Hidden Value That's Plain to See

Older yachts that have been upgraded may offer the best bets for luxury charter at realistic prices.

Audacia

See the complete photo gallery here.

Justin Longdon was just plain exasperated. He'd spent a few hours the previous day aboard the 135-foot W.A. Souter & Sons_ D'Angleterre II_ and the 124-foot Heesen Calaf, getting to know the boats and crews alike. Both motoryachts are part of the charter fleet at Edmiston and Co., where Longdon is a broker in the Monte Carlo, Monaco, office. He thought the boats looked terrific and would be ideal for some of his longtime clients in the Mediterranean — but he knew they would never book them without some serious arm-twisting, if at all.

And why not?

Because Calaf was built in 1992, and D'Angleterre II was built in (gulp) 1986.

“These boats simply cannot compete in an e-brochure,” Longdon explained, shaking his head as his brow furrowed. “People see the date of the build and flat-out say no. But these boats are meticulously maintained. The crew have been working together forever. The mechanics on these boats are all worked out. And in the grand scheme of things, these boats really are not that old. They’re lovely, and their value cannot be beaten. When I take clients on boats like these for lunch, they book them immediately. But when I show them these boats on paper, they want nothing to do with them.”

It’s a lament shared by many charter brokers who consider it their job to match clients with the best possible yacht and crew within a given budget. All too often, clients want so intensely to feel they are getting as much as they can for their money that they insist on a yacht that’s larger, simply because it has three extra feet of length, or that’s newer, just because it came out of the shipyard a year before another option. Precious few clients consider what brokers call “actual value,” which means the combination of original build quality, ongoing maintenance, crew training and price.

Quite frankly, a lot of people overpay for a great yacht charter experience because they aren’t willing to consider an older yacht that offers outstanding value.

One example is the 149-foot Oceanfast _Perfect Persuasion (_below, and see our complete photo gallery here), which is part of the charter fleet at Camper & Nicholsons International. She launched in 1997 and does not show "refit" on her spec sheet, but that's only because the owner has been investing substantially every year since 2006.

“We’ve virtually rebuilt the boat from the inside out,” says Capt. Paul Baines. “This year alone, we invested €300,000 [approximately $427,000 at press time] to rebuild the sun deck, install a new bar and rebuild the hot tub.”

Those types of investments can make an older charter yacht a great deal. Because of her age, Perfect Persuasion's lowest weekly base rate is €100,000 [approximately $142,500 at press time] for 10 guests — less than half the price charged by some newer yachts in the same size range that offer nearly the same amenities. As longtime charter broker Gaye Joyeux-Bourgeois of Burgess Yachts in Monaco put it while touring Perfect Persuasion in spring 2011, "She really hasn't changed a lot from the last time I saw her a few years ago, but she's looking very, very good. Really, really fresh. She's an outstanding value in her class."

Charter broker Tom Collins of Burgess Yachts in Miami had a similar reaction after a few days of cruising the Riviera aboard Audacia (below). She's a 159-foot Feadship that is part of the Fraser Yachts Worldwide charter fleet — and launched nearly 25 years ago, in 1987.

“It was a terrific charter experience,” he says. “The boat is well maintained, the owner is continuing to make upgrades and investments, and the captain and crew are top-notch. We had paparazzi snapping our photos as we pulled into St. Tropez, she looks so impressive, but really she’s an excellent value boat.”

Collins also has clients who want only newer yachts, but some of them — after looking at their budgets and the amenities that many older yachts offer — decide that the newer yachts are not always the best charter values.

“Then they look at older boats with the same features,” says Collins. “If those older boats are well maintained, have a great crew and are within budget, there’s a realization that the age of the boat is actually the least important consideration in having a fantastic yachting holiday.”