Villefranche sur Mer

Villefranche sur Mer
it all starts with a beach

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Yachting Festival, Cannes, France. 9-14 September, 2014

Before the memory slips away, I want to share some moments and images from the fabulous Yachting Festival show here in Cannes.

9th September, opening day at the Cannes Yacht Festival, highlight of the European boat show season. I grab my camera and head to the far end of the Quay St. Pierre for the first scheduled press conference at Sirena Marine. It's hot, despite the sea breeze, but a chilled rosé helps. The new boat - Euphoria is staged and lovely. This game is clearly a boys club (makers, shakers and press), with beautiful women strategically placed around for eye candy. Over 550 yachts and 50,000 visitors are expected here this week.

I meet three happy Italians (aren't they always the life of the party?) at the charging station, enjoying the refreshments too. Then we move on to Fairline Boats, which enjoys a large corner placement and serves up champagne and pupus. The Fairline Squadron 60 makes its World Première at the show - which sees more world launches than any other boating event.  The new CEO, Kevin Gaskell, introduces the new 48's and discusses the total reorganization of the company, including the replacement of 22 of its 25 managers. They're beginning to see market growth again and taking advance orders.

By seven I make my way up to the upper celebrity deck of the Festival for the opening press party. The views over the old port and Suquet as well as the Croisette are amazing! I meet up with the press gals who processed my press pass the day before...and meet a few other souls. I've been noticing how multi-lingual Europeans are. Of course. The champagne is flowing, and I am the only one taking photos. Apparently the press do not cover themselves :-)

I check in Wednesday with my friend Laura di Gianni for the mega yachts...and a boat trip across to the other port (Canto) for more yachts, 'used' yachts...and sailing ships. Helicopters and drones are hovering. Friday I visit the catamarans...and stay for the big Sunreef cocktail party - gifts, fabulous live music, food and ...more champagne. Before heading home, I head back to the Sunseeker and Princess Yacht parties.

I hesitated to go - this being a game for the 1%, but I learned a few things: boats are also for families, charters & suppliers (small businesses); there's a growing demand for yachts that power themselves with renewables; there's big boat demand from Israel and the Middle East, and the Chinese market is growing fast; this is a people business. I watch the sea trials and deals being made on the boats. I love the people I meet, and the yachts are amazing!

Interviews with Yacht Festival folks:
Adam - Fairline. Sydney. I've been with company five months, after importing European boat brands to Australia for twelve years. I handle dealer visits and factories and shows to Asia/Pacific the industry! It's a beautiful product, but mostly I love the people I sell to. He admits the tough times since '08, but is excited about the current and projected future under new management. Loves having Kevin at the helm. "He's the reason I came aboard."

Christina from Poland at Sunreef. Former British Airways PR and Board Member.
It's my first Cannes Yacht Festival as I'm new to the company, but I love it! This is a Polish company, founded in 2000. We have 80 two and three-hull yachts sailing all over the world, with most of our yachts for families from the Middle East, Israel, and the US. China is a growing market for us. They love our product, and whereas the British are all into the tech gear, the Chinese are only interested in the fun. We've customized one as a floating restaurant in Dubai. Actually they're all customized, taking about a year and a half to our shipyard in Gdansk.
Our 'Ché' model is our largest at 114 feet and plenty of room for eight guests and 5-6 crew. The'70 Power' has solar panels, wind and hydro power generation, LED lighting, and lots of power-generating and saving devices. It's a demand of the market. Our 165-foot 'Ultimate' will be our biggest yet. And we expect to enlarge our charter company as well.

Collin Sykes. Former CFO to midsize companies in the US and UK. CFO now one year with Fairline and happy with the progress which began with a deep listening to customers and dealers. 2009-10 were dark years, but when banks retracted investors started coming back in 2012; we took losses in 2013, with dealers overstocking. We began financing our dealers, and today we have only shareholder debt, no bank debt on the balance sheet. The reorganization has turned things around with fresh ideas, new technologies. Still cautious, he is moving forward with a waiting list.
I'm feeling great loyalty to up, helping others to build their careers up. I enjoy the hard work, hard-earned money, customers from the Middle East, Russia. Europe is  flat right now, but US is picking up. 2015 looks good, with new products and dealer inventory the lowest it's been in five years. Competition - Princess (LVMH Moët Hennessy • Louis Vuitton S.A. is a French multinational luxury goods conglomerate) and Sunseeker (Chinese-owned).

Valeria Povergo, St. Petersburg Russia. 27. Director of Ordinar (new online Russian publication), former sub-atomic engineer.
This is a prelude to the upcoming show in St. Petersburg. We're "independent and Interesting". I'm staying a week here in Cannes and loving it. It's a great venue for the show...and kick-off for the season, with all brands - famous and unknowns alike. There are definitely unique brands here, which is my focus.

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