Will Bruton takes a look at the best way to to buy, manage, and charter a bigger yacht an increasingly popular options for many buyers
Small enough to sail without a large crew, but big enough to charter, pocket superyachts between 55-100ft have become increasingly popular. A compelling proposition for both owners and charterers; buying one is a step-up in complexity. We explore how to buy, manage, and bigger charter yacht.
There’s no denying that yachts have got bigger, and yachts of a scale that were once the preserve of professional crew are now regularly bought to be sailed by couples. However, there has also been a boom in yachts that are too much for two people to handle, but offer impressive mile-covering potential and luxurious comfort without requiring an army on board, and thanks to the proliferation of technology like lifting keels, can still offer the chance to enjoy idyllic spots at anchor.
Jens Oomes has spent over 15 years in the yachting industry. Seeing a growing market for yachts between 55-100ft, he set up Invisible Crew (invisiblecrew.com) to cater for the unique demands of the growing pocket superyacht market. “Pocket superyachts are popular for a lot of reasons, but the balance of comfort they offer at a size that’s still manageable to own is certainly a big part of the appeal.
“It is a size, though, where effective management becomes crucial,” he adds. “These yachts have become known as pocket superyachts because of the level of systems and comfort on board, which demand more maintenance than those under 50ft.”
Lizzie Abbiss runs diYachting (diyachting.co.uk), an agency specialising in the charter and management of crewed yachts between 50-100ft. A rapidly growing area of the charter business, she has seen more prospective owners than ever seeking out a yacht that can pay some of its way, and demanding a higher rate for charter. Post-pandemic, it’s a market that’s booming.
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“There are many monohulls now between 55-80ft that are really well suited to luxury charter, along with many catamarans over 40ft,” she says. “As more owners and charterers seek sailing that is sociable, often with two families going away together, yachts with more cabins are more in demand but people also want much more comfort. There has also been a big uptake by non-sailors seeking out alternative holidays and experiences – and chartering a pocket superyacht is perfect for that.
“There is earning potential for owners who want to build a charter program of a few weeks or more; it can very much form part of the model of ownership in terms of cost, it’s just unlikely to cover all the costs.”
Lizzie Abbiss is straightforward about the relationship she builds with the owners she represents. “We will work hard for the client, but we will also be realistic about what they are likely to achieve before we start. We do turn down owners because their expectations are fundamentally unrealistic. Owner and crew both need an understanding of what the season ahead will entail. Some new owners are very surprised that they cannot charter for 20 weeks or more a year. Some have been sold this when they bought the yacht and that’s a problem.
“For things to run well, crew must deliver to a high standard. If you’re working with good professional crew, they really do want to deliver for guests and are generally happy to work very hard. We aim for 72 hours between charters so they can recover and get the yacht ready, but it can be hard to achieve this at the height of summer. Crew also need decent accommodation on board themselves. If they’re with you for the whole season this shouldn’t be neglected.”
Jens Oomes explains that a careful matching of professional crew and owner is important.
“Our professional crew must be a rare blend of skills, experience, and personality. It’s a demanding role as they really do need to be good at almost everything, so we pick very carefully and try to match crew to suit the owner. We have used psychological profiling from the start and are soon hoping to partner with a training organisation to expand our existing training focussed on this size of yacht.
“We often supply couples for pocket superyachts that share the necessary skills and experience to run a high-end charter, but it’s very much on a case by case basis. Some yachts operate with one full-time skipper and bring in extra crew as and when needed, while others have more crew than strictly necessary.”
“It is possible for a charter yacht to make a profit, but most owners choose to charter to significantly offset the cost of ownership rather than make the yacht a true profit-making business,” explains Abbiss.
“If making the most money is the priority, catamarans are one of the most lucrative options. Even a good Lagoon 42, for example, positioned in Croatia, would be likely to be very busy this summer. A much more balanced and sensible approach as an owner, though, is to first look at what you want from the yacht in the season, then build a charter programme around it. There’s no perfect number, but 12-16 weeks of charter a year, if well managed, tends to work quite well for crew and owner.
“There are some significant costs to chartering a yacht and seasonal charter costs depending on where you want to use her,” says Abbiss. “Many owners are surprised at the costs of the coding requirements, so it’s worth planning to charter for a few seasons. Also, because chartering is commercial, the yacht must be registered for commercial purposes in each country it is going to sail. We will take care of the permits for owners, but it generally makes sense to do one or two areas per season, rather than get permits for all of them.”
Any yacht that is chartered must be coded, proving it has sufficient safety equipment and is built to a standard suitable for the sailing it will be doing. As managing director of Ocean Safety, Alistair Hacket, explains, this too demands planning.
“Coding a yacht with the correct equipment revolves principally around where the yacht is going to be sailing and how many people are going to be on board. It pays to make a plan for the yacht that’s specific. The more extreme the sailing, the more equipment needed to meet coding requirements. For example, MCA Category Zero, sailing anywhere in the world, requires 50% liferaft capacity redundancy, so you will often have two liferafts, not one.
On a pocket superyacht, these must go somewhere, which can be an obstacle to overcome ascetically. If you’re sailing in high latitudes they need to be somewhere heated. Commercial liferafts must also have hydrostatic release gear so they will float free if the yacht sinks. Lifejackets need to be professionally serviced frequently, EPIRBs as well. We spend a lot of time advising clients to come up with a customised plan.”
However, a larger yacht also means more watersports equipment can be carried. Cedric Beaumont of Yacht Solutions (yachtsolutions.fr) specialises in equipping and coding yachts of this size, including many CNB 76 builds and larger Lagoons. “Whether you are going to charter or not, a pocket superyacht can carry much more equipment than those under 50ft, meaning more fun on the water at anchor. We can supply paddleboards, dive equipment and more to make yachts over 60ft an even more appealing prospect both for owner and those that might consider chartering. We regularly supply yachts straight out of build so they can go into charter straight away.”
Buying a big charter yacht case study
George (who wishes to remain anonymous) purchased his CNB 76 J6 six years ago, commissioning her for commercial use from the start. J6 is his sixth yacht. He explains that he charters for several reasons. “We charter her only a few weeks a year, the high season rate is currently €26,000. It’s a way of offsetting some of the cost of ownership, but also mixes things up for the crew we have; giving them an opportunity to earn some tips too. Our version of a CNB 76 charter is quite high end, operating for only four guests rather than the potential eight that some versions can accommodate. We also have three rather than the usual two crew, meaning an entirely non-sailing group of guests can enjoy the sailing with no involvement.
“The additional costs of setting her up to charter were significant. We were helped with quite a lot of it by Yacht Solutions, who equipped her with the necessary commercial equipment to meet her flag state requirements. Blue Ocean act as our charter agents.”
Michael purchased his Lagoon 77 Early Bird with a view to chartering her from the start. DiYachting manages the charters on his behalf. “Originally, I looked at buying a new 62, but that quickly became the 77 model, which offers a huge amount of space for a group and is therefore perfect for my four children and bigger charter groups.
“We use her for five or six weeks a year, but she’s in use for up to 18 weeks overall. There’s a yard period of four to six weeks every year, and we are careful to make sure the four crew have enough down time throughout the season. As we are headed to the Caribbean, we also must allow ample time for the crew to move her there. Early Bird charters for €58,000 per week at high season, which helps cover some of the running costs.”
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