Sydney show faces headwinds
Despite the success of the Sanctuary Cove event in May, the Sydney International Boat Show could present challenges for Mulpha Events. By Bruce Maxwell.
Sydney Boat Show’s central location is so good it attracts too many non-boaters
Mulpha Events’ takeover of Australian boat shows saw strong sales at its existing Sanctuary Cove venue on the Gold Coast late May, but seems to face headwinds in refloating Sydney International Boat Show from July 28-August 1. Neither of the country’s premier production builders, Riviera and Maritimo, are taking part in Sydney, an event that is ideally situated within walking distance of the CBD high-rises in Australia’s largest city.
Reasons for their reluctance are varied. One is that a surge in orders has blown out delivery dates for popular models, even with steadily increased capacity. Another is the cost of taking part. A third underlying concern is that the Sydney show is attracting too many fender-kickers, rather than genuine buyers.
In other words, because of its high exposure in Darling Harbour, just around the Harbour Bridge headland from central Circular Quay, all sorts of locals and tourists throng pontoons and Sydney Convention Centre hardstanding floors, crowding out actual boaters, and frustrating exhibitors.
This can be partly overcome with more expensive entrance tickets and dedicated boater and VIP days, as happens elsewhere. But the show also needs to re-establish its roots with the motor boat, sailing and fishing clubs that fringe Sydney Harbour’s foreshores, Botany Bay, Port Hacking, the Pittwater and Broken Bay, and further afield, Wollongong, Jervis and Batemans Bays, and Newcastle and Port Stephens.
Members of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron, and Middle Harbour Yacht Club need solid reasons to visit again, as do those at the Royal Motor Yacht Clubs in Point Piper and Newport. Owners with berths at recently-sold D’Albora Marinas sites in Rushcutters Bay, Cabarita, The Spit, Akuna Bay and elsewhere want to know how Sydney Boat Show works for them. Old formulas may require more than a cursory makeover.
Surprisingly, vast Sydney Harbour is so rules-bound that private boaters do not have a wide choice of destinations when weekend passage-making, so a Sydney International Boat Show (SIBS) campaign, with State Government support, to increase and publicise the options could prove a popular theme. A marina survey released recently further identified “inadequate marina berths in many locations around the country. It shows that occupancy rates and waitlists have continued to grow over the last decade, despite an increase in storage spaces”, says MIA President Andrew Chapman.
Last but not least, Sydney, located at 34°S, is held in mid-winter. It is often sunny but cold, not conducive to boating, and the water like San Francisco is bracing. Many owners have taken their vessels north to Queensland. Sometimes 30-40 knot fronts come through that see flags and burgees stand out stiffly on their poles. Opinions vary, but a balmier weather time-slot could help sales.
Sydney Boat Show began as an onshore event in the Horden Pavilion in Moore Park in 1968, where it remained until 1985. Then it had a temporary facility in Pyrmont in 1986-88, introducing an in-water display, before moving to Darling Harbour in 1989, as Sanctuary Cove also got under way on the Gold Coast, in the epicentre of Australia’s boating industry.
Upgrades to the Convention Centre at Darling Harbour meant further disruptions in 2014-2016, and the 50th edition of SIBS, with integrated shows afloat and ashore in Darling Harbour, was finally held in 2017. Three years later, as Covid-19 became a factor, the trade body that owns the show, called the Boating Industry Association (BIA), decided to part company with their long-time show organiser, Domenic Genua.
The 2020 event was postponed, like many others abroad, and 2021 was a half-hearted “festival” rather than a fully-fledged boat show, although Australia was relatively Covid-free, and Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show (SCIBS) resumed in May 2021 with its largest display and visitor turnout ever.
Extended Harbour One berths in Sanctuary Cove, at right, are now covered, in an A$10 million marina redevelopment
The latter, owned by Malaysian property conglomerate Mulpha, which has extensive interests in Australia including Hayman Island and InterContinental Hotels, was the 33rd SCIBS, and led to the formal emergence of Mulpha Events under the continuing helm of Johan Hasser. An agreement was reached last December between Mulpha Australia CEO Greg Shaw and BIA President Darren Vaux for Mulpha Events “to be appointed as Event Delivery Partner for all BIA boat shows across Australia.
Mulpha Australia Chairman is Lee Seng Huang, who also has a substantial stake in financial services firm Sun Hung Kai in Hong Kong. Lee studied at Sydney University, and owns a 100ft racing yacht called Scallywag, which he campaigns in regional regattas including the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
Sanctuary Cove, which saw off a rival BIA event at Royal Pines in its first decade, has only recently weathered another long-term challenge from Riviera and Gold Coast City Marina, both of which are in the multi-yard Gold Coast Marine Precinct across the Coomera River and slightly upstream from Sanctuary Cove.
These two venues “shared” the show in 2000, which proved a disaster, and Riviera-GCCM ran sporadic competing events at their premises in the past 20 years, including over the same dates as SCIBS, throwing down the gauntlet. Marine accessory makers with contracts at GCMP yards had to choose, or run displays at GCMP and Sanctuary Cove, an expensive exercise.
Riviera’s 465 SUV on debut at Sanctuary Cove
Happily, exhibitors are now back “in the same boat”, which better suits boating-related visitors, as they no longer have to tramp around working boatyards. Riviera returned to Sanctuary Cove with an impressive private pier exhibit in the expanded reaches of Harbour One. GCCM, a refit and repair outfit with alternative berthing, has a Sanctuary Cove presence too.
The sheer ambiance of Sanctuary Cove’s Marine Village probably won out in the endgame. Full of high-end restaurants and boutiques, it has become a gathering place of the rich and famous backed by urbane residents in the substantial but unseen gated reaches of what was billed as Australia’s first integrated tourism resort, where villa purchases do not require approval of the Foreign Investment Review Board.
A single road entry restricts visitors to about 50,000 per show – Monaco sees circa 30,000 – and those unable to book at the on-site InterCon generally stay at Main Beach, where Marina Mirage, the Sheraton and Palazzo Versace front the Broadwater and Gold Coast beaches, and commute by boat, limousine or helicopter from there.
Marina Mirage used to run its own display of small superyachts during SCIBS, backed by Geoff Lovett International now GLI, as well as Ensign Yacht Brokers and Ray White Marine, but this year GLI’s Perry James returned to Sanctuary Cove, in the new covered larger berths of Harbour One’s extension, and said he was pleased with the response. Representing Benetti and lately Australian-owned Moonen, among others, he would be back next year.
Similarly, Leigh-Smith Yachts has long retraced its steps from GCCM back to Sanctuary Cove, and their one-time broker Grant Torrens, who set up another successful dealership and contemporary boat show on the Sovereign Islands, was at Sanctuary Cove last year. All played important roles in getting SCIBS started, and are again “in the fold”.
The 465 SUV was one of 12 Riviera models displayed
Largest yacht on display at Sanctuary Cove was the Sanlorenzo 40m Alloy 4A, occupying the same potential single berth as a 20m Horizon, although the official LOA for this dock is 50m+. Southport Yacht Club in the Broadwater has a newly-opened 63m berth, and GCCM also takes small to mid-range superyachts, restricted on occasions by draught due to silting in the Coomera River.
This was the first time the 61 new and 46 covered berths, costing A$10 million, have been revealed in their full glory, and it was an impressive sight. The shape of the covers are very different to earlier efforts at The Boat Lagoon in Thailand. There are gaps in the relatively high angular structure, and look as though sun and rain could still creep in, but talking to captains with boats in situ, they said the protection was most effective.
Starting the show at this InterCon end, where the VIP Lagoon Lounge is located and a sparsely patronised Captain’s Lounge occupied what used to be my favourite Thai restaurant, it was evident that, apart from core Riviera and Maritimo offerings, boats built in Europe and Asia dominate the larger vessels displayed at this event, and the Asian ones are at least of comparable quality.
From Britain, Princess Yachts, which ran its own show after taking over Grant Torrens’ Sovereign Islands base in years past, had an immaculate multi-model display which featured their upgraded F Class Flybridge Yacht. Principal dealer Greg Haines, who used to be Maritimo’s export manager, said “there has been lots of interest in the Princess brand, with plenty of people attending despite the wet weather on the weekend”.
Sunseeker has had a smaller presence since WA-based Australian dealer Alf Barbagallo’s halcyon days on the East Coast, but their Brad Rodgers was back on F Pier.
Horizon focused on the FD80 at Sanctuary Cove
Horizon and Ocean Alexander, two of Asia’s largest builders headquartered in Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s second city, were prominent in the newly-expanded part of the Harbour One marina. Horizon is based at Sanctuary Cove anyway, and whereas they sold only occasional large motor yachts to Australians in years past, nowadays their RP (110-120ft), FD (75-125ft), E (75-100ft) and V (68-80ft) models are much in demand.
Showcased at Sanctuary Cove were three new Fast Displacement (FD) Series yachts, among them the brand-new FD 80 Skyline. Specified for the Australian market, this boat features a four-stateroom layout and a notable contemporary interior design. Ocean Alexander has focused on the American and now Australian markets, but likewise their Dan Mundy, head of Global Distribution, Marketing, Service and Dealer Development said they too were establishing sales networks in Europe and Asia.
Ocean Alexander launched its Explorer 28m at Sanctuary Cove
Alexander Marine Australia’s principal dealer Todd Holzapfel proved particularly knowledgeable, and as we walked through the 28m Explorer making her world debut one morning, the layout and finish on this vessel were little short of superb. This is a small superyacht of considerable calibre. At Fort Lauderdale late last year, Ocean Alexander introduced the pinnacle of their Revolution Series, the 35m R.
Palm Beach Motor Yachts moved to the new in-water display area, and was once more represented by famous maxi yachtsman Mark Richards, who has in tandem overseen the streamlining of Grand Banks models built in Malaysia. Former GB designer Tony Fleming’s well-established Fleming Yachts had a prominent position as well.
Palm Beach GT60 is put through her paces
Riviera staged unquestionably the leading display, however, with its own pier and no less than 12 models being shown, including Australian premieres of the 78 Motor Yacht, one of which is bound for a Phuket client, plus the 465 SUV and the 4600 Sport Yacht Platinum Edition.
Said Riviera owner Rodney Longhurst: “Riviera welcomed many returning and new owners to our family with yachts purchased across our exceptional 24-model collection of sport yachts, SUVs, sport motor yachts and motor yachts as part of the exclusive Riviera Festival of Boating held at our SCIBS display”.
Luxury cruiser builder Maritimo was in its usual prime place at the start of F Pier, and managing director Tom Barry-Cotter said it had an exceptional reception for its three global exclusives, the M60 Flybridge Motor Yacht, the M600 Offshore Flybridge, and the S600 Offshore Sedan, with a number of sales on the board.
Maritimo will announce a Japanese dealer and look for others in Asia
Multihulls are much in demand in Australia and elsewhere, and form an increasingly important sector at both Sanctuary Cove and Sydney. Along with European and Asian-built boats, they have become mainstay exhibitors.
Taking Multihull Solutions as one example, it already plays a prominent role at Sanctuary Cove, Sydney and other regional boat shows. Headquartered in Australia on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, it has sales offices in Singapore and Phuket, and one of the multihull brands it represents, ILIAD, is built in Asia. CEO Mark Elkington goes back a long way with the prominent French brand Fountaine Pajot, discussing new developments in detail with them, including feedback from owners, for both sail and power craft.
Following Sanctuary Cove, Multihull Solutions expected to finalise orders on two Fountaine Pajot Isla 40s and Elba 45s, an Astréa 42 and Aura 51, these all sailing catamarans, and another two Fountaine Pajot motor yachts. In addition, they sold two Neel 43 trimarans and a Neel 51 built in the French sailing capital La Rochelle. Yacht Sales Manager Greg Bolger said these results were “extremely satisfying” considering poor weather on the weekend.
Mark Elkington at left on the ILIAD 50; Fountaine Pajot had record sales
“Despite consistent rain on the last two days, we had a constant stream of visitors”, he said. “There are no indications that this extraordinary demand for our sail and power multihulls will wane any time soon”.
Further contracts for a new ILIAD 50 and an ILIAD 62 were signed at the show, and there was intense interest in upcoming models, such as the ILIAD 53S and the ILIAD 74.
“The first ILIAD 53S will have its global launch at the 2023 Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show”, said Elkington. “The success at SCIBS this year reaffirms the company’s goal of creating long-range, luxurious, spacious and customisable catamarans that meet the need of buyers wanting a quality boat, built specifically with each client’s input”.