Be it sailing them, relaxing on them or selling them, Richard Callender has been on, in and around yachts his entire life. A keen sailor who who studied Maritime Business at Solent University and later completed numerous off-shore sailing races around the British Isles, it’s safe to say the Northrop & Johnson sales broker is perfectly placed to represent both buyers and sellers in this fast-moving, luxury market from his base in the yachting capital of Antibes.
Here Richard talks to OnboardOnline about his early life spent sailing yachts around the picturesque Chichester Harbour in the UK, today’s most notable trends in yacht sales, and his dream charter destinations.
Growing up in Chichester in the south of England, what were some of your early experiences out on the water?
My parents bought a Wanderer dinghy when I was four years old, so in living memory I have always been around boats of varying sizes! Chichester harbour is the perfect playground for kids interested in sailing.
How did you get involved in the race circuit and what did you love most about competitive sailing?
There are lots of sailing clubs in Chichester harbour who all organise race weeks during school holidays. The most competitive week was always ‘Fed Week’ at Hayling Island Sailing Club. Then later on, from Hamble, I got to know the X-Yachts crowd which was really fantastic racing on The Solent.
Did you always envisage a career in the yachting industry and what made you choose brokerage specifically?
I always wanted to work with yachts, and brokerage became a natural progression as I navigated myself through the superyacht industry, developing a large network of colleagues in many different sectors.
Which qualities make for an effective sales broker, and what’s the secret to success?
I’m not retired yet, so still working that one out! I would say that one has to be adaptable and understand that every deal has many moving parts that need managing, which isn’t always easy. In my experience, complete transparency is paramount between all parties involved in the transaction.
You’ve been a sales broker at N&J in the south of France for over three years now - how would you describe the company culture and what do they do really well?
I must say I do love working with my American colleagues and their ‘can-do’ culture which is infectious. There is a collective ambition to grow and succeed and that has certainly been realised. It’s great to be a part of the huge expansion and success we are enjoying here in Europe.
If I were in the market to buy or build a yacht, what might persuade me to work with you?
I believe the whole process should be fundamentally enjoyable! Ultimately I choose to work with the best people in the business that are experts in their field and that I have long term relationships with, whether it be designers, lawyers, surveyors, captains. This ensures my clients are well informed from all sides of the puzzle that needs to be carefully pieced together.
What are some of the most notable trends in sales and purchase right now?
The 50 metre plus market is remaining strong with more yachts coming to market and plenty of buyers. However I see the number of transactions in the 30 metre range slowing.
Are you seeing growing scrutiny of a yacht’s environmental impact among potential buyers and if so, what are the main concerns that arise?
Honestly, not so much in the USA, but here in Europe it is a growing topic of conversation and right that it is being addressed, particularly during the new construction development phase. I believe yacht owners can set an example and drive positive change and innovation with the shipyards.
For the current fleet, what seems more likely – a rush for green retrofits or a mountain of stranded assets?
The refit sector is certainly an area that can encourage a greener approach. If the average life cycle of yacht ownership is five years, and many new owners re-furbish or refit their yacht when they take ownership, then that’s a lot of opportunities to review operations onboard and change materials, lighting, cleaning products, water filtration systems etc. Why not?
As a keen sailor, are you surprised that at the larger end of the scale, sailing yachts still represent a fraction of the global fleet?
Not really, no. Whilst I believe that would be the ultimate experience in yacht ownership, sailing is a fairly foreign pastime for most people, and particularly if they discover it later in life once the owner has generated their wealth. The regatta circuit is even more extreme and a full-on logistical effort, not only maintaining the yacht and full time crew, but also flying in race crew, accommodation etc. Plus of course there can be huge unexpected costs if things break or need replacing, as the yachts are pushed to their limits.
Increasingly brokerages describe themselves as tech companies – how important is data in order to remain competitive nowadays?
We have an exceptionally clever intelligence system that is continuously updated. It is essential to be able to refer to reliable, factual data.
What changes do you foresee in terms of market demand over the next 10 years?
Growth in number of younger clientele, shift in destinations, more marina developments and yachts with longer range capabilities. The order books in Italy are so full, maybe the emergence of some new shipyards? Turkish yacht building is on a continuous growth curve.
What’s your favourite yacht and what do you love about it?
If I were a superyacht owner I would want to travel around the world and discover parts of the globe that are natural, secluded, remote and teaming with wildlife. Being a patriotic man, too, I would choose the 55m Pendennis motoryacht STEEL. She would tick all the boxes for me!
If you could charter any yacht in the world for two weeks, where would you go and what would you do?
I would charter a J-Class sailing yacht and enter into the St Barths Bucket!
Who has most influenced or inspired you in your career so far?
It’s hard to pinpoint one, but the two chaps who really acted as a springboard for me into the superyacht industry were Merijn de Waard (SuperYachtTimes) and Maarten Janssen (Feadship).
What’s a lesser known fact about yourself that would surprise your colleagues?
I am restoring a 75-year-old mahogany canoe, with a view to undertaking an expedition for charity in the near future. A labour of love!