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Where two seas meet

Craig Armstrong, co-owner of Rua Moana, shares the story of building and chartering a uniquely New Zealand superyacht…

The charter market in New Zealand has undergone a metamorphosis during COVID. Forced to look inward over the last two years, Kiwi’s chartering New Zealand based yachts have not only sustained the local market - it appears to be thriving. Keeping a charter boat busy, while having the freedom to enjoy it with one's family is the lionised ideal for many owners of superyachts. Combining this with a level of environmental responsibility and a deep rooted cultural identity is a path less followed. 

There is significant wealth in the country. As a New Zealander based in Europe, I was guilty of looking back, and perhaps down at the market back home in terms of the level of charter and experience that it offered. Having spent the last two months here, I realise how wrong I have been. Described as both a COVID enforced business imperative, and highly satisfying, introducing the local market to the chartering of superyachts has been a common theme among the stakeholders I have spoken to in my time here. 

One of the charter yachts that has ridden this new wave in New Zealand is Rua Moana. Built locally at Pachoud Yachts in Tauranga, it was launched in 2020, in the midst of the first COVID lockdowns. Te Reo Māori is the indigenous language of Aotearoa (New Zealand) and Rua Moana translates to 'two seas.' For co-owner Craig Armstrong, Rua Moana is a passion project many years in the making. I caught up with Armstrong onboard Rua Moana in Auckland’s Waitemata harbour, as its busy season finally showed some sign of slowing down. 

Co-Owner Craig Armstrong (left) Jack Hogan (right) 

“My grandfather was a boat builder, the water is in my family's blood. It's what we do, and it is what we love,” says Armstrong. “Brian Sheth, the other co-owner, is from Texas. We chose a name for the boat that represents the coming together of our two cultures. What was important for both of us, was to build a charter superyacht that could deliver a very high standard of luxury, while also educating our guests about the local ecosystem and plights of our oceans.” 

Operating while enjoying your own ownership of a heavily chartered superyacht is notoriously hard to balance, let alone make profitable. However, Rua Moana has stayed nearly fully booked despite no foreign visitation for over two years. Part of this success, Armstrong explains, is the phenomenal growth of the local market, as well as the unique offering that New Zealand presents as a charter destination.

There are not many major cities in the world with such a diverse range of cruising destinations right on their doorstep, as Auckland. The 50 islands that make up the Hauraki Gulf are all within a few hours of cruising, making short duration charters an easy option for a yacht such as Rua Moana. Longer trips to the Bay of Islands further north, and the Coromandel peninsular offer countless more options, while still reachable within a day. All this while the South Pacific is only a few days steam north. 

Further to this platform of world-class cruising, New Zealand has a long-standing luxury tourism sector. A sector that is now integrating the growing superyacht fleet that operates here “We have a phenomenal network of luxury operators throughout New Zealand.” Says Armstrong “Our friends fly the helicopters and run the lodges that we can take our guests to. These are people that are passionate about New Zealand and what they do, and it helps broaden the experience for our guests.”

Rua Moana, main deck 

The 27m catamaran provides a comparatively large 4000 square feet of interior floor space and 4 guest cabins. The large, hydraulic swim platform that straddles the stern hosts two jet skis, while a 150hp jet tender sits tucked into the lazarette, with a wide range of watersports equipment for such a modestly sized vessel. The growth of the multi-hull superyacht sector has been significant in recent years, in part for these reasons. The increased usable floor space was just one of the appealing features, as Armstrong explains:

“I love catamarans. The stability and efficiency that the platform provides are hard to beat. Additionally, the environmental considerations were key to the design. From the building materials, down to the hull shape and relatively small engines. For example, our fuel consumption is six and a half litres per nautical mile. If you compare that to other boats with similar volumes, it is very efficient. Operating in New Zealand and the Pacific, having such a low draft (1.5m) also makes accessing anchorages much easier”

Rua Moana, bridge deck looking out to Waiheke Island 

Co-owners Armstrong and Sheth partner with the ocean conservation foundation Live Ocean, founded by champion New Zealand sailors Blair Tuke and Peter Burling. Additionally, Armstrong's Sister and occasional captain, Samantha, is a qualified marine biologist. Connecting the guests with the environment, and treating Rua Moana as an educational platform, Armstrong stresses, is fundamental to the philosophy of its charters. 

“I believe that the market's perception of what is right and wrong regarding the environmental impacts of a yacht is changing.” continues Armstong. “Guests and owners are wanting to do the right thing, it is not only about the cost of running a yacht that is consuming a huge amount of fuel. We designed Rua Moana to run as efficiently as possible, but also want to have our guests feel connected to the ocean”

All superyachts need a story. It is this heritage that allows some to stand out above others. In the case of a charter yacht like Rua Moana, it is the crew that completes this story. Having a passionate and locally knowledgable crew onboard creates the familiarity and weaves the tapestry of a successful guest trip. “A lot of our clients have the money to turn around and build a boat like this and not think twice about it," concludes Armstrong. “We have a huge amount of repeat charters here because they love the idea of stepping on board and knowing the experience that we can offer.”

The Superyacht Forum Live - Pacific Tour (15-17th June 2022) is an exclusive event designed to bring key industry stakeholders together with the growing superyacht network across the region. If you would like to register your interest, please contact events@thesuperyachtgroup.com.

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Where two seas meet

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