Absolute Yachts’ Asia appeal
Hong Kong-based distributor for Absolute Yachts, Thomas Woo took a leap of faith seven years ago after his first encounter with the brand’s Fly series.
Thomas Woo of Hong Kong dealership Absolute Marine will never forget his overwhelming first impressions when he visited the then-new Absolute 45 Fly at the 2013 Cannes Yachting Festival.
“I was really amazed,” Woo enthusiastically recalls. “I couldn’t believe how much room there was in a small boat – it was designed to be very functional. I fell in love with that flybridge 45.”
After examining the boat, Woo immediately went to meet Cesare Mastroianni, then Sales Manager for Absolute and now the company’s Chief Commercial Officer and Vice-President of Sales.
“I told him that I thought such a beautiful boat with a great use of space would be very suitable for Hong Kong,” Woo says. Woo ordered the 45 Fly as a stock boat to sell in Hong Kong, an inspired step that would ultimately lead to him becoming the brand’s exclusive dealer in the city and beyond.
When Woo took delivery in 2014, having been on a long waiting list for the popular new model, he quickly attracted interest from would-be owners. They started placing orders in the same year and he established Absolute Marine after he was appointed the sole distributor for Greater China.
A LIFE AQUATIC FROM A YOUNG AGE
No stranger to boating, Woo had taken his first foray into motor yacht ownership at the age of 25, while studying computer science at university in the US. He bought a 28ft Chris-Craft stern-drive cabin cruiser.
“It had two 230hp gasoline engines which gave me lots of problems. I couldn’t afford to get help, but was quite technically minded, so I learned to solve these and do other repairs over a few years and that made me more interested in how boats work. It had inboard engines, there was air-con and a generator, all things found on bigger boats.”
He moved on to bigger boats such as a Marquis 42 cruiser, which was one of two he owned that were installed with the Volvo Penta IPS pod drive.
“The third-generation IPS in the Absolute 45 Fly that I first saw was a big step forward for the technology,” he says. “I’d experienced first and second generations of IPS, and while they did save space on a boat [compared to shaft-drive engines], they were unreliable,” he says.
“Volvo knew this and the third edition ironed out the problems. The improvements were great and I recognised how easy it was to manoeuvre with a joystick control for those not so experienced in piloting a boat. Also, its small size did give much more space on board. This, plus Absolute’s beautiful designs, gave me complete confidence that it would be a hit in Hong Kong.”
And it was. From receiving that first delivery six years ago, Woo has currently sold more than 40 Absolute yachts across the Fly and Navetta lines, an impressive sales log. Another 47 Fly, a Navetta 58 and the brand’s flagship Navetta 73 are the latest arrivals in Hong Kong, showing the ongoing demand.
Boating memories for Woo stretch back to childhood as he started going out on boats from about the age of 10.
“My parents didn’t have a yacht, but a family friend had a 70ft Cheoy Lee and we’d get picked up at the Star Ferry pier at weekends. We would head to beaches like South Bay, then maybe go to Lei Yue Mun for lunch, often with about six kids – it was great fun,” he recalls.
“There were no paddle boards or the kind of toys we see today back then. Sometimes, a speedboat followed us and we’d have a go at water-skiing. As we got better, we’d try to use one ski.”
A CHANGED CAREER COURSE
Woo’s navigation towards launching a dealership came naturally. While CEO of joint-venture company Depromax, the popularity of his award-winning Cyborg car security system began to dwindle as car alarms were increasingly fitted by manufacturers.
At the same time, while spending much of his leisure time boating, his sales of pre-owned yachts to friends were on the up. He went on to work in consecutive Director-level positions in two technology companies while his boat sales grew steadily.
“I eventually realised boat sales had good potential as a business for me and in 2006 I started Marine Italia, a small self-proprietorship brokerage,” he recalls. “It was just my wife and I working together in those early days.”
A year after launching Absolute Marine in 2014, Woo also became a distributor for Azimut Yachts, at which point, Marine Italia became a limited company. In 2016, broker Paul Grange joined Marine Italia as a partner.
AN ABSOLUTE SUCCESS STORY
Woo attributes his Absolute Yachts sales success not only to the appeal of performance, elegance and spaciousness of the boats but to the service Absolute Marine offers, both personally as well as technically at its Absolute-certified service facilities in Shau Kei Wan on Hong Kong Island.
“Personal follow-up with owners and a promise that any problems will be dealt with quickly and easily is so important,” he says. “In yachting circles, as well as directly from clients, I hear that our responses to clients and ability to solve any difficulties are appreciated. It’s essential to provide this and that’s why we have a shipyard to provide technical help and maintenance.”
Clients are showing a preference for the latest Fly 58. Woo has sold six of these including one to a mainland China client who builds leisure trawlers in Dalian.
“I can sell one of these every three to four months,” he says. When ordering models, he aims to make them “as high specification as possible without making it too expensive”.
“The hardtop has become quite popular and I often order a crew cabin with head that’s easily accessible at the back of the boat for swimmers. From this crew room, there is door access to discreetly look at the engine room, without worrying others.”
Woo pre-orders Absolute’s Fly and Navetta models as the waiting lists for both are well over a year due to an increase in global demand. Absolute’s newest model is the Navetta 64 and Woo ordered one in July that will only arrive in October 2021.
“In February 2022, I’ll be expecting another exciting model,” says Woo excitedly, “but I can’t say what it is yet as Absolute has not officially announced its launch.”
And what other plans are there for Absolute Marine? “To continue as we are,” says Woo, “with passion, and great products and service.”