What is a yacht and why do people charter them? To most, this might seem like a question with an answer so obvious that you’ll probably give up reading this article right here.
But it isn’t as simple as that, is it? Some yachts are private; some are yachts of State, and some are used solely for flashing around the Med with a bevy of Brazilian supermodels in tow. Pop, there goes another champagne cork, etcetera.
So, what’s behind all this show business that we call ‘yacht chartering’ in this year of our Lord two thousand and seventeen? You might hazard that it’s a case of ostentation and alpha (fe)male-ism, or a muffled cry for help from underneath a pile of dollar bills. But in truth it all boils down to Experience; and the collection of this intangible currency that we hoard for better or for worse until the day we die.
It’s all about RIANA
With the amateur philosophy out of the way, I want to take the opportunity to introduce you to Romy Hawatt and his rather fabulous sailing yacht RIANA. We first boarded this yacht at the MYBA Pop Up Show in Montenegro and spent almost an hour touring her spacious decks and newly-refitted interior. On any given day, this could have been an average tour at another yacht show, punctuated with the same nuances and phrases that every charter broker or press executive stores up for show season. The ‘ooh I like the carpet’-s, or the ‘how many does she sleep’-s easily answered by your crew-member tour-guide, as you briskly circle the interior and make your way back down the gangway with a wave. Slip on your shoes, and do it all again at the boat next door…
Our tour of RIANA was different. Sure, the quality of her interior finish is notable, and the clever layout of her guest cabins ensure that each guest enjoys the same creature comforts during their stay (everybody is a VIP!). But this is a boat which is built to enhance time with family and friends, and to carve new experiences afloat which will be cherished forever.
Like boat, like owner
Romy’s own background is humble. Growing up in the Australian outback as a child the ocean was about as far away as you could imagine, and the epic scenery of Boka Bay and Montenegro would have been a distant dream inspired by stories and folklore. Indeed, he tells us that during his childhood, the community he came from was made up of a mere 300 people, spread over an area of around 1000 square-kilometres. His origins and personality permeate the soul and structure of RIANA; a boat he discovered languishing on the marina in Porto Montenegro and brought back to her former glory following a €2.5m refit. The interior he describes as ‘contemporary classic with a hint of the Middle East’; more origins here; a distant bloodline reflected in the sumptuous soft-furnishings complete with Eastern patterns and tassels (this connection to the Middle East has also given Montenegro its first and finest Lebanese Restaurant, Byblos).
“I never intended to charter her,’ Romy explains, as we sit in the main salon admiring his collection of instruments. I’d just finished playing a murderous version of King Louis’ I WannaBe Like You to him on his limited-edition ShimbakuroUkulele, and it was time to talk business. “It just happened, I instantly fell in love with the yacht and once I realised how much other people also loved her, I was convinced she would be desirable to charter. She’s all about symmetry, and our refit was focussed around making her as environmentally friendly, yet as practical as possible.”
He points out that the yacht hull is epoxy coated mahogany, all of the lights on board are LED and that she has had features like a new fresh air system installed that circulates fresh air throughout. I can’t help but nod in agreement as I try to quickly estimate the distances between the lights and the centre-line.
“There’s no other boat like her, she has no sister ship and was totally custom designed by a renowned Italian marine architect and built to RINA specifications under the supervision of a German project management team. Prior to owning RIANA I had a number corporate motor yacht associations which were used for cruising around the Western Mediterranean, but this wasn’t what I wanted or aspired to out of yachting at all. In truth, I really can’t stand the South of France and the Monaco scene; so crowded, so overrated and so passé in many ways. I’m not one to show off if I can help it so I don’t feel at home there amongst the pretence and delusion of what many that frequent and live there define as success and what that supposedly looks like.”
This superyacht owner is also a hobby-farmer, cultivating a plot of land back in Australia that bears a plethora of produce including Macadamia nuts, lemons, oranges, pecans and avocados – which we both agree are the key to a woman’s heart!
“I want my boat, and my lifestyle, to be as natural as possible – and this is partly why I was attracted to Montenegro. There are few places in the world can you find such a breath-taking and still undeveloped environment. Here we have the only fjord in the Mediterranean and some of the most picturesque and sheltered sailing conditions in the world. I’ve decided to invest both time and money here because I truly believe that Montenegro is a world-class destination for everybody, not just superyacht owners and charterers.”
The RIANA team, with Romy at the helm, are bringing to market a brand-new type of charter that will take the form of a gastronomic tour around Sicily, and is to include amongst its delights a Southern Italian picnic on the slopes of an active volcano. This is the first in a series of ‘Experience Charters’ planned for the yacht, in the hope that ‘experienced’ charter clientele will be drawn in by the opportunity to enjoy a truly unique getaway which is meticulously planned and delivered as a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience. To me this plan seems far advanced in its goal to differentiate itself from the market; where wealthy clients are constantly searching for the next best thing having enjoyed much of the best the world has to offer already. It’s a proven concept; take the success of Jan Vekerk’s business with LEGEND and SHERAKHAN for example, where clients enjoy expeditions to the high latitudes and the yacht is equipped with snowmobiles and submarines for unbelievable adventures you’d never get on a St Tropez weekend!
The man behind the yacht
“Everything I’ve ever done in business I’ve worked hard to differentiate from the rest, to make it unique,” says Romy, as our interview comes to a close with a sense of pathos, “after all, the things we collect in life are a burden, unless they are part of making positive and memorable experiences of course”.
“So, would you say you’re a materialist then?” I hazard, the one question everyone wants to ask a multi-millionaire.
“I actually don’t care about or self-identify with material things; the material benefits and niceties that flow are just a bi-product of getting certain things right. In the end, these rewards and gains are typically only the result of the consistent and persistent hard work we put in.”
Whichever way life is supposed to be done, in my case, if it ends up with me on the flybridge of RIANA watching fireballs spit from the mouth of Stromboli, I’ll know I’ve hit the nail on the head.