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Nautor Swan reflects

Giovanni Pomati, CEO of Nautor Group, considers the last two years and the future of sailing yachts…

For a number of years now 30m-plus sailing yachts have almost been overlooked as statistical anomalies when compared to the far larger motoryacht market. However, having weathered the COVID storm a ridden the wave of positive sales activity, is the sailing yacht market finally well placed once again to start talking about growth potential?

“The last 24 months have been written by COVID history,” starts Giovanni Pomati, CEO of Nautor Group. “We entered COVID with a very strong order portfolio and a shipyard full of sailing yachts in production. Our issue, like many others, was working out how to not slow production too dramatically. However, thanks to our location, the initial COVID impact was limited. That being said, we experienced a drop in orders during this period like everyone else, but having been at capacity with was not really an issue.”

For the first 12 COVID impacted months, Pomati explains that orders mirrored COVID’s waves. During periods of apparent recovery, the orders and interest would build and then drop off when the next wave of the pandemic struck globally. By contrast, however, 2021 proved to be quite different. 

“In 2021 the interest in our products, and indeed the wider superyacht market, did not follow the waves of COVID and proved to be consistent,” continues Pomati. “Indeed, our order intake mirrors the strong numbers posted by the rest of the market. Unfortunately, the slowdown in 2020 did leave us with an unbalance in production for a few months after summer 2021. We had a lot of work, but it was more in the initial production phases of the build with fewer projects in assembly. However, now we have rebalanced and, once again, the business is fully saturated and the portfolio is well covered at least for one and half year.”

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According to Pomati, the 30m-plus sailing yacht market has bucked its contemporary trend of reducing in size in terms of deliveries and orders year on year. Data from The Superyacht New Build Report, which is due for delivery in February, highlights that, at least for now, the contraction of the sailing yacht market that was experienced up to 2015 has halted, with the market seemingly having levelled out, delivering from 10-15 projects per year in the six years since. That being said, a number of market commentators are expecting the sector to begin growing year on year, albeit at a steady pace - which will no doubt be aided at some point by the acquisition of Perini Navi on the part of The Italian Sea Group. 

Like the rest of the market, it appears that the sailing yacht sector has benefitted from the COVID-influenced boom in activity in 2021. Exactly why buyers were so active in 2021 is up for debate. It could be that the pandemic pushed them off the proverbial, perhaps changing financial situations persuaded them or perhaps they merely came to terms with their own mortality. Who knows? Regardless, the sailing yacht market and indeed the wider superyacht industry is riding the crest of a far more positive COVID wave. 

“We have clients who are moving from motorboats to sailing yachts,” says Pomati. “A large reason for this is the undeniably green credentials of sailing versus motor. This fact alone, however, would not necessarily be enough to change peoples’ minds and convince them to sail. Over the last 10 years sailing yachts have evolved to place a far greater focus on livable space and leisure areas, where previously they were primarily focused on the sailing experience itself. Sailing yachts were designed to sail not to live and this was not sufficient to attract any clients other than the real purists, especially where large sailing yachts were concerned. While the volumes remain far smaller than motoryachts, the increased livability in conjunction with sustainability is turning some heads away from motoryachts.”

Pomati concedes, however, that the evolution of the sailing yacht is anything but complete, with the next step being a hybrid propulsion solution. While this development was first announced in 2021 and is not unique to Nautor Swan with other sailing and motor shipyards offering hybrid solutions, it still represents a step forward for the business and the wider market. Sailing Yachts, Pomati correctly points out, are not cars and, therefore, cannot simply be charged in a garage at night. Energy needs to be created while underway and by implementing the new hybrid system, Nautor is able to reduce the diesel requirement for hotel loads, as well as adding the ability to operate solely on electric motors for extended periods of time. 

It seemed for a time, at least six years ago while the sector was in decline and the green agenda far less pressing for large parts of the superyacht industry, that new 30m-plus sailing yachts would become rare products indeed. However, with modifications to designs making sailing yachts more livable and sustainability now at the forefront most peoples’ minds, the environment for growth in the sector, especially in light of booming activity industry-wide, has never been greater in modern times.

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