We are just weeks away from the SINGAPORE RENDEZVOUS and the excitement is heating up. While we can’t share too much information about what’s in store just yet (more reason for you to get those tickets to see it in person), we are able to give you just a few hints that are sure to whet your appetite. For many, the yachting industry in Asia may be one that is daunting and challenging. Thankfully, we have industry insiders such as Kit Chotithamaporn, Asia Regional Manager for Leopard Catamarans, to help us navigate through uncharted territory. As one of the exhibitors at the highly anticipated and inaugural SINGAPORE RENDEZVOUS, he took some time to tell us more about his thoughts in the future of the yachting industry and why the event is one that shouldn’t be missed.
What inspired you to get involved in the yacht industry?
I was born in Phuket, Thailand and my father loved the sea. He was an avid recreational fisherman who can most likely be considered the first recreational boater in Phuket. He had his own boat built and went fishing. At a very early age my father would bring us fishing, boating, and swimming at the beach so the sea and the beach or anything related to both became a passion for me. When the opportunity came along for me to get involved in the yachting industry 13 years ago, it was a very easy decision.
Where would you say is the best location for boating in Asia?
Personally I believe Southeast Asia is one of the most amazing areas for boating in the world. It’s a massive area covering different countries with vast cultural and environmental diversity which makes for great boating. Weather wise it’s also mild compared to other areas in Asia. I am of course from Phuket so I will forever be biased towards the island and its surrounding cruising grounds. Phuket itself has lots of beautiful beaches and bays to moor up in and the numerous islands within close cruising range which offer a boater years of cruising. I’ve seen Phuket back in the days when it was a sleepy little town with pristine beaches and all the islands around were untouched and barely had a soul on it. Obviously the changes in Phuket have been drastic over the years with the development of tourism and there are good and bad effects that come with it but I still love the place deeply and see many reasons to live and boat here.
What is your biggest sales market and why do you think it is so?
Currently my biggest sales market would be Southeast Asia. For Asia I believe Southeast Asia is the region that has been exposed to the boating lifestyle at an earlier stage therefore it’s had more time to grow and develop. With an earlier start the infrastructure and services in the region has had fairly good development with marinas and yachting related services from Indonesia up to Thailand. Having said that the region and whole of Asia is still in need of more development for the industry’s continued growth. Besides the infrastructure growth, of course the main reason is also the amazing cruising grounds. As stated previously Phuket is one of these amazing areas and hence the reason why it is now considered the hub for boating in the region.
What are some of the things that clients look out for when purchasing Catamarans?
When someone is looking to purchase a catamaran I think the first thing they look for is the space and comfort it provides compared to a monohull. On deck, the rear cockpit on a catamaran is huge as it spreads out over both hulls. The rear cockpit and saloon are also on the same level which gives better light, visibility, and spaciousness. The foredeck or bow area is also a massive area with a big “trampoline” that goes across both hulls and makes for a great area for lounging and sunbathing. Underway it’s always a favorite space to be as it gives one the feeling of floating over the water. On a Leopard Catamaran we have a unique feature which is our forward saloon door and forward cockpit seating area. The forward saloon door offers convenient and safe access to the bow directly from the main saloon and you will also go through our very unique and famed forward cockpit which provides another shaded seating and dining area.
Down below you will find good headroom and overall space in all the cabins. On our Leopard 48 for example, you will find all cabins to be ensuite which is unlikely on a monohull.
Sailing wise catamarans offer much better stability and while sailing underway the boat does not heel like you would on a monohull. Performance is also an advantage where a catamaran is generally faster under power or sail. Draft is another advantage meaning you can get into shallower and hard to reach areas as well as anchoring closer to shore.
With power catamarans, the one major advantage over a monohull would be the fuel consumption. Normally consumption would be half, if not more due to the small surface area below the waterline for the two hulls. With Leopard Catamarans, our powercats are true powercats offering good performance with 25 knot top speed and cruising in the 18 to 20 knot range.
Could you tell us more about the latest model, Leopard 40?
The Leopard 40 is our newest model, launched a year ago, replacing its predecessor the Leopard 39. The Leopard 40 is a completely new design with nothing carrying over from the Leopard 39. The main saloon space has been increased significantly with a forward facing galley offering great visibility through our large vertical forward windows and the Leopard 40 now also has our signature forward saloon door offering direct access to the bow. The main saloon sofa is now positioned towards the rear adjacent to the rear cockpit seating area. With the new Leopard 40 the sliding saloon glass door now opens all the way and you can now join the indoor main saloon sofa seating area with the outdoor rear cockpit. This is a great feature which opens up the entire main saloon level offering great entertaining space and keeping everyone onboard together. Leopard Catamarans’ main identity has always been conviviality and to keep everyone onboard together as a group without anyone feeling left out. The new Leopard 40’s features keeps to this promise and improves upon it.
What makes this model stand out against previous Leopard Catamarans?
Besides the new features mentioned above, the Leopard 40 brings our smallest model in line with the same design concept and features with our larger models such as the Leopard 48. Although it is our smallest model at 40 feet, the Leopard 40 now offers much more space and comfort compared to the previous Leopard 39. Compared to a monohull you would need at least a 50 foot boat to get the same space provided by the Leopard 40.
How receptive have clients been to the Leopard 40?
The Leopard 40 has been well received since its launch with deliveries now well into mid 2017. We have also recently delivered one of the very first Leopard 40 to a client in the Philippines through our dealer there. I believe more will be sold to Asia once we launch the model here and start to display a boat in the upcoming SINGAPORE RENDEZVOUS and regional boat shows. The Leopard 40 offers a lot of boat at its price range.
Leopard Catamarans are designed by a team in Florida, crafted by a team in South Africa and sold in Asia. Are there any difficulties faced in working with teams that are spread across various continents?
The whole partnership between our head office in Florida and Roberson & Caine in Cape Town works very smoothly and after so many years of partnership we’ve managed to work out all the hurdles and now operate at a very high level of efficiency. For me in Asia the biggest issue would be the time zone differences and having to wait for replies to emails etc.
Leopard Catamarans prides itself in delivering quality products to customers and catering to their needs. Does this also extend to the way in which each catamaran is delivered?
For delivery we actually offer our owners a few options. The most obvious one is shipping from Cape Town to the boat’s destination. Another very popular option for our sailing catamarans is our on water delivery where we sail the boat with a delivery crew on its own hull from the factory in Cape Town to any destination worldwide. We have delivered over 1,300 boats this way and have become well known in the industry for this achievement and it’s a testament to the quality of a Leopard Catamaran. Finally, we also offer owners an option where they can fly into Cape Town to take possession of their boat and from there they can sail to their desired destination on the beginning of their sailing adventure.
Why do you think clients should invest in Leopard Catamarans?
The overall build quality of a Leopard Catamaran is superior and our fittings and materials used also tend to be of higher quality. Many of these features are subtle and not be immediately noticeable but once noticed owners will know the difference immediately. As in all things, it’s the details that make the difference. Besides the hardware, Leopard Catamarans also have unique and innovative features such as our forward saloon door, forward cockpit, safe rig with double back stays and rigid boom vang, standard hard top on all boats, and a helm station designed for short-handed sailing. Performance wise our boats tend to sail better due to our stepped hull design and powerful sail plan. With our powercats, they are true powercats with high speed ability and not just a sailing hull without the mast.
Another main reason which I’m proud to say is Leopard Catamarans is the only builder that can lay claim to the fact that our boats are truly blue water tried and tested. We have delivered well over 1,300 boats on their own hull to destinations all over the world from our shipyard in Cape Town. For example, there were two Leopard 48s delivered to Hong Kong towards the end of last year and both boats spent 1 and ½ months at sea from Cape Town to Hong Kong with three delivery crew onboard. One of the boats went through 30 knot winds and 3 to 4 meter waves for 30 days continuously. This is the ultimate testament to the build and quality of these boats and the delivery journey offers the best sea trial a boat can possibly go through. After arriving at its destination, anything that can break has most likely broken and any problems would have presented itself. Through Leopard Catamarans’ post-delivery commissioning process, we repair and replace all the items and the owner will never see these problems again as most owners will never go through the same conditions the delivery crew has gone through.
What’s next for Leopard Catamarans?
Leopard Catamarans is constantly improving and evolving with new models being introduced. Currently we have a completely new model to be launched soon with new designs and features but I’d like to keep that a secret for now so watch this space.
Are there any exclusive benefits of owning Leopard Catamarans? Such as customer care or perks?
In my years of working in the yachting industry and working with various shipyards, I’d say Leopard Catamarans offers one of the best after sales care to our owners. We accept all warranty claims and manufacturer defects without question and the process is very easy and straight forward. We absolutely do not go out of our way to make the claim process difficult or question the claim endlessly causing long delays and ending up with a frustrated and unhappy owner. I personally look after all the claims and work very closely with owners so they are confident they are dealing with someone close and with local knowledge.
Leopard Catamarans will be one of the exhibitors at the SINGAPORE RENDEZVOUS, which is right around the corner. What do you hope to achieve there as an exhibitor and would there be other types of catamarans on display?
We are looking forward to the SINGAPORE RENDEZVOUS and we committed to the event immediately as we like the new concept and timing wise it is also positioned at a good time. I hope the show can attract a more diverse type of crowd for attendance or at least it can offer visitors a different and more approachable boat show. I’d like to use this event to raise the awareness of Leopard Catamarans’ brand in the region and of course closing a few deals through the show wouldn’t be bad either! Leopard Catamarans plans to have our brand new Leopard 40, brand new Leopard 43 Powercat, and the Leopard 51 Powercat which has proven to be a very popular model in the region. Both the Leopard 40 and 43 Powercat will be a brand new model being shown for the first time in Asia.
What are your thoughts on Asia’s future yachting industry?
I believe Asia’s yachting industry will continue to grow at a steady pace as it has since I started in the industry 13 years ago. Southeast Asia will continue its gradual but steady growth. China, which is in a bit of a slump due to its political climate especially after it’s glamorous rise into the yachting lifestyle a few years ago, will slowly come back given that the players involved in the industry there market the yachting lifestyle in a more sustainable way. More interestingly I believe will be the emergence of completely new markets where there has been little to no movement in terms of yacht sales. Countries such as Taiwan which has had a thriving yacht building industry purely for export for the last 30-odd years has only just changed its laws allowing Taiwanese citizens to own their personal yachts. A few years ago it was illegal for a Taiwanese to own a private yacht. Vietnam with a lack of infrastructure and difficult regulations has a big potential as there have been some interesting announcements there lately. Myanmar is another place to look out for as the country is currently going through a dramatic change in governance as well as being part of the AEC should see some interesting changes. Overall, Asia still has a lot of potential for growth over the coming years.