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Four-hundred and thirty boats will be on display this year at the Dubai International Boat Show, which is expected to draw 26,000 visitors. Pawan Singh / The National
Four-hundred and thirty boats will be on display this year at the Dubai International Boat Show, which is expected to draw 26,000 visitors. Pawan Singh / The National

Nothing but the biggest at Dubai boat show

Yacht makers at the Dubai International Boat Show left the tiddlers at home in favour of their larger craft as they sought to entice the super-rich into parting with their cash.

Yacht makers at the Dubai International Boat Show left the tiddlers at home in favour of their larger craft as they sought to entice the super rich into parting with their cash.

The yacht broker BehneMar specialises in extra long yachts, according to its chairman Rainer Behne. "Let us say we concentrate on everything that is north of the 3 million (Dh14.37m) range," he said. "It's been very worthwhile for us. The market underneath that is very competitive."

BehneMar brought two yachts to the show, including the largest at the event - a 50-metre superyacht priced at 22m.

A total of 780 companies and brands are present at the five-day show.

Representing the UAE there were 64 companies and 15 boat builders. The number of boats included in the show rose 10 per cent from a year ago to 430.

The organisers expect 26,000 visitors in total.

Gulf Craft, the UAE's only maker of superyachts, announced it has started its biggest project to date, building a 155ft superyacht slated for completion in 2015. This is 20ft longer than its current longest model.

The company's chairman hinted - but refused to confirm - that the buyer is an Arab and the boat is "likely" to stay in Arabian Gulf waters.

While the super-rich may be still be buying, the days of people acquiring a yacht merely to lounge on for three hours at the weekend and go for a swim are over, according to KaiserWerft's chief executive Maurizio Magri. Buyers now take a detailed interest in the boats that they commission. "They care a lot," he said." They are very involved."

KaiserWerft recently opened up a servicing facility in Dubai offering refits and repairs.

"The GCC is one of the main places we see opportunities," Mr Magri said. "If we don't invest now, then when?"

Boat builders are clearly hoping that optimism in the Gulf region is not misplaced, as they struggle to sell yachts in Europe.

Boat enthusiasts in Scandinavia, France, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom are no longer buying, said Nigel Craine of Garmin, a company that makes GPS systems for boats. He reckons the market in Europe has shrunk about 50 per cent overall in the past few years.

The show has been used for 11 world and 19 regional launches. Tan66 unveiled a "high-performance, easy-to-use" catamaran that is scheduled to be on the market in 18 months.

"These are the future of cruising and sailing," said the company's managing director Xavier Bouin. "You can sail right up to the beach - they are suitable for the shallow waters of the Gulf."

For those who fancy the convenience of sailing not just up to the beach, but on to the beach and home, Iguana Yachts introduced its recreational amphibious craft for the first time in the region.

A system of tracks under the hull means the boat can take on all manner of terrain. Moreover, owners don't have to worry about berths.

"You can get to the sea from your garden," a spokeswoman at the stand said.

Perhaps the most curious vessel on display was a refitted minesweeper. Made in the 1950s - and probably the oldest boat at the show - it belonged first to Britain's Royal Navy before being acquired by a navy in Africa.

It was then owned by Disney and starred in movies, before being bought by its current owner - an elusive European businessman who was not at the show and who did not let his employee talk too much to The National.

But is it for sale?

"My boss is a businessman," the spokesman said. "If he was offered a good price, I am sure he would sell."


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