As I sit in my Gudvangen Fjordtell hotel room reflecting on my first day spent on Norway's western fjords, it's fair to say the heatwave afflicting swathes of the Med isn't the first thing that springs to mind. Indeed, the weather has been mixed today, and that's coming from a Brit! But then, any heatwave titled 'Lucifer' doesn't necessarily sound appealing anyway, and there are plenty of elements of today's tour that have been utterly captivating.
There has been plenty of industry conjecture around an impending exodus from French waters due to the comedy of recent errors that have compounded to challenge the French yachting market like never before. However, when push comes to shove (and it must feel like being pushed to many right now), does anyone really believe the French market is about to implode? Of course not. The Riviera's allure will endure , and these - albeit annoying - hiccups will be corrected and soon forgotten.
But that is not to say there isn't life beyond Monte Carlo, St Tropez et al. Indeed, a bit of time on the water, among the breathtaking views and tranquility of Stalheim and Naerøyfjorden, reminds one of the power of a superyacht to traverse areas out of reach to most.
My guide on this trip, the inimitable 86-year-old one-man-Norweigan tour-de-force, Ola His Bergh, the founder of Superyacht Norway, is pragmatic about Norway's chances of stealing the glance of superyacht owners. He has courted a number of charter brokers and managers, from many of the big brokerages, and most of whom have lavished praise on the life-affirming experiences on offer here.
Further, he has seen an upturn in superyacht visitation and duration of stay; it's no secret Eclipse has spent a prolonged period in Norway, while Daydream calls it home. But this passionate advocate of his homeland quite rightly acknowledges the need to establish a modest charter market in order to drive bolster the country's status as a destination.
He believes a nascent fleet, merely of a handful of quality 50m+ charter boats, would be the catalyst the market needs. Yes, this segment is one afflicted by dearth of quality for the charter market as a whole, but I believe Bergh is right when he says that having a decent charter vessel or two would be benefit for both owner and charterer, with the serious cost involved in getting the boat there for a private one-off cruise avoided, meaning a trip to Norway is much more practical for charterers, and a potential source of regular income for the owner that takes a punt.
There is talk of an Italian-based captain looking for backing to do precisely that, and it seems such a project could come to fruition. But it would be facetious of me to imply such an initiative is devoid of risk. A cynic could even say that a failed attempt at chartering in Norway, could wipe out a boat's market present down south for years.
But a modest, and self-contained market can still be a very successful one for those key stakeholders that were there at the beginning. So maybe it is worth an owner or two dipping their toe in the fjords.
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