Demand for large sailboats could be on the decline

Though small performance sailboats have seen somewhat strong demand, the desire for large sailing yachts has waned.
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Though small performance sailboats have seen somewhat strong demand, the desire for large sailing yachts has waned.

Nigel Ingram, of MCM, told The New York Times that interest in the 100-plus-foot vessels is not as strong as it was a handful of years ago.

“The last three years things have started to slow down,” Ingram told the newspaper. “Most boatbuilders are really hungry for new projects. The industry has to be feeling it because the architects aren’t busy, and that’s where it starts.”

Ingram stopped a career as a yacht captain in 1987 to start managing the construction of the aluminum Sparkman and Stephens 73-foot Encore.

His detailed approach to making sure yacht designs moved from drafting boards to working versions of an owner’s dreams allowed him to capitalize on a niche in the marine industry that has since become yacht management.

By the time his company, MCM, added the yacht operations component to its construction management business in 2001, there were still only three companies specializing in the managing of luxury yachts, Ingram said.

Now, however, nearly three decades after the launch of Encore, there are dozens of companies like MCM.

Ingram, 68, will be visiting one of his 22 charges, the 115-foot superyacht Nikata, next week at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in Porto Cervo, Sardinia. He was the owner’s representative for the construction of the boat last year at Baltic Yachts in Finland, and MCM manages the yacht’s annual operations.

The superyachts competing for the Rolex Cup are often referred to as small cities. Since owners began racing these 100-footers a decade ago, an industry has sprouted up around them, complete with training schools for every level of staffing and trade, including the highly specialized Superyacht Crew Academy in Australia.

The army of builders it takes to construct yachts such as Ingram’s Nikata is exceeded by the annual ebb and flow of professional sailing crew, engineers, waitstaff and industry professionals employed to sail such a boat through races, transoceanic deliveries and cruising vacations.

It can cost more than $4 million annually to run a superyacht, according to the U.S. Superyacht Association. Expenses range from hundreds of thousands dollars spent on insurance, dockage and fuel to more than $1 million in crew salaries.

“In the build of a boat, 50 percent of the cost goes to labor,” Ingram said. “So that goes to the dining-room tables of the people who work at the shipyard.”

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