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Down With

Superyachts?

CONTENTS


WHAT'S IN A WORD?

A NEW TERMINOLOGY

A USEFUL DESCRIPTION

AN UNWELCOME LABEL

NOT WANTED & NOT NEEDED

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?


WHAT'S IN A WORD?


"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less." "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things." "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master—that's all."

Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass (1871)


While there is no legal definition of what a ‘superyacht’ is, this doesn’t stop some unilaterally deciding what it is:

  • > 24 metres in length overall - Superyacht UK

  • > 24 metres in length with full-time captain and crew – Burgess Yachts

  • ≥ 24 metres in loadline length and commercially operated – Warsash Maritime School

  • > 98 feet (29.87metres) in Length - The New Yorker

  • > 30 metres in length – Superyacht Times

  • > 30.48 metres in length overall – Offshore Racing Congress

  • > 45.72 metres in length with a draught of ≥ 3 metres - Port Authority of New South Wales


Generally, we know what we mean by the term: a pleasure vessel which, for regulatory reasons and on account of its sheer size, needs a permanent, full-time crew. This is the point at which, irrespective of size, the vessel isn’t just an asset but a place of employment and worker accommodation – all rolled into one.


A NEW TERMINOLOGY


Large yachts, with a full-time crew, have been around since the dawn of the 20th century. But the term ‘superyacht’, and the now lesser-used label ‘megayacht’, have only been in widespread use since the mid-1980s.


Looking back at the yachting journals of the 1980s, it’s clear that the terms ‘superyacht’ and ‘megayacht’ were simply applied to distinguish between larger vessels which were owner-operated and smaller ones which were not. It was used by brokers and journalists as hyperbole – long before digital media and online videos allowed size, style and pedigree to speak for themselves. This was an age – let’s not forget – when many owners not only sailed some of the larger yachts themselves but often built or at least fitted them out themselves, too.


Fast forward to 2000, and there were still only a fraction of the number of large yachts is use compared to today. It was an industry still largely unknown to those not involved. Most brokers and many captains knew each other. Except for some opportunist paparazzi, most journalists paid little regard.


A USEFUL DESCRIPTION


To be fair, ‘superyacht’ is a useful term – within the industry itself. When an owner can afford crew, he or she can afford to pay for, say, paint of a higher quality but needing a more exacting application standards. A superyacht insurance policy will take account of the owner’s role as an employer and the vessel’s function as a workplace. But such details can be contained deep within a product’s specification.The term has a kudos all of its own. They are, after all, impressive and effortlessly cool. It makes sense to appropriate the term to distinguish oneself as a services supplier. It adds marketplace swagger – although there has been a tendency, for example, for shipping lawyers with little understanding of the market or business models to label themselves as superyacht lawyers.


AN UNWELCOME LABEL?


Time and again, however, since the early 2010s, environmentalists – and politicians looking to combine green virtue signalling with the politics of envy – have used the term superyacht in a pejorative sense. Rarely, if ever, do they simply refer to yachts:

  • Specifically, we draw attention to assessing aspects of ecological footprints of super yachts [sic], super homes, luxury vehicles, and private jets. Taken together, the construction and use of these items in the United States alone is likely to create a CO2 footprint that exceeds those from entire nations.” Lynch, Long, Stretesky & Barrett: Measuring the Ecological Impact of the Wealthy: Excessive Consumption, Ecological Disorganization, Green Crime, and Justice (2019)

  • Among the many possessions of billionaires, large “superyachts” are by far the largest producers of greenhouse gases.” Barros & Wilk: The outsized carbon footprints of the super-rich (2021)

  • Superyacht sale surge prompt fresh calls for curbs on their emissionsThe Guardian, 4 October 2022

  • Superyachts aim to go green – but at what cost?Financial Times, 1 September 2022

  • THE SUPERYACHT INDUSTRY IS A SINKING SHIP” - Extinction Rebellion protestors’ banner unfurled during The Superyacht Forum, 16 November 2022


NOT WANTED & NOT NEEDED


Informal discussions with Club Members reveal that many just do not like the term superyacht. It has nowadays, for some, the wrong connotations. It’s become a target as well as a description. A lot of owners neither want nor need the perceived kudos which attaches to the term. In short, they have nothing to prove. Their vessels just happen to be larger than most, more or less in proportion to their net worth.


WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?


Perhaps the industry needs to bite the bullet and do away with the term superyacht. Remember when The Superyacht Report was just called The Yacht Report? Maybe it's time to change back. Yes, rebranding is expensive, but such changes may prove far less expensive than not evolving. Brand refreshment is a regular necessity. When the next one’s due, let’s drop the ‘super’ and just call a yacht a yacht.


It’s not about trying to make large yachts somehow less conspicuous. It is about removing the popular and mistaken distinction between yachts and superyachts, and instead viewing one being merely a subset of the other.

Thank you to all our Members who provided perspectives for this white paper.

We’re not suggesting an end to superyachts of course, just the label. Because, increasingly, the term is also being used pejoratively by some, and as a target by others. And that’s just not helpful to us owners. Is it time to rethink and rebrand?

18 November 2022

Last revised

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Reading time

18 November 2022

Last revised

We’re not suggesting an end to superyachts of course, just the label. Because, increasingly, the term is also being used pejoratively by some, and as a target by others. And that’s just not helpful to us owners. Is it time to rethink and rebrand?

The term "superyacht" has many definitions, but none in law. The term gained widespread use in the mid-1980s to distinguish larger, crewed vessels from smaller ones. The word has become associated with luxury and prestige. In recent years, however, environmentalists and politicians have used the term in a negative way, linking it to excessive consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Informal discussions amoung our Members reveals that many of us feel we neither want nor need the perceived kudos associated with the term. Some suggest doing away with the term "superyacht" altogether and simply calling them yachts. Rebranding may be costly, but it could be a worthwhile change for the industry to make.


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