After the economic collapse of 2008, when the boating industry was scrambling, a trend began to take hold. After a period that saw owners sell their large yachts and the construction of new yachts stalled, people began refitting yachts for less money and in less time.
Now refits are through the roof, particularly after Florida limited its sales tax to the first $1 million of a refit last year.
That led Professional BoatBuilder Magazine to launch the Refit International Exhibition & Conference last year. The 2017 show will be bigger and will take place Jan. 26-27 in Fort Lauderdale’s Broward County Exhibition Center, adjacent to the International Marina & Boatyard Conference space.
“We developed the refit show to be able to deliver to this market, which really is a niche market in America right now since not a lot of big custom boatbuilding is going on,” says Nicole Jacques, who heads marketing and management for the show. “But a lot of refit is happening.”
Because Professional BoatBuilder Magazine owns and produces the show, a lot of focus is on education, Jacques says. “The conference program is divided in half between business management topics and technical topics. This year we took feedback from last year’s seminar attendees and reached out to the boat industry — and specifically captains — to try to get their feedback. We know captains are an integral part of the refit process.”
The captains were curious to learn more about the behind-the-scenes activity at boatyards, Jacques says. “They want better communications between boatyards and captains and wanted a better overview of how the entire refit process works,” she says.
For example, one resulting seminar will focus on the difference between subcontracted yards and full-service yards.
“We’re going to have someone from Derecktor Shipyard, a full-service yard, and LMC, which contracts. They’re doing a presentation together to compare the two formats — not to endorse one over the other, but just to explain the differences,” Jacques says.
At the time that the refit trend was taking hold there also were more owners selling megayachts, and the refit concept began to trickle up, so to speak, to larger units.
“I think owners became very savvy,” Jacques says. “They realized they could buy megayachts at a lower price from an existing owner, rather than commission a build. Then they would have the yachts customized to their needs. Not only did this cut costs, but it also reduced turnaround time.
“And now a lot of the time people aren’t even considering new builds, whether they can afford it or not. They’re just identifying boats that are already built that are similar to what they want. Then they spend a year having it customized and get out on the water in a year, as opposed to the three years it would’ve taken to design and build a new yacht.”
She also suggests the United States is becoming known as the place to go for refit work because of the quality of skilled labor and the increasing capability of shipyards to handle large vessels.
“This year, we’re co-located with IMBC next door, and since last year went real well they gave us a little more space,” Jacques says. About 75 exhibitors are scheduled to participate, and she expects to exceed the roughly 1,000 visitors the show had last year.
The show draws a diverse audience — yacht designers, captains, boatyard technicians, subcontractors and others involved in the refit process. People who want to learn about the business management side of refits can attend legal seminars, project management communication seminars or sessions on effectively dealing with challenging clients. On the technical side there are seminars such as hybrid electric repowering, corrosion diagnostics and conversion incompatibilities between European and U.S. systems.
“The exhibit hall is free, while seminars are paid, so we have lot of people coming in just to talk to those vendors, to see new products and processes,” says Jacques. “A lot of people come who want to see what’s new to incorporate into their refits.”
South Florida is host to a refit that may become “the finest yacht ever created,” she says. Anodyne is a 110-foot vessel in the middle of a major redesign and rebuild at Derecktor Shipyard. Project manager Parker Stockdale and members of his team will explain the Anodyne owner’s vision for the project and how its success lies in the collaboration of the region’s talented workers and quality manufacturers. “Parker was lucky enough to have an owner who said ‘however much money it takes,’ ” Jacques says. Anodyne was one of the first big refits the shipyard won after Fort Lauderdale implemented the tax cap.
International yacht refit professionals will be recognized for their accomplishments through the first annual Refit Excellence Awards, which will be presented Jan. 26. An independent panel will judge the entries, based on not only the finished yacht, but also on the teamwork, problem solving and efficacy of everyone involved in the refit. The awards will recognize refits in these categories: best sailing yacht; best power yacht 50-100 feet; best power yacht over 100 feet; and best accomplishment in refit excellence.
This article originally appeared in the January 2017 issue.