Yunzhu Jin: Buying superyachts for Asia-Pacific passages
Yunzhu Jin, Asia Director for Amels and Damen Yachting, explains what makes the brands’ superyachts so suitable for travelling the region.
Yunzhu Jin is Asia Director for Amels and Damen Yachting
Amels and Damen Yachting now have the largest number of superyachts cruising Indian Ocean, Asia and Pacific waters. The upsurge is due to many factors.
First and foremost, the range is unique. Amels offers Full Custom superyachts and ultra-popular Limited Editions. The yard, established in 1918, became a member of Damen Shipyards Group in 1991. Damen Yachting Company was then formed in 2019 to handle Amels, as well as Damen Yacht Support vessels, Damen SeaXplorers and Yacht Refits.
Private yacht engineering and outfitting is focused at Vlissingen in the Netherlands, near the Belgian border, and is backed by the enormous Damen Shipyards Group, which has 35 shipyards worldwide including in China, Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia and Australia, delivering nearly 200 commercial and naval vessels a year.
The Group’s sheer experience, quality standards and financial strength are thus very reassuring for buyers. They are hallmarks also of Damen Yachting, whose state-of-the-art innovations are developed with some of the world’s leading designers, including Tim Heywood, who has been closely associated with Limited Editions since the early 2000s, and the equally-renowned Espen Øino.
The 58m Amels Limited Editions Volpini 2
Limited Editions allows buyers to drastically reduce build times by choosing from pre-built and pre-engineered proven hull platforms, and then customising the fitouts of their yachts.
As Asia Director for Amels and Damen Yachting, I find that many Asian clients today just want to “get away from it all”. Their usual access to luxury hotels and resorts has been restricted by the pandemic,
so why not re-create their own floating resort to entertain family, friends and business associates?
Superyachts can be used as a floating office too. During meetings to complete contracts and select personal preferences, clients can see I have been with Damen Shipyards Group for many years and have long-term loyalty to the Group. I’m not likely to be here one day and gone somewhere else tomorrow.
Satisfying the curiosity of children during a recent cruise
I didn’t originally have a shipbuilding background, though. I was born in Changzhou, in the Yangtze Delta between Shanghai and Nanjing, and my first job was as a host and journalist for Changzhou City Radio Station. I covered the Athens Olympics for a Changzhou paper in 2004, became involved with the China National Youth Writers Association, and did some TV marketing, modelling and advertising.
Then I had the chance to study at the HZ University of Applied Sciences in Vlissingen, which is better known in English as Flushing. Flushing Meadows in New York, where the US Open Tennis takes place, is incidentally named after this Dutch port, stretching back to when Manhattan Island was known as New Amsterdam. It’s a long story.
My degree was a Masters in Business Administration. As part of that process, I did an internship at Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding in 2005. I passed with distinction, using the Damen experience for
my dissertation, and the Group offered me a role at their head office in Gorinchem, South Holland, where many Dutch East Indiamen sailing ships used to berth after passages from Indonesia in centuries past.
My focus was on sales support for the Asia-Pacific region. Damen sent me to their yard at Changde, on the Yuan River in Hunan, Central China, for training in 2006, and for the next nine years I was their Gorinchem-based Greater China Manager, and the first Asian in the Group’s HQ staff.
Yunzhu accompanies Annelies Damen (far left) to help select art works for an Amels owner in Hong Kong
For the last six years I have been Asia Director for Amels and Damen Yachting. This has kept me very busy, and it involves a lot of travelling in Asia. At the same time, our vessels have become a more formidable fleet in Asia-Pacific, as shown in the annual feature Top 100 Superyachts of Asia-Pacific in Yacht Style.
This regional impetus began back in the early 2000s, when two Australian businessmen bought large custom Amels yachts, Ilona and Boadicea, and around the same time the Limited Editions concept was launched at a press conference in Monaco.
The first vessel in that series, the 52m Deniki, cruised Asia-Pacific extensively last year and was lately in the Balearics for the Med summer season. She still has the same owner and captain, which is something of a testament to both Amels and Limited Editions.
The Indian Ocean, Asia’s exotic seas and straits, and the vast Pacific offer so much more than the relatively tiny and crowded Med and Caribbean, but longer passages are involved, as well as island-hopping. Owners want to feel safe, which is why so many have chosen to customise vessels from the tried-and-tested Amels and Damen Yachting ranges.
Damen Yachting 77m SeaXplorer La Datcha
La Datcha, the 77m Luxury SeaXplorer reviewed in Yacht Style Issue 58, was at 53°N in the Bering Sea when this column was written in mid-2021, visiting Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula. The Limited Editions 55m Papa was in Kaohsiung, 61m Event in Hong Kong, and the 63m Stardust in Phuket.
The 75m Lady E had been on a charter to Lizard Island in Australia’s Coral Sea, 58m Dancing Hare was in Auckland, the 51m Damen Yacht Support Vessel Umbra in Fremantle after a refit for ocean research projects, and 67m Maria and 55 m Driftwood moved on from the South Pacific to San Diego and Mexico. That is only a brief snapshot of our Asia-Pacific story.
Ilona spends most of her time in the Med, and other regionally-owned Amels vessels like the 58m Volpini 2 and 55 m Lili were at Golfe Juan and Cannes respectively, the latter we’re told with some charter timeslots available.
Event, the Hong Kong-based Amels 61m Limited Editions
Chartering is a good way to find out if super yachting is for you. Amels yachts are much in demand. New and potential owners can opt to charter a Limited Editions, like Lili for example, and really experience the size, layout, and sea-keeping ability for themselves before buying. Many of our owners have enjoyed a charter on board an Amels before purchasing.
Chinese and other Asian owners are much more comfortable and assured in what they want out of super yachting now, compared with decades ago when the industry was in its infancy.
These days I work closely with Rose Damen, a shareholder and third generation of the Damen family, to support clients in many Asian countries, and speak Chinese Mandarin, and some other Chinese dialects, as well as English, Dutch and Japanese.
The whole process, from initial drawings to final delivery, can be a beautiful journey even before passages begin, and we aim to make it as smooth as possible.
Yunzhu Jin is Asia Director for Amels and Damen Yachting. Born in Changzhou in the Yangtze Delta, she obtained an MBA in the Netherlands and has worked for Damen Shipyards Group companies for 16 years. Responsible for sales and marketing in Asia-Pacific, she is based in the Netherlands and regularly commutes to Asian countries to develop business.
The Custom Amels 78 has been unveiled for the first time since arriving at the Amels and Damen Yachting facilities in Vlissingen in 2020.