Messing about in boats

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 July, 2006, 12:00am

When the heat gets unbearable in Hong Kong's concrete jungle and city folk begin their summer exodus to cooler climates, those stuck in the city must be envious of the precious few who can set sail on a whim aboard their multimillion-dollar yachts.

Such luxury is the preserve of the well-heeled, or is it?

Certainly, a large luxury yacht that costs as much as a sumptuous Mid-Levels apartment requires deep pockets. But anyone with enough cash for a down payment on a shoebox flat can afford a handy speedboat.

A new, American-made Sea Ray speedboat, versatile enough for a day of waterskiing, wake-boarding or fishing, can be had for $400,000.

With financing help, anyone with a quarter of that in cash can be a proud new boat owner.

That 20-ft to 30-ft boat might not be in the same league as Li Ka-shing's Riva 84 berthed at the Aberdeen Marina Club, or the Azimut 100 owned by another billionaire and anchored in the neighbourhood, but all vessels large and small serve the same end - an enjoyable day at sea.

'The ocean is one of the most egalitarian playgrounds. No matter whether you are on a cheap junk or a luxury yacht, you will still end up enjoying yourself just as much,' says Leo Wong, a boating enthusiast turned motor yacht dealer.

To him, Hong Kong is as good a place as any in Asia to go yachting.

'Hong Kong is the most developed city for boating in Southeast Asia. There are plenty of small islands to explore and plenty of support and crew services too,' says Mr Wong, who is managing director of Kingsway Marine.

Locally based conglomerates used to have a penchant for entertaining lavishly at sea, too, but the Asian financial crisis put paid to that.

Their boats have since been snapped up by second-hand bargain hunters overseas. Simpson Marine sales director Robin Wyatt says these days ownership of yachts tends to be more private than corporate.

With good second-hand choices lacking, it is just as well that local owners prefer newbuilds.

'The Asian mentality is that if they can afford it, they prefer to own new boats,' Mr Wyatt says.

Boat owners are getting younger, too. They tend to be in their 30s to 40s rather than 40s to 50s, as the younger generation is more interested in improving their lifestyle than their seniors, who are more focused on building business and wealth in the earlier part of their life, Mr Wyatt says.

They are not interested in the mechanics of the vessels, preferring to leave the upkeep and operation to a professional crew.

Sailing veteran Vic Locke says that sailing does not interest them, either, probably because they cannot wait to get to the open sea.

'Sailors tend to enjoy the passage while motor boaters tend to enjoy the destination,' the former commodore of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club says.

Local owners also tend to trade up after a short duration. It is rare for someone to keep the same boat for more than 10 years. Many begin to look for bigger and better models after two to three years.

Simpson Marine sells an average of 40 boats a year at a turnover of roughly $200 million.

Half of those are 20-ft to 30-ft Sea Rays. The others are 40-ft to 60-ft motor yachts selling for more than $10 million. The most popular size is 55ft.

The annual cost of keeping a boat, including crew, berthing, insurance and maintenance, is equivalent to 10 per cent of the boat price.

Disregarding the variance in exchange rate differences, a boat generally depreciates 15 to 20 per cent in the first year and another 25 per cent over three to four years, depending on how well it is maintained.

Just as European cars have a sassier appeal than the Japanese makes, European-built yachts are also more fashionable than the Taiwanese alternatives.

Italian brand Azimut, sold by Simpson Marine, is popular for its sleek and stylish outline, attention to detail and good use of space, Mr Wyatt says.

His favourite is the Azimut Leonardo S range, which boasts sports car appeal and contemporary interior. Its lack of a flybridge, however, is a drawback for local boat owners who prefer the additional space which an extra deck provides.

The main competition to the Italian brands are British builds, such as Sunseeker and Princess.

'English builds tend to be more subdued, while the Italian brands show more flair and elegance, but not over the top,' Mr Wyatt says.

Sunseeker's Asia representative Gordon Hui likes the English classic. The developer became Sunseeker's Asian agent after years of owning Sunseekers - first a 37-ft Tomahawk with a 'deep V' hull to handle the rough seas in Sai Kung, then a 45-ft Apache to accommodate his expanding family, and subsequently a faster 48-ft Tomahawk featured in a Bond film. He has since traded up to a Predator 55, a 'sports car' version of a boat with a top speed of 41 knots that can travel from Aberdeen to Sai Kung in 20 minutes.

He took on the Sunseeker dealership when he moved back from London to Hong Kong. Since then, there have been a few more Sunseekers in Hong Kong waters. By year-end he expects to sell 24 Sunseeker boats in Hong Kong and 36 to the rest of Asia, among them mega yachts such as a 94-ft model, two 82-ft yachts to Hong Kong and a 100-ft yacht due in 2008.

Local owners are also expressing interest in the $124.5 million 120-ft Tri Deck Sunseeker yacht, to be launched at the end of the year.

'Yachts are obvious status symbols. There are many nice cars on the road but far fewer mega yachts in Hong Kong marinas,' Mr Wyatt says.

China Pacific Marine's Don Chow says: 'Boating is the best lifestyle in the world to show you are very rich and successful and know how to spend your money.'

Riviera suits young generation of helmsmen

Kingsway will promote by the end of the year the Riviera SY3600 speed yacht, which will be priced at A$490,000

($2.83 million).

It is expected to be popular in Hong Kong because younger boat owners increasingly enjoy taking the helm themselves and this is an easy boat to manoeuvre, even for a novice.

The saloon and cockpit are separated by a large window that can be opened up to the elements. The coffee table expands to become a dining table for dining in comfort while having a barbecue onboard.

The hull has tunnels to house the propeller shafts and an underwater exhaust system, making it quieter and more fuel and cost efficient to maintain, according to Kingsway Marine managing director Leo Wong. There are two cabins - one a master en suite and the other with a bunk bed. An LCD TV rises and returns to its housing at the touch of a button.

The company is also launching Riviera 56 (A$2.2 million) which combines sport and saloon configuration. It features an enclosed flybridge with a sun roof more suitable for all-weather cruising and a galley similar to an open kitchen.

Smooth sailing with Ferretti

Ferretti yachts stand out with their exclusive gyro system that reduces the rocking angle of the ship during anchor or slow trawling up to 10 knots, and helps minimise seasickness. The gyro was originally manufactured by Mitsubishi for spacecraft but was 'marinised' exclusively for Ferretti. New boat owners have the options to add the gyro at a cost ranging from several hundred thousand dollars up to $1 million. The most popular range of Ferretti for the Hong Kong market is the 60-ft to

80-ft range. 'Our boats are more expensive than others. Those going for smaller boats think ours are too expensive, but those going for bigger boats see the price difference as value for quality and prestige,' says Leo Wong, Kingsway Marine's managing director. Kingsway has sold eight Ferretti yachts in the past two years. The most popular is the 80-ft Ferretti 881 ($49.6 million). On the flybridge are a jacuzzi, an aerodynamically-shaped electrical control panel and a lounge area. The stern features a roll-out swimming platform. Inside, the lounge leads to the dining room. The master cabin with en suite bathroom features Ferretti's original sea window with an open view of the horizon. Launching in September is the Ferretti 780 ($34.7 million). Though smaller than the 881, it is still spacious, with sunroof, sea window, stairway to the flybridge, lounge with seating on four sides, and a swing-down swimming platform.

Buying a boat?

What is the boat used for - corporate entertainment, family

outings or others?

How often will it be used?

Wish list for yacht design - on speed, range, number of cabins, amenities

Budget - how much, whether it's flexible.

Where will the boat be moored (boat size could influence the choice of marina)

Shop around at boat shows. The Gold Coast Boat Show is in March and the Hong Kong International Boat Show held at Marina Cove is in November.

Big models chart course for Asia

The bigger Predators, with a top speed of 48 knots, will prove popular 'once the Asian customers see the design combined with space and speed', dealer Sunseeker Asia representative Gordon Hui says. The Predator 62, 72 and 82 will be the next promotional focus, as well as the Predator 108, which will be featured in the new Bond film Casino Royale, up for release in November. It is the largest yet in the Predator range and a fast performer with a top speed of up to 42 knots. The new Predator 62 has been snapped up by three Hong Kong owners and will be delivered in the coming months.

Among Sunseeker's large yachts are 90 Yacht, 100 Yacht and 120 Yacht. The first

Tri Deck 120 Yacht will be launched at year's end. 'Tri-deck yachts are frequently seen in the Mediterranean but are rare in Asia, I guess due to the lack of cruising area until the China coastline is fully open,' Mr Hui says.

Manhattan hideaway

British-built Sunseeker offers Manhattan and Yacht models, which are the equivalent of a saloon car, the Predator 'sports car' model and Portofino, described as a 'small sports car'. An 'entry level' Portofino 47 starts at #400,000 ($5.73 million). This is the smallest boat Sunseeker is producing. All other smaller models have been discontinued due to demand for larger models and long waiting lists, Sunseeker Asia managing director Gordon Hui says.

Its Manhattan 60 is popular with Asian boat owners. Seven orders were made recently and future orders cannot be filled until after the end of next year due to high demand. 'It's popular because it is a flybridge model and most Asia customers prefer more space, with an upper level, and forfeit speed,' Mr Hui says. Another attraction is a hydraulic platform, which makes it easy to launch a jet ski or jet tender and can act as a submerged swimming platform or for sunbathing in water. The wide beam design allows it to accommodate three en suite cabins.

Its versatile layout makes the Manhattan 60 an ideal choice to entertain family and friends, day and night.

A vision of German precision and quality

Look out for German brand Bavaria's new Vision series, which comes in 40-ft, 44-ft and 50-ft models, at the Hong Kong International Boat Show at Marina Cove in November. Sailing veteran Vic Locke snatched Bavaria's dealership after seeing that the boats were filling up the marinas in Majorca, Spain.

'Bavaria is a popular brand in the world. It makes 18 sailboats and motor boats a day, ranging from 25ft to 50ft,' says Mr Locke, managing director of Jade Marine. 'As a German company, it applies production technology similar to that used in luxury cars in that area. Compared with other brands, it offers a product of similar quality to our competitors but more advanced production techniques; they can be sold at competitive prices. The Bavaria factory claims that its working efficiency is four times more than that of its competitors.'

Mr Locke has sold eight Bavaria boats to Hong Kong buyers in the past 18 months, seven of them sailing yachts ranging from 29ft to 42ft. The most popular size is the 39ft model, which sells for $1.3 million. A sailboat of up to 41ft costs $1.5 million and the 29ft motor boat costs $1.3 million.

One of the highlights for Mr Locke was selling a new sailing yacht to a buyer in southern China. It was the first new sailboat to go to southern China.

'We sold the boat against all odds because the general interest is still in power boats,' he says. 'We think sailing will eventually catch on. There has been a lot of advancement in yachting through the Beijing Olympics. The location of the sailing events will be at Qingdao. Such events can only be good for promotion of the sport in China,' he says.

Bavaria's Vision sailboats come with a deck salon, a spacious galley with ice box and large refrigerator and shades for the more than two-metre deck salon windows. The Bavaria 50 Vision ($2.4 million) has three cabins with six berths and a salon with a comfortable settee, table, sideboards with stowage space and lockers. Bavaria's power boat, 42 Sport Hard Top (from $3.6 million), has a hardtop with a sun roof, swimming platform with a ladder built into the stern and two cabins.

Go overboard with the ultimate in luxurious, powerful cruising

The Azimut 55 ($10 million to $11 million) is relatively popular in Hong Kong. Simpson has sold 10 of these in recent years to Hong Kong owners and four to five in other parts of Asia. It comes with air-conditioning, some level of customisation of equipment, and some customisation of the interior such as the choice of fabrics, linen and decor. Delivery time is six months to a year. The Azimut 100 ($55 million) comes with four cabins, one with a queen-sized bed, one with a double bed, and two with twin beds. The master cabin has a stylish twin vanity bathroom. A fully equipped galley is next to the crew cabin. It also comes with spacious dining and lounge areas.

It's plain sailing for Jeanneau

China Pacific Marine markets Jeanneau from France. 'It boasts good design and quality inside and out. The company invests a lot on R&D before it starts to put a model on the production line,' says Don Chow of China Pacific Marine. He says that, among yachts, Jeanneau is as popular as the Mercedes is among cars. 'We have about 35 per cent market share on sailing yachts and 20 per cent on motor yachts,' he says. Apart from their high quality, the yachts are popular due to their reasonable pricing. The Prestige range of motor boats start from 32ft and are priced at $2.2 million. The Sun Odyssey 42DS sailboat is $1.95 million.