Investing in flotilla fun in the sun

Crusing The Whitsundays

Mediterranean-style flotilla fun in the sun is catching on in the Whitsundays as a marketing tool, reports Caroline Strainig.

“Flotilla.” It's a word more synonymous with the Med than the Whitsundays, but that is set to change rapidly. Various production boat manufacturers have coordinated owners rallies before and many clubs have staged informal sailaways, but now one company has taken the concept a step further. Bavaria Yachts Queensland, an associate of North South Yachting, the distributor of these German-built yachts, organised a flotilla-style rally with yachts sailing in company under the supervision of a designated mother ship in December of last year and has plans for an even more ambitious rally in December of this year.

Twenty two Bavaria enthusiasts on five yachts participated in the inaugural week of flotilla fun and many more people and 10 new-model production boats are expected to be involved this year.

Hosted by Stewart Key, manager of Bavaria Yachts Queensland, the itinerary was a carefully crafted mix of sailing and fun, with experienced and inexperienced sailors blended to ensure each boat had a suitable mix. All boats were bareboats from the Queensland Yacht Charters or Whitsunday Private Yacht Charters fleets. Most of those who attended were interested in buying a Bavaria, but participants included the owners of one of the boats, who just liked the idea of an organised rally.

Itinerary

The schedule included the obligatory standard bareboat briefing to ensure skippers were competent to operate the yacht and aware of navigational hazards but once that was out of the way the emphasis was on sailing and fun.

Functions included a reception at the Abel Point marina, beach party, dinner on the cruiser mothership and a reception and awards night at the Coral Sea Resort. Destinations visited were Nara Inlet, Butterfly Bay, Border Island, Whitehaven, Hamilton Island marina and Long Island. Participants were given copious briefing notes on what was planned each day.

“We organised the rally as a marketing event to help publicise the Whitsundays as a sailing destination, promote Bavaria yachts and promote the charter companies with whom we work,” Key explained.

“And, of course, to give people who have already expressed an interest in a Bavaria the chance to sail on each boat in the fleet to help with choosing the best model for them when the time is right for them to purchase.”

One of the features was that ð while everyone had their “own” yacht to which they returned at night ð every day they sailed a different yacht, ranging from the Bavaria 33 Kimberley Moon to the Bavaria 50 Cruiser Indulgence.

Key said the Whitsundays were at the centre of a bareboat investment boom at the moment, which looked as if it was strong and sustained enough to weather any upcoming interest rate rises.

“Brand new bareboats have been appearing in the marinas like never before, as investors return to the market and put their new boats into charter,” he said.

“More than ever, those investors that I talk to want to have a lifestyle destination for their family and friends and eventually own a yacht.

“It is difficult to justify a brand-new yacht as a private purchase, but as part of a business and investment with all the maintenance and ownership costs covered and help with the repayments, well now you're talking.”

Key said it had never been simpler or easier to get involved in a charter yacht as an investor/owner.

Recipe for success

Three aspects had combined to make this happen.

* A proven history of well-managed boat hire businesses operating through stable charter company operators throughout Australia.
* A renewed understanding by the Australian Tax Office of the charter industry managed through guidelines, rulings and more recently, changes to the tax legislation to make this more straightforward; and
* Programs run by companies like Bavaria Yachts working in partnership with the charter companies and potential investors to streamline the process.

Key said outside this there was a stronger-than-ever demand for quality yachts with all the creature comforts.

“New yachts, when advertised for charter, attract considerable interest. We have had yachts booked in advance for half a year before they even arrive in Australia. Returns for investors are great when you compare to private ownership or just leaving your money in the bank,” he said.

Key said that in addition to the Whitsundays there was demand for new Bavarias to join fleets in troInvestment interest was so keen that he had been running seminars at the major boat shows, and on request at selected sailing clubs.

This year's rally

The 2008 Bavaria Whitsundays Rally will take place from December 4-11 at a cost of $1600 a person, flights excluded. For more information on this, charter investment or buying a Bavaria yacht contact Bavaria Charter Australia, ph 0400 601 374, email investment@northsouthyachting.com.au or visit www.northsouthyachting.com.au

SEVEN TOP TIPS FOR INVESTMENT
* Ty* As a charter yacht is a floating accommodation, go for models with more berths.
* Listen to the charter operators because they know what equipment is needed on the yacht to make it charter well.
* Buy quality, with long warranties to avoid high maintenance bills.
* Use a chattel mortgage form of finance because it is more convenient for GST considerations.
* Owners should use the yacht as often as possible. “It means you can live the lifestyle and also keep in touch with any small issues of concerns,” Key said.
* Have an exit plan from the investment from the word go because it helps structure things correctly.

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