Charter broker Kathleen Mullen of Regency Yacht Vacations just returned from the 2012 winter charter shows in the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. I caught up with her this week to talk about the market conditions there, the most interesting new yachts on the docks, and more.
The show in the British Virgin Islands moved this year to a new location at Nanny Cay Marina on Tortola. How did that go?
The show was absolutely roaring. It was bigger than ever before, with about 80 boats. A whole new section of dock had been built to accommodate some of the bigger boats. I heard a number of brokers comment on what a good initial effort it was. It is such a relaxed and tropical environment there, and a lot of people liked that.
Was the BVI show primarily composed of sailing catamarans, as has been the case in years past?
Yes, it’s very much a catamaran market. But there were boats there from smaller, 40-footers all the way up to the 120-foot Broward motoryacht Freedom. All of the boats looked good, the crews all were enthusiastic, and everybody already had at least some bookings on the calendar. The BVI still isn’t doing business at 100 percent of what it was in the boom years before the economic crisis, but it’s getting better year after year, and this year appears to be a continuation of that trend.
We’re seeing it in our own fleet at Regency, as well as hearing it on the docks at the boat show. We have a lot of boats with 12 to 18 weeks booked already—and that’s a good season if you fill in even a few more weeks between now and January. More and more boats are being able to say they are doing that kind of business than could say it last year or the year before.
So in general, the yacht charter industry seems to be rebounding in the British Virgin Islands?
When you look at the BVI and compare it to the rest of the Caribbean, I think the values here are really, really good. You get a lot for your money in the BVI, even at Christmas and New Year’s. There’s still a little bit of availability for the holidays, too. And for the first time in a long time, we’re getting inquiries and bookings now for May and June in the BVI. It’s terrific to see the region really starting to come back in a strong way.
Were a lot of new charter yachts at the BVI show this year?
What I actually saw a lot of were crew changes and crews switching from one boat to another. Even more so than new boats coming in, there seems to be a new mix of crew on a lot of the boats.
What charter yachts did you think showed particularly well?
The 66-foot Gunboat sailing catamaran Tiger Lily just finished a big refit, and she got a lot of compliments among the boats from our fleet. Among the monohull sailing yachts, I’d say it was a tossup for the most compliments between the 59-foot Beneteau Blue Passion and the 66-foot Oyster Fuerte. They were the two larger monohulls in the show, and they both looked great.
Among the smaller monohull sailing yachts, I thought the 47-foot Fidelity and the 53-foot Windstar showed really nicely. They are going to do a great job on charters for couples or small groups.
And the couple on the 46-foot sailing catamaran Viking Dream, as always, did a really great job. The boat looks fabulous and they are all set to go for the upcoming season.
The only two motoryachts in the show were the 120-foot Broward Freedom and the 72-foot Hatteras Viaggio, and they both looked really good. The chef aboard Freedom won the cooking competition. He did a great job.
The other yacht I heard a lot of good things about was our 45-foot Lagoon sailing catamaran Gypsy Princess. Her captain, Achilles, is Greek, and they put on a Greek night with food and fun. It was a big hit.
How was the show at Yacht Haven Grande, in the U.S. Virgin Islands?
That show was smaller, only about 22 boats. I thought three of the sailing catamarans stood out as having good energy and crews who were eager to do a great job. They were Flip Flop, Field of Magic, and Stepping Up. They really left a good impression on me.
Besides people starting to book early again, did you notice any other trends heading into the winter charter season in the Virgin Islands?
Three of the sailing catamarans—Tachyon, Catalyst, and Chateau—have now switched from fully crewed to captain-only charters. There is an interesting micro-trend in the Virgin Islands where more and more people are looking for those captain-only charters. They seem to be people stepping up from bareboats who are not yet ready for fully crewed boats. The market is adapting a little bit this year to suit that new demand.
To book a yacht charter vacation in the Virgin Islands or anywhere worldwide, contact Kathleen Mullen at Regency Yacht Vacations.