Home Chennai Cover Story Going overboard

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    Despite government apathy and lack of infrastructure, the yachting sector has loads of potential say people in the business. 

    Word has it that about nine marinas will be built in the next three to five years across Mumbai, Goa, Gujarat, Chennai and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. Last month, cruise enthusiasts got a taste of bespoke luxury on the high seas, courtesy Norwegian Sea Dream Yacht Club which arrived in Mumbai as part of its Passage of the Far East voyage.

    Good news for our yachting sector which just had a 48 per cent duty slapped on luxury boat imports by the central government and the 2013 edition of the Mumbai International Boat Show (MIBS) subsequently cancelled.

    “We have 7,500 kms of coastline, 24,000 km of inland waterways, almost perfect sailing weather most of the year. And given the fact that there are 3,000 yachts circumventing the world at any given point, it is sad that we have just one solitary marina — in Bolgatty Island in Kochi, while neighbouring Thailand, Dubai, Singapore and even China are currently cashing in on the global yachting segment. Anywhere in the world, an elegant waterfront and a yacht marina enhances the charm of a port city and a whole industry springs up around it,” reasons Ashok Thakkar, Commodore of Tamil Nadu Sailing Association (TNSA) who owns three Swedish-made, 26-foot keel boats in Chennai. His son Varun is a keen sailor and poised to represent India in the 2016 Olympics.

    We take a closer look.

    AYE AYE CAPTAIN

    seadreamnew1With just 112 guests and a crew of 95, the SeaDream Yacht Club (SDYC), a fleet of two luxury yachts, owned by Norwegian entrepreneur, Atle Brynestad, defines bespoke cruising. Equipped with 56 teak wood cabins and elegant brass details, SDYC will stop in Mumbai, Goa and Kochi before departing to Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, New Guinea, Hong Kong and North Australia.

    Sudesh Kishore, president and executive chef of SDYC, says what sets the SeaDream experience apart is “the way the bartender knows your name and your favourite tipple, how the waiter surprises you with your favourite dessert and the crew sets up the legendary Champagne and Caviar Splash beach party on occasion, with uniformed waiters wading into the surf to serve you.”

    Your skipper will take you to hidden caves, calm lagoons, the perfect spot to cliff dive and many more places. When the sun sets, the party begins.– Sahil Wahid

    He goes on to say that SDYC cabins do not have balconies “because we want you to enjoy the decks and services on board” and that their menus “are crafted with raw foods and vegan specials besides caviar, foie gras, lobster and anything else you might fancy.”

    Even the entertainment on board is carefully selected. You can practise your swings on a golf simulator, work out in the gym, relax at the spa or lounge on over-sized sun beds on deck. The crew will also provide you with fine linen and pillows, if you chose to sleep under the stars. “Our passengers prefer good food, wine and the company of like-minded others, over a typical cruise with ‘formal nights’ and ‘cabaret shows’.

    Our lounge has over 1,000 books, a piano bar which becomes a lively karaoke spot, if the mood is light, and a small casino. Good quality table wines and a full range of alcohol is included in the price and we have hosted milestone celebrations with Gloria Gaynor flying in just to sing her famous song, I Will Survive. Our staff do not accept gratuities, although once, an Irish gentlemen celebrating his seventieth birthday, transferred 95,000 USD as a ‘thank you’ to the 95 crew members on board,” shares Kishore. Approximately, Rs 5,00,000 per week, per couple. Details: seadream.com

    Your skipper will take you to hidden caves, calm lagoons, the perfect spot to cliff dive and many more places. When the sun sets, the party begins. – Sahil Wahid

    All AT SEA

    sujay6Dr MALAV Shroff and Sujay Chohan come from backgrounds that are hugely diverse. They found a shared passion in all things marine related, forming a company called Ocean Blue. They offer full services to clients, from buying and servicing yachts to crewing, managing F&B and laundry, plus hosting entertainment for owners.

    Chohan headed IT company, Gartner, in India and “was bitten by the boat bug while travelling extensively in Australia and Europe during the IT boom years from 2000 to 2006.” He goes on to tell us, “as an adventure and outdoor enthusiast, I rued the fact that despite living on an island like Mumbai, boating was barely an activity. Teaming up with a friend, we formed Ocean Blue and our first initiative was to educate and inform potential enthusiasts. We launched the Mumbai International Boat Show in February 2007 and the rest is history.”

    Chohan goes on to add that the show was a tremendous success, especially with the young aspirational Indian who was looking for a leisure lifestyle he could enjoy with family and friends. “In 2006, there were hardly 30 boats in Mumbai. Today, there are over 400 and counting,” he shares. Despite encouraging signs, Chohan deplores the government indifference and lack of facilities. “Even though it has been seven years since the first boat show, we have only one marina in Kochi. Mumbai desperately needs one, yet administrators ignore the tremendous employment and business potential the boating industry, pegged at 100 billion USD worldwide, can generate for India. sujay9Our antiquated laws and policies also need to change. Currently, the government applies the Merchant Shipping Act to register boats and yachts — like putting trucks, tankers, scooters and cars in the same category. Worldwide, boating has a separate policy as it is for personal use and stringent merchant shipping laws do not apply,” he explains.

    They have entered a joint venture with Mahindra for boat manufacturing under the name Mahindra Odyssea, a brand which Chohan says has become the most sought after speed boat in the country. “We make everything from a small entry level 5.1 metre speed boat to a 15 metre high-speed patrol boat,” says Shroff, an Olympic sailor, Rhodes scholar and medical doctor. They also represent the Italian Azimut – Benetti Group – the largest independent mega yacht builders (prices start at Rs 4 crore), French Lagoon – the largest builder of catamarans (prices start at Rs 2 crore) and American Sea Doo – the largest personal watercraft manufacturers (prices start from Rs 9 lakh). Details: oceanblue.in

    CHART YOUR OWN

    Bangalore-based country manager (India) of The Yacht Week, Sahil Wahid debunks the theory that yacht holidays are meant solely for millionaires. Wahid has recently introduced The Yacht Week (TYW) concept to young travellers looking for some sun, sand and adventure. So you could sail around the Mediterranean, enjoy the Croatian islands, chill out by day, party by night and dock wherever and whenever you want, all from the luxury of your own private 55-foot yacht.

    “All you need to do is find six to 12 friends to fill a yacht and pick a week in summer that you want to get away. We will take care of the rest. And if you are not a keen sailor, no problem. For a small fee, we will provide you with a skipper to ensure that your sailing trip goes smoothly,” he clarifies.

    The TYW concept is simple. Food is usually eaten on the yacht and is quite affordable since you can stock up from supermarkets and people like to enjoy the night life onshore at least a couple of times a week. “Your skipper will take you to hidden caves, calm lagoons, the perfect spot to cliff dive and many more places. When the sun sets, the party begins. Each night, your private yacht will dock at a port along with the other Yacht Week members (around 50 yachts with people from all over the world) and you will have time to explore the local bars and restaurants and sample the food and local drinks. TYW also hosts exclusive parties for members on exotic locations like private islands, hidden castles and other local hotspots. And they also ensure a balanced gender ratio. Yacht hire per week start at around €5,000 which is divided among the group. Plus, a fee of €100 per person for yacht docking and private party access”. Details: theyachtweek.com

    SAIL AWAY

    ajitAjit Kelachandra has diverse interests in real estate, plantations and manufacturing. He believes that a passion for boats and yachts was rooted in his DNA, possibly from the time his great grandfather Joseph Kelachandra owned a major stake in a Public Limited company in central Travancore, which was into Boat Transport Service.

    Kelachandra owns a 36-footer Bayliner along with a couple of speed boats. “I love to travel and my interest in boats and yachts began on my various trips to Europe, UK, Middle East and South East Asia. The family has been highly supportive and that’s why we decided to pick up the bayliner, which is sized perfectly for the backwaters, although we have actually owned boats for generations,” he says.

    Kelachandra contacted dealers Navnit Marine in Mumbai who imported it for him and take care of the maintenance. “In Cochin the boating scene has always been a challenge because of the fishing boats plying all over, but definitely yachts and speed boats are picking up nicely,” he concludes.

    SPOTLIGHT SOUTH

    varun3Avid sailor and businessman Bharat Kewalramani says, ‘‘I have been sailing since the age of three and further developed my love for the sport while studying at Cornell University in New York State. Although we are a nation with a young demographic, people seem to prefer to invest in Vertu phones and luxury cars instead of boats,” he says.

    Kewalramani owns a 35 ft sail boat which he uses at least three times a week when not at his packaging plant in Mumbai and anchors it at The Yacht Club in the city. However Aashim Mongia, Managing Director of West Coast Marine Yacht Service,believes that “the yacht is the new big car market,” and fields inquiries from aspiring buyers, many from Tamil Nadu and Kerala with budgets ranging from five lakh rupees to five crores. “Many people can afford luxury cars but yachts are truly aspirational.

    Sailing on weekends with family and friends or potential business associates promotes greater bonding, fun and intimacy,” he tells us. Gautam Dutta of Marine Solutions, exclusive dealers for Ferretti yachts, believes that the Southern market is indeed burgeoning nicely. ‘‘We have a marina in Goa besides the one in Kochi. People are getting their feet wet with entry level boats that cost just Rs 7-Rs 8 lakh, moving into Indian made boats for just Rs 11- Rs 12 lakhs and imported power boats for Rs 23- Rs 24 lakh, depending on whether you want to go fishing or cruising.We have clients like Reji Abraham of Aban Offshore Ltd and Gurunath Meiyappan who enjoy their own luxury yachts in Chennai.’’

    Jackie Pinto (jackie@newindianexpress.com)

     

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