in the region. With the industry’s reputation for high quality sailing products and efficient service, sailing yachts wanting to carry out specific works now see Palma as the only place to be in the Med.
Image courtesy of Doyle Sails Palma.
Please find the full article in Issue 172 of The Superyacht Report.