Why a younger generation of buyers is keeping the classic yacht market strong


The classic yacht market may be a niche within the superyacht industry, but brokerage interest remains strong thanks to committed buyers and an up-and-coming new wave of younger purchasers, says Georgia Tindale.

Defined as a yacht delivered before 1975, classic yachts represent just over 10 per cent of the current global fleet, according to the latest statistics from BOAT Pro. Demand for these types of vessels is naturally more limited than the mainstream brokerage market, but industry experts are reporting a new generation of buyers that are interested in owning classic yachts. With statistics showing a buoyant market and standout vessels selling in record time, it appears that the romance of owning a historical vessel still has a broad appeal.

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Feadship motor yacht Istros sold after just 53 days Guillaume_Plisson

Henry Smith, partner at Cecil Wright & Partners, confirms that the market remains strong for classic yachts. “From our side, the market is good. We kicked off 2022 with the sale of the 1954 42.06-metre classic Feadship motor yacht Istros – which had been more or less totally rebuilt over a number of years – and is truly a piece of yachting history. This also set a new company record, as she was only on the market for 53 days from listing to sale.”

The continuing popularity of these yachts is attested to by Northrop & Johnson’s European managing director, Patrick Coote, who comments: “Classic yachts will always be in demand, albeit among a niche audience. Northrop & Johnson is currently offering the 1931-built French 31-metre two-masted schooner Weatherbird for sale, which boasts a storied history of notable guests, including Cole Porter, Coco Chanel, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, as well as Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

“The unique nature of classic yachts, which can never be replaced, will always hold appeal among clients who appreciate history, beauty, heritage and all of the other traditions associated with the classic yacht scene.”

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Previous guests on board classic sailing yacht Weatherbird included Ernest Hemingway

Although the history of these vessels may naturally appeal to an older generation, Camper & Nicholsons sales broker Andy LeBuhn is seeing a spectrum of purchasers.

“Older buyers have typically been interested in classics since they trigger emotions and memories of their past. Whether it’s a 1967 16.7’ Boston whaler, which are in high demand for restoration these days, or the Norwegian royal yacht Norge built by Camper & Nicholsons, we never forget those experiences where we are in sheer awe at the beauty and grandness of an inspiring design.

“That being said, younger buyers are beginning to see and appreciate that the cost of entry can be much lower, even though the annual maintenance is often more than a new vessel of similar size. In addition, the fact that you can turn every head in the harbour on a cool classic vessel of any size, never loses its appeal – especially in a world where the trend is for bigger and bigger boats.”

Similarly, Smith also highlights this interest in classic vessels from the upcoming generation of yacht buyers, commenting: “I don’t think the passion for classic yachts is dying out at all: the buyer who we sold the 1928-built, 36.91-metre Fair Lady to in 2021 is younger than me – and I am only 35!”

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