Italians challenging for UK market

“With a growing focus on the UK market as the demand for larger motor yachts in the UK increases, four or five Italian brands are opening offices in the UK, offering local service and support for their yachts,” says Nick Hatfield, sales manager at Sanlorenzo Yachts UK and Ireland.

“Previously, Italian brands relied on selling to British owners through their Mediterranean dealer network.” But now with strong growth* in the smaller superyacht segment (between 24 and 27m) and Italian shipyards demonstrating ongoing increased strength in the semi-custom yachting market, Hatfield says the Italian brands are ready to do battle.

Sanlorenzo SL90A 2
Sanlorenzo SL90A, which will be on display at boot Düsseldorf in January 2024

He admits that this may be helped by historical associations of Italian design.

“The expectation with most things Italian is that they’re going to be sleek, stylish and with uncompromising attention to detail – think Ferrari, Gucci and Bulgari. The exclusive Italian motor yacht brands, such as Sanlorenzo and Bluegame, deliver on these same qualities but with one major point of difference: the level of customisation.

“As the motor yacht market developed 15 to 20 years ago, everything started to look the same. Manufacturers were using the same person to design the boat, its hull and the interior. There were designers out there creating fabulous interiors for apartments who would have been much more suited to the task, but they weren’t being used by the boating industry at that time.”

Hatfield states that Sanlorenzo was the first brand to really tailor-make a yacht in terms of customisation. The company “looked outside the industry for specialist talent and brought in big named designers, whether Italian or not. The idea was that if someone was renovating their home, the designers could understand their preferences and translate these into the interior of their yacht.”

But although many boating brands have followed suit offering ‘customisation’, there are many degrees of customisation, says Hatfield, just like in high-end fashion.

“When buying a suit, you can walk into a shop and pick a suit off the shelf which will fit perfectly adequately.

“You could then take that suit to a tailor, who’d make some modifications to make it fit better. This is basic customisation and is what customisation means for many motorboat manufacturers; you take the base design and ‘customise’ it aesthetically with a different leather or wood finish.

“Alternatively, you could visit a tailor who starts with a piece of material. Everything is then made to measure for you, to your exact requirements. This is what Sanlorenzo and certain other Italian brands offer as standard when they say customisation.

“We start with a hull, which is characteristically Sanlorenzo, but interior wise it’s completely tailor-made. We bring in designers from all over the world, ensuring that fixtures, fittings and fabrics are all exactly what and where the client wishes. If they don’t like the galley location for example, we move it.”

It’s this attention to detail which makes the difference for customers, says Hatfield.

“It’s a very quiet yacht – the level of consideration that’s gone into the removal of sound and vibration is second to none, with all rails and metalwork mounted on anti-vibration pads. This isn’t something I’ve experienced on my previous boats from a British manufacturer,” says a UK owner of a Sanlorenzo.

Having a tailor-made yacht obviously comes with a cost. Sanlorenzo yachts, for example, are 10-15 per cent more expensive than other brands of the same size. But it seems people are willing to pay the extra to get exactly what they want and have a yacht which is truly unique to them.

“As a shipyard, Sanlorenzo is also raising its head above the parapet when it comes to sustainability, with the R&D department continually working to introduce advanced technological systems aimed at lowering the environmental impact of the yachts without compromising on driving experience. This is something that certain British manufacturers are dismissing as not important to customers, but this is not our experience,” Hatfield (pictured below) concludes.

Earlier this month, Lloyd’s Register awarded Sanlorenzo with approval certification for its Fuel Cell system and Type C containment tank, designed by the shipyard together with Siemens Energy.

[* The superyacht and large luxury motor yacht market is growing, with a record number of superyachts on order or in build. According to the 2023 Global Order Book, there are 1,203 ongoing projects, representing an increase of 17.5 per cent over the previous year. The value of the global luxury yacht market is predicted to reach US$7.67 billion by the end of the year.]

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This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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