There is one thing common to all of the world's playgrounds of the rich and famous. From Monaco and Cannes on the Côte d'Azur, to Italy's Lake Como and South Beach in Miami; you will find clear, blue water.
While the UAE, and most of the GCC for that matter, is draped in a thick shroud of dust and sand, one thing we have an abundance of is sparkling coastline. The Arabian Gulf, shimmering like a sapphire blanket, is integral to the UAE. The region's boating heritage dates back centuries and, long before the petrochemical bounty created a super economy, it was old pearling boats and dhows that dominated the shoreline where glistening modern towers and 7-star resorts now stand. The lingering remnants of this deeply ingrained great seafaring heritage can be translated into the modern age through the popularity and success of the Dubai International Boat Show (DIBS).
Now in its 21st year, DIBS has forged a reputation as the region's annual flagship leisure marine event. Continuing its stellar growth, the event's organisers, Dubai World Trade Centre, claim that the 2013 iteration next month will be, in the greatest traditions of the UAE, bigger and better in just about every respect.
Last year, a record number of Superyacht Builders Association (SYBAss) members signed up to be a part of the show's 20th anniversary celebrations. This year's show is likely to continue in the same vein, with no fewer than 30 new exhibitors across all sectors - from as far afield as Malta, Armenia, Tunisia and Malaysia - signing up to join the party. In fact, DWTC has confirmed that, to date, 19 of the world's most luxurious superyachts will be showcased, representing an impressive 40 per cent increase from last year, with 11 SYBAss members already taking up their berths in the show's Superyacht Pavilion. That figure is still expected to grow in the last few weeks leading up to the event.
Among the prized names that will be setting sail for Dubai include Benetti, Lürssen, Palmer Johnson, Sanlorenzo and Sunseeker, while local players, such as Gulf Craft, will be unveiling its latest UAE-built superyachts. This is essentially a roll call of boat-building royalty, famed for creating the floating palaces that adorn the asset list of the elite one per cent. As such, each will be afforded a place of prominence on the SYBAss pavilions right at the heart of the Marina Display Area.
For these, the best known and most respected names in superyacht circles, the event is synonymous with success. "It comes as no surprise to us that the Dubai International Boat Show is attracting so many world class superyacht builders," said Michael Breman, Sales Director of Lürssen Yachts.
"For Lürssen, the event has always been an excellent opportunity to showcase our most innovative and sophisticated yachts and introduce the brand to an equally sophisticated audience. This is not only the most important marine industry event in the Middle East, it has become a must-attend event for global players."
Among the highlights of the show will be the Sanlorenzo Alloy 40, which will be moored up by the regional marine brokerage firm, BehneMar Middle East. Executive Director, Hisham Abu Shakra, agrees with Bremen, noting that the reason DIBS is attracting so many of the world's largest and most luxurious superyachts this year, is a testament to the growing market and the increasing demand for boats and yachts in the region.
A number of key factors has been the catalyst for the success of the show, not least the range and reach of its high-calibre international exhibitors, but also in-part to the high-spending visitors. As such, it seems that the global economic crisis was a passing storm for the region's marine market, judging by the fact that DIBS's exhibitors are expected to make deals to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars over the course of the week-long show.
"With encouraging signs of recovery across the luxury industry in the past year we are very positive about the potential the boat show presents this year," says Erwin Bamps, COO of Gulf Craft. "DIBS continues to be one of the most important showcases, especially in the luxury superyacht category, within one of the most significant global markets for larger-scaled yachts."
According to Bamps' Qatar-based colleague, Denis Bochkarev, what's driving the interest in expensive superyachts is the customers' growing understanding that buying a yacht is not like investing in art or cars, but into a quality of life. Speaking at the recent Monaco Yacht Show, he noted: "You will never make your money back by selling a boat on, but it is an investment in a lifestyle. The region's rapid construction and a growth in seaside lifestyle destinations, especially in fairly young markets such as Qatar, with its Pearl and Lusail City developments, is helping people look more seriously at such an investment."
In total, there will be 750 companies and brands from the leisure marine sector looking to tap into that growing interest and trying to woo the 26,000 visitors to part with their dirhams for a life on the ocean wave. Being singled out for special treatment from the boat builders, sea toy makers and diving gear salesmen will be the 5,000 or so VIPs and high rollers, for whom, the price of a 135 foot superyacht is a mere (pardon the pun) a drop in the ocean of their wealth.
In fact, DIBS's organisers recognise that bringing together buyers, builders and distributors from around the world, to display their wares to some of the riches individuals in the world is such a successful formula that, in recent years, the show has extended its remit to other, related, peripheries of the marine lifestyle arena.
For instance, this year will see the return of the Supercar Promenade, which will showcase some of the finest and highest-valued cars available in the Emirates. Highlights will include cars from great British marques such as Bentley, McLaren and Rolls Royce, whose finest creations will be parked up alongside Brabus-tuned AMG Mercedes-Benzes, Porsche's latest models and the pricier end of the product spectrum of Japanese automotive giants, Nissan.
There will also be exhibits from jewellery companies and watch manufacturers - such as show sponsor Oficine Panerai - high-end furniture manufacturers and other industries that help the Dubai International Boat Show transcend the average trade show and become a complete lifestyle event.
Even the leading private jet manufacturer, Bombardier, will have a stand, as the company renews its sponsorship for the second time. This means that DIBS is definitely looking to establish its 21st instalment as the region's most impressive event on land, sea and in the air. There is little doubt that the event will achieve its aim, and even with such compelling distractions, the visitors will always head straight for the big marina exhibits. Should you decide to take the plunge and attend the show, here are three you have to see:
Palmer Johnson is an American boat builder that pioneered the use of aluminium in superyacht construction and is now doing the same with carbon-fibre composites. By using the super-tough material it allows the designers to have far more freedom when creating the next generation of sporty and muscular superyachts, design models of which are sure to be on display at the company's stand.
At the Monaco Yacht Show in September last year, this technique was being highlighted on the sweeping aft design of Palmer Johnson's first carbon composite project, the 48-metre J48 SuperSport, which was designed, according to the company, with not a single flat surface.
With its innovative "wavepiercer displacement hull," the PJ48 is three times more stable than a monohull yacht, with a wave-piercing bow that reduces pitch, roll and slamming as the boat cuts through waves instead of riding over the top of them. It can hit speeds of more than 30 knots, which it can do while consuming 50 per cent less fuel than comparable craft.
The end result result is a stunningly lithe and agile-looking superyacht that is not only tough, but is very fast and looks like it belongs in the next James Bond flick.
From sleek concepts to stylish reality, Sanlorenzo will be exhibiting its $25 million (Dh91m) masterpiece, the SL 40 Alloy, courtesy of brokers, BehneMar Middle East. This aluminium superyacht from the Italian builder is the equivalent of a seagoing supercar as the sleek 131-foot craft has folding gullwing doors that evoke images of the Mercedes SLS, as well as four folding platforms that create exclusive lateral terraces on the main deck, living area and owner's cabin.
The super luxurious craft is Sanlorenzo's largest yacht to date, as well as the company's first aluminium effort. This means that, despite its size, it can still hit speeds of up to 28 knots. A unique upper steering position does away with the conventional open flybridge to create a large outdoor sky lounge.
If the exterior is that of a supercar, then the interior draws comparisons with a Maybach. With typical Italian verve, the interior design gives this floating palace the feel of a Manhattan penthouse, with its minimalist layout and rich wood, lacquer and leather finishings. The capacious owner's cabin enjoys all mod-cons from a Turkish bath to a hydro-massager.
Gulf Craft will be flying the flag as the region's most influential boat builder when it unveils its latest Majesty 135 which, at 41m, is the largest boat in the company's line up and continues on from last year's success at DIBS, when its sister boat was well-received by the global superyacht fraternity on its debut.
The latest vessel to leave the local company's shipyard sports an imposing white superstructure and hull, accented by sleek stainless steel lines. For visitors to this year's DIBS, it is must-see boat, with its bespoke interior, featuring a main theme of Anigre wood, decorated with Crema Marfil and Corinthian Beige marble and accented with sumptuous White Onyx. Built to order for a GCC client, one of the many highlights of the three-deck boat is the elegant and luxuriously appointed owner's Stateroom and marble-clad bathroom. Situated on the the upper-deck, it is discreetly positioned away from the other guests and offers a stunning grand ocean view.
The superyacht also features five more guest Staterooms, including a single VIP Stateroom - all with ensuite bathrooms in a scheme of Crema Marfil marble and Yellow Onyx. A formal indoor dining room seats up to 12 guests, while a stylish cockpit area and extensive covered exterior dining area offer ample space for entertainment, up to the luxurious fly-bridge, which is equipped with a Jacuzzi, a teppanyaki grill and fully equipped bar.
Drop In The Ocean: the price of a super yacht
If you are lucky enough to have the financial clout to consider purchasing any of the opulently-appointed floating palaces you will see moored up at DIBS 2013, then the financial implications of buying into such a costly lifestyle asset should be taken into consideration; buying a superyacht is not like buying a supercar.
Firstly, most of the world's top automotive marques' signature models will at least retain their value. Boats do not. The minute it slides out of dry dock, you stand very little chance of recouping any of its original ticket price, no matter how many diamonds you encrust the toilet with.
These boats are built to order. Therefore, unless you are buying second-hand, there are still the fixtures, fittings and interior design costs on top of the initial fees to consider. That can be pretty much an open-ended tab when you are playing at this level.
Roman Abramovich, for instance, likes to have a full missile defence system and torpedo-proofing fitted as standard on his fleet of tugboats.
Then, once it is on the water, there is the considerable cost of mooring, crewing and maintaining the boat. It is not like you can park it up on a trailer on the driveway of your sprawling mansion on the Palm Jumeirah.
It is difficult to quantify these everyday costs into a "one size fits all" price-bracket, because every boat is different. According to Craig Barnett, the editor-in-chief of Yacht Emirates Magazine, the general rule of thumb is to "allow around ten per cent of the initial purchase cost for annual fees such as berthing, insurance, service and maintenance".
That said, if you can fork out upwards of US$30m (Dh110m) for construction of a new vessel, or even the still significant cost of a pre-owned one, it is fair to say that your financial position is shipshape enough for the running costs to be a mere drop in the ocean.
Fortunately, there is something to match every budget at DIBS 2013, so, even if buying a superyacht is out of your league, there are still many options to allow you to dip your toe into the waters of boat ownership.