The common belief is that bigger is better in yachting, with the one percent of the one percent wanting to outdo each other aboard superyachts longer than the length of a football pitch.
At the top of the world’s richest list, LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault’s Symphony comes in at 101.5 meters long, a length that Amazon Executive Chair Jeff Bezos is set to eclipse when his 127-meter sailing yacht emerges from Oceanco in the Netherlands at a reported cost of US$500 million.
But the data tells a different story. "In 2020–21, we saw around 50 percent of all sales fall into the sub-50-meter category," Richard Lambert, Head of Sales at superyacht brokerage Burgess, tells The CEO Magazine.
Savvy yacht investors, it seems, understand that there are plenty of reasons why, in yachting, the best things come in smaller packages.
"Forty to 50 meters really is the sweet spot for the world’s superyacht market." – Jason Duggan
"Forty to 50 meters really is the sweet spot for the world’s superyacht market," Jason Duggan, Sales Operations Manager at Yachting Partners International, says of the category. "It’s a size range that offers the most variety, space and facilities at the optimum cost."
Lambert agrees, listing the ability to anchor in smaller bays, a more intimate onboard experience, and innovative and trendsetting design as some of the advantages of mid-size yachts. "The yachts quite often feature more avant-garde design, attracting a younger and more active clientele," he explains.
The mid-size market has long been a popular one, reflected by the fact that more than 20 per cent of all superyachts (defined as vessels greater than 24 meters) in the water fall into the 40–50 meter category, according to Superyacht Times.
"They are comfortable, but not too big to not get into the nice and cozy ports in Greece and on the Côte d’Azur, for example," says Charter Broker Agne Pavia, Duggan’s colleague at Yachting Partners International.
With the COVID-19 pandemic driving a spike in interest in yachting, demand has soared. "In recent years we have seen this dynamic market segment rise in popularity," Lambert reveals.
And for those people taking their first steps in yachting, this size range is proving itself as the perfect entry point. "This bracket is a great introduction into the world of superyachting," Lambert adds.
On the ownership front, he explains that yachts of this size "tend to be easier to operate with fewer crew members while providing a high level of luxury, comfort and usability".
"In recent years we have seen this dynamic market segment rise in popularity." – Richard Lambert
Plus, a large proportion of the market is semi-custom models – or yachts that are based on proven hull designs but whose interior decor can be adapted to the client’s needs and tastes. "Choosing a yacht from a proven series comes with less inherent risk than opting for a fully custom model," Lambert points out.
There’s also the environmental advantages, a topic that is becoming increasingly important to the younger generation of yacht owners now entering the market. "If you compare two yachts of differing sizes, the smaller will always come out as better for the environment," Lambert continues.
"To begin with there will be fewer raw materials used in the build, a lower fuel consumption level will be observed and on the whole energy needed to power the yacht will be considerably lower. This includes elements such as air-conditioning."
And when it comes to buying and selling on the secondary market, there’s a substantial market for resale and more diverse inventory to choose from, he adds.
In the charter market, YPI’s Pavia says that mid-size yachts are "definitely the best category in terms of comfort, fun and crew professionalism".
"It is the perfect category to experience true yachting – comfortable, spacious to accommodate larger groups and multigenerational parties. Yachts of this size can hold a decent list of toys and that is one of the most important features when chartering a yacht today," she explains.
"You also do not need a pilot to get in and out the port. And that saves time and money, especially in the busy months of July and August."
"It is the perfect category to experience true yachting – comfortable, spacious to accommodate larger groups and multigenerational parties." – Agne Pavia
And while she sees no negatives to the segment, for Duggan these selling points are perhaps a mid-size yacht’s only con. "These are highly attractive yachts – and good-quality charter yachts get snapped up early!" he says.
If you’re contemplating setting sail on a superyacht in the Mediterranean for the first time this European summer, perhaps now’s the time to get booking.
Two mid-size yachts for charter:
Fast and Furious
The name gives it away: with top speeds of 42 knots, this sporty, 44.6-meter motor yacht is the fastest in the plus-40-meter category on the charter market. But there’s more to this Mediterranean-based vessel than lightning pace: it is a two-time finalist at the World Superyacht Awards and ShowBoat Design Awards in 2016, recognition for a flexible interior layout and wide open exterior spaces that make Fast and Furious the ideal choice for families and groups of friends. A shallow draft also opens up secluded beaches and bays along the French Riviera, the Amalfi Coast and in Corsica and Sardinia. For charter with Yachting Partners International.
"Deceptively spacious inside and out" for a yacht of its size is how central charter agent Burgess describes Gladiator, a 44.6-meter motor yacht launched from Dutch yard Feadship in 2010 and fully refitted in 2021–22. And its list of features reads like a much larger yacht as well: a large beach club with hydraulic swim platform; a fully stocked tender and toy garage, to include a 15-meter chase boat, Sea-Doos and water bikes, as well as a set of fun inflatables such as waterslides and floating islands; a newly equipped gym and steam room; and a sun deck fitted out with both a jacuzzi and an outdoor cinema. Add to that a crew – including an exceptional chef – that past guests rave about, and you have one of the most popular charter yachts in the category.
- In 2022, 40 percent of charterers were first-timers.
- Lead charterers are getting younger, with 45–55 years old as the new average, down from 55–65.
- Americans are driving the market, representing almost 50 percent of bookings.