Over three days, around 130 owners, captains, designers and representatives of brokers, suppliers, shipyards and luxury providers from around the AsiaPacific region got together to discuss the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for these ultimate toys of the super-rich.

New Zealand’s superyacht services industry is expecting a huge surge in activity over the next two years, leading up to the 2021 America’s Cup. This Gathering was co-founded by Linda Berry, a former marketing and PR director for superyacht builder Alloy Yachts, and Ellie Brade – ‘to bring together our superyacht community . . . while sharing experiences, strengths and hope for our oceans and the communities that live on, along and under them.’

“It’s not a conference – it’s a gathering,” says Berry, who helped organise two Yacht Vision symposiums in Auckland during the last local tenure of the America’s Cup. “It’s experiential — there’s no lecturing going on.” The event, she says, was designed bring together a community which over the next few years is only going to increase.

“I’ve been involved with America’s Cup and superyachts since I emigrated here in 1998, and I have friends all over the world – it’s a community that never leaves you. Because we don’t have a superyacht building industry here anymore, I don’t want to lose that sense. There are great people doing great things here as far as services to the industry go.”

The event began – as all good gatherings do – with a welcome party, in this case at the Orams Marine drystack at Westhaven, before a day of ‘storytelling’ – presentations by owners, designers, captains and others in the industry, at the New Zealand Maritime Museum.


Among the speakers were Sir Michael Hill, who has recently launched his second superyacht; sailing legend Neville Crichton; round-the-world sailor Bianca Cooke; and designers Sam Sorgiovanni and Gerard Dijkstra. A recurring theme was creating boats which go beyond being luxury floating hotels, having an environmental or altruistic purpose, and providing more meaningful experiences with a lighter environmental footprint.

The third day began with an update on preparations for the 2021 America’s Cup over breakfast at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, before attendees ferried out to Waiheke for a long lunch and more networking time.

Andy Stephens, Vetus Maxwell, and Neville Chrichton, right.

Examples were Captain James Knowles, captain of 74m motoryacht Dragonfly and ‘altruism officer’ for the Fly Fleet, who spoke about fulfilling the owner’s mandate that altruistic uses should be found for the fleet assets when not in guest mode, such as providing cyclone relief in the Pacific; and Patrick Whetter of the humanitarian agency SeaMercy, which runs floating health clinics and the SeaBridge disaster recovery programme.

“Some owners who have the means to make changes that we could never dream of,” says Berry. “The average Joe can’t do stuff like that themselves, so there is so much good that can come out of wealthy people who are wanting to use their resources for social and environmental good, as well as owning a nice yacht.”

While the last decade has seen an ‘arms race’ of larger motor-powered vessels, forward-thinkers like designers Sorgiovanni and Dijkstra are predicting a return to smaller, more efficient craft and wind-assisted propulsion (that’s sails in non-designerspeak).

Gerard Dijkstra.

Tom Dodson, who has recently returned to North Sails to work with the superyacht fleet, says Berry and Brade are to be congratulated for getting together the successful event.


“I have never heard so much enthusiasm from northern hemisphere boat owners to cruise the Pacific as I hear now,” Dodson says. “An obvious catalyst is the 2021 America’s Cup, but also it has been a long time for some owners – too long for many – since they have been through the Panama Canal.

“So the timing of this gathering is perfect, and it is important that it keeps going and grows. It was also good to see interested parties from throughout the Pacific and the industry attend and share ideas.”

His sentiments were echoed by Duthie Lidgard, director of Auckland-based company Superyacht Support and one of the sponsors of the gathering.

“As soon as we heard Linda and Ellie were heading up a new industry event in New Zealand, we knew we had to support it and be onboard. The engagement of owners, designers, captains and industry was on point, and this sharing of knowledge, experiences and challenges is what supports and guides our future in this industry.”

Berry says they don’t actually want the event to get much bigger, to retain a sense of community: “Next year we’re hoping for 150 people but we’re going to try to keep it at that, so that everyone gets a chance to talk to everyone else.”

She says a survey after this year’s event showed a universally positive response, with the majority of attendees saying meeting and mingling with other people in the industry was the highlight. “By the third day everyone knew everyone in the room, which was really special. We had superyacht owners sitting with electronics guys.


“I think when you get people into a room and they feel comfortable about talking, there is a collective thought process that happens, and good things will eventually come out of it.”