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To own or to charter? That is the question

Is it shocking to say out loud that we all like to have things that others admire? Is it wrong to feel pleasure and pride when a friend or colleague compliments you on your choice of car, shoes, house, or interior décor? Don’t we all crave the admiration, grudging or not, of our peer group? To some extent this is what yacht ownership is partly about. The club of yacht owners is infinitely more exclusive than the club of yacht charterers, and there’s nothing that says you’ve made it quite like owning a large yacht that not even premiership footballers can afford.

Add to this the plain fact that when you own a yacht it is up to you what it looks like, how it’s decorated, who the crew are, and where it cruises. I know many yacht owners whose greatest pleasure in being on board actually relates to their interaction with their crew. The Chef who cooks your dinner exactly the way they like, the smiley stewardess who knows how you like your coffee, and also importantly when you want some privacy.

Flexibility is also key. Get on for 10 days and if after seven you need to leave to attend a meeting, you can do so without the pain of having paid to rent something you won’t use. Likewise, if after your 14 day planned holiday you just don’t want to leave. Well then don’t. Stay on for as long as you like – many owners spend months on board and run multinational businesses from their yachts. Get to Capri and think it’s too crowded? Change the plan completely and go to the Balearics instead – try doing that on a busy charter yacht you’ve rented. Deckhand been rude to one of your guests? Sorry mate, pack your bags.

YACHT-A-PORTER sheds light on the delights and the challenges in owning a superyacht versus chartering. Here, we argue the case for both sides.

When it comes to ownership, well where do we start? There is nothing quite like owning a superyacht. With the average price tag at around US$10 million to buy, ownership is prohibitive to the masses – and a rarity even among the world’s ultra wealthy. The ownership club is so exclusive it is populated by some of the world’s wealthiest and most famous individuals. If you are thinking about building your own then there is no limit to how far your imagination can go. In fact, owners speak of the construction process with great fondness, enjoying it so much that they repeat the build experience rather than looking to the used yacht market when they outgrow their current yacht.

Even if they do decide to buy an existing yacht, they can still tailor the interior and exterior areas to be exactly how they want it to be, or even extend, or rebuild. Toys, cinema, office, relaxation and entertainment facilities – the only limit is the imagination. But the biggest perk of being a superyacht owner has to be the ability to be master of your own dreams and to surround yourself with the environment that you choose. You can position your yacht wherever it pleases you; no corner of the world beyond your reach. You can hire crew whose personalities you like.

The downside, however, is the cost. Not just the capital to buy the yacht in the first place, but owners have significant running costs to contend with. Many offset some of the running costs by placing their yacht on the charter market, but if you want to use it during the peak summer months then you have to make the decision as to whether to charter it out atall.

And this brings us to charter. If chartering a yacht sounds more appealing, or indeed more in line with your finances, then there are plenty of positives. Chartering a yacht is, afterall, the most expensive type of holiday there is and an extremely exclusive world. It’s carefree nature is also appealing. For most people who charter the focus is entirely on experiences – you can easily explore the world’s most exclusive cruising grounds, alternating between sailing yachts or motor yachts as it please you. Chartering allows you the freedom to go wherever you want at the drop of a hat in any season. From discovering the Antarctic on an ice-breaker one week, to sailing around the Caribbean on a catamaran the next, the opportunities are limitless if you have the money and the right yacht is available when you need her.

It is the ideal option for those who are put off the steep price tag and running costs of a yacht, or those who prefer to invest their capital elsewhere. However, if this all sounds so much better than owning a yacht then don’t forget, the yacht won’t be yours. It won’t reflect your tastes, and especially these days with a booming charter market you might not get the yacht you want when you want it. But for some, the lower overheads, flexibility and the different experiences prove themselves to be more attractive. You get to step off the yacht and you don’t have to think about the winter refit, what needs fixing, crew upheaval, and all that shebang. I guess it’s like renting a house versus owning. I have a lot of friends who rent and love the minimalistic way of life. No ties. I am often in awe of how free that must make them feel. But then I travel and miss my home comforts, my own bed, things just the way I like them.

Whatever category you fall in, whether you are looking to own or charter, you are one of the lucky few, especially from where I am sitting after a weekend of dismal rain, sleet and snow.

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