Taking on the ‘smart stretch’
Sarah Flavell, communications specialist at Damen Yachting, discusses the benefits of commissioning a purpose-built support vessel…
Using the term ‘essential’ in the context of buying a superyacht of any size is somewhat debateable – especially to those outside our industry. Therefore, questioning whether someone needs a second purpose-built support vessel or would be better off going bigger with a new custom-build yacht could be construed as pushing the boundaries of necessity. But that’s exactly the point. Supporting an evolving yachting lifestyle has become a necessity, and looking at how best to do that is a genuine issue faced by many owners at some point.
My own view comes from a unique standpoint. At Damen Yachting, we’ve delivered more than 15 purpose-built yachts supports over the past 10 years to clients looking to extend their fleet operations, but we also have clients who have opted instead to build a bigger Amels and even those who have built a custom solutions. Different platforms for varying motivations and requirements are united by one key element: finding the yachting solution that works to an owner’s exact needs.
I’m always drawn back to a remark once made by one of our Amels captains when he said, “I never understood the purpose of a support vessel until I experienced it first-hand. Once you’ve had one, you can’t understand why you never did.” I suspect this observation is based on the emotion of the experience delivered rather than any financial benefit of taking on the ‘smart stretch’, as we like to call it, which made me think: if you take the emotion out of the equation, where does the real value lie?
Sarah Flavell, communications specialist, Damen Yachting
To give some context, let’s start with a hypothetical owner of a 60-metre yacht looking to either add a 55-metre yacht support vessel or sell the 60-metre and build an 80-metre-plus. Why? They want more capability, capacity, facility and service – all things a larger build can certainly deliver. So can the support option achieve this more efficiently and economically or does it fall short?
Let’s start with size alone. Bigger isn’t always better. Go for the 80-metre and you’re entering lengthy full-custom build times. Also, those extra 20 metres can come at quite a cost. The running expense alone can be significantly more than it would be by doubling your fleet and meterage with a support yacht. Depending on how you intend to use it, the support vessel can be configured and finished to a more cost-effective standard while still providing all the functionality you need. Operational costs are less and, depending on how you man it, lower certification may be required, therefore saving on salaries.
It’s not just about having more space; it’s also about how you use it. Keeping certain activities and logistics away from the mothership means protecting your luxury real estate on the main yacht, safeguarding value, privacy and personal space. Some owners opt to use the support yacht for tenders and toys (not just for stowage but for all operations and activities), others for hosting parties and events or even as a way of making a distinct personal/private divide such as using the support vessel for hosting guests or as a place of work and research. This separation enables you to store everything you need off the main yacht and take on extra specialised staff or security to increase the service level on the mothership.
Also, size determines flexibility; once you get above a certain size there are limits. Some ports are no longer an option and certain restrictions and requirements (such as pilots, certifications, and running costs) need to be considered. Doubling up retains the versatility. You can send the support vessel on ahead and let guests relax on the mothership while the support vessel takes care of setting up the perfect anchorage, beach party and water activities. Then, for guests, you have a turn-up, ready-to-go scenario.
Flexibility is something you can also apply to extending the usage, whether that is being season-ready, using the support yacht to take your own selected containerised goods from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean or keeping the two yachts in different (near or far) locations. You can direct each one to where they are needed. The purpose isn’t just to support your main yacht, it’s to support your yachting lifestyle.
While there’s value in doubling up your location reach, there’s also a benefit of being together. Strength in numbers carries merit when it comes to levels of safety; the support vessel indirectly acts as guarding security and with the space to carry fast boats as well. Then you have the added bonus of privacy. Head towards 80 metres and there are a lot of crew. Stick with the two smaller options and the reduced number of crew per boat means fewer people on board but still plenty of hands on deck for service. You can even accommodate and host overflow guests, younger guests or friends away from the main yacht.
The more I delve into the functionality, flexibility and freedom offered by a support yacht, the more I begin to see exactly what our Amels captain meant. Regardless of whether the value lies in operational benefits, extended use and space, enhanced service, financial savings or lifestyle flexibility, it’s the purpose that renders a support yacht essential. I’m inclined to agree that once you’ve had one, the chances really are that you’ll no longer understand why you never did.
This article first appeared in The Superyacht Owner Report. To gain access to The Superyacht Group’s full suite of content, publications, events and services, click here to join The Superyacht Group Community and become one of our members.
Click here to become part of The Superyacht Group community, and join us in our mission to make this industry accessible to all, and prosperous for the long-term. We are offering access to the superyacht industry’s most comprehensive and longstanding archive of business-critical information, as well as a comprehensive, real-time superyacht fleet database, for just £10 per month, because we are One Industry with One Mission. Sign up here.