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A show for charters in the Northeast

Newport Charter Yacht Show promotes the region as an alternative to the Med or Caribbean

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The new owners of the annual Newport Charter Yacht Show are working to revitalize and raise the profile of the 30-year-old Rhode Island event, which is focused on a region that is not the first that comes to mind when one thinks of large-yacht charters.

“This is Year One for us, and we’re hoping to grow the show in the coming years,” says Tom Delotto, director of the Newport Exhibition Group at Newport Harbor Corp., which also owns the Newport International Boat Show and the Providence Boat Show. “It’s a B-to-B platform rather than a consumer platform, even though that’s the end user,” he says, pointing out what distinguishes the only show of its kind in the United States from other boat shows. The premier charter show remains the Antigua Charter Yacht Show, held annually in December.

In New England, the four-day show, set for June 18-21 at the Newport Yachting Center, is a showcase of luxury charter yachts from 50 to 300-plus feet, as well as ancillary goods and services. Those who attend are charter professionals — agents, owners, brokers and captains — who are influential in determining all aspects of yacht operations, destination cruising and vessel management. The goal is to connect yacht managers with brokers and captains, but Delotto says a secondary goal is to promote the region as a charter destination. “New England has never been a first choice for chartering, but we saw the show as a chance to promote a valuable commodity,” he says. “I’m not going to say the charter industry in New England is robust, but we’re seeing some positive movement.”

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What’s behind that movement? “Yacht charter demand is down while the expense is up,” Delotto says. “Demand dropped in lockstep with the recession, and we see it slowly coming back while expenses for the yachts continue to ramp up.”

That means yachts that seasonally transit back and forth between the Caribbean and Mediterranean are looking for options closer to home and heading up the East Coast for Northern summers. “We’re calling it Discover New England,” Delotto says, adding that one of the show’s goals is to help make brokers and captains comfortable with the area and its myriad cruising grounds. “A lack of local knowledge may have scared people off in the past. It’s our job to inform them that a place like the Newport Yachting Center right here, or the nearby Montauk [N.Y.] Yacht Club, can accommodate yachts up to 232 feet, with a maximum draft of 12 feet.”

The show offers a chance to piece together the often fragmented information about the region that charter captains have, he says. The new owners of the show began their stewardship with a small first step: a redesigned website at www.newport chartershow.com. “It’s a small thing, but it could make a big difference,” Delotto says.

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Bruce Brakenhoff — who co-founded Newport-based Bartram & Brakenhoff, still works there as a broker and serves as treasurer of the American Yacht Charter Association — likes what he sees with the new ownership. “Newport Exhibition Group is a natural choice,” he says. “They have experience with shows and the resources in place to make it succeed.”

The veteran of the brokerage and charter industries has participated in the show since “very near the beginning,” and he has seen the continually improving quality — and size — of the yachts. “The yacht charter industry has changed drastically over the years and become much more international,” he says.

John Mann, chairman of the U.S. Superyacht Association and owner of Bluewater Books and Charts in Fort Lauderdale, says he’s “delighted with the new ideas and energy” the Newport Exhibition Group is bringing to the show. The association is participating in the show for the sixth consecutive year and will sponsor an event and present a seminar.

As an added draw, the show was scheduled to directly precede the America’s Cup World Series in Newport. “We expect some boats that exhibit in the show will stay in Newport the following week for the America’s Cup World Series event,” Mann says. “We are hopeful that they will actually have charter guests during the AC event.”

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Newport Harbor Corp. also has ramped up marketing and the number of seminars at the show. It will present a series of industry-focused seminars on destination cruising, maritime law and new technology. Announced seminars include “Entering U.S. Waters,” “Discover New England,” “STCW Changes and Implications to Your Mariner’s License” and “Enhancing Crew and Guest Safety.”

The parent company, Newport Harbor Corp., also recently found an ideal first “official charitable partner” with the humanitarian organization YachtAid Global.

The non-profit organization coordinates the delivery of humanitarian aid aboard superyachts cruising to isolated regions and consists of a network of more than 500 yachting industry professionals, including superyacht owners, captains, crewmembers, agents and brokers (www.yachtaidglobal.org).

This article originally appeared in the May 2012 issue.

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