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 Boats Interviews

Cesar Abi Akl
"This is how I started"
22nd of October 2009

This is how I Started - Cesar Abi Akl
Longstanding Interest in BOATS

The personable Cesar Abi Akl was kind enough to sit with BatoAutoMoto at the Sailing Plus offices in Dbaye, to speak about his business, and his longstanding interest in boats. The interview finished at La Marina Dbaye, as Cesar was more than willing to give us a tour of the extremely fine boats that Sailing Plus currently has for sale, and for charter.  

1. Can you speak about how you became involved in the yacht business?
I did civil engineering studies at ESIB, and then I did a PhD in Marine Engineering in Ancona, Italy. Together with oceanic captain license and 150000 miles on my log book. This is how I started, I did consulting in the beginning, and then in 2001, I started this company. SAILING PLUS s.a.r.l at first was  a sailing school, a yacht club at La Marina, and day Charter company . Then we started selling more and more boats, today we sell motor boats and sailing boats, we are the only company to  sell sailing boats in Lebanon, new and used. We sell sunseeker yachts and We are dealers  for Hanse – moody – fjord – dehler and Bavaria yachts .

2. Please tell me about some the boats that you have currently at Sailing Plus?
We have 38 Boats at the moment, 24 of them are for charter, 14 are for sale, used and new . We have new bavaria motor yachts for sale, new Hanse sailing boats for sale, one Sunseeker yacht for sale, and used boats for sale. In 2009 we sold one HATTERAS  114 – one CRN 46m – one AZIMUT 100 –one PRINCESS 22m – one AZIMUT 80 – one AZIMUT 86s –one FAIRLINE squadron 62 – one  SUNSEEKER  86 – one SUNSEEKER 74 – one SUNSEEKER  70 – 12 BAVARIA  motor boats – 3 HANSE sailing yachts  - many cabin cruisers and speed boats .
No one can beat our prices, especially for used motoryachts  as we have offices in Florida and Athens .

For charter we have:  OMEGA – 85 m superyacht in Greece . SEITA – 70 m vessel  in Lebanon  AZIMUT 100 – 30 m megayacht in Lebanon CNATIERI DI PISA – 28m megayacht in Lebanon AZIMUT 80 – 26m megayacht in Lebanon SUNSEEKER 74 – 24 m yacht in Lebanon PRINCESS 22m – in Lebanon And 12 other boats for day charter ranging from 10m to 20m .These boats can be chartered for cruising, parties or big events. Our most popular boat CANTIERI DI PISA can take 65 people, with crew, fuel , drinks and snacks with music and dancing :  it will cost all together around $5,000 for a day .

We work with  big hotels, Phoenicia, Royal Habtoor, Grand Hills, Regency …, and through the hotels we receive many clients from Europe and the Middle Eastern countries. 

Prices range from $1,000 a day for a cabin cruiser 10m , up to an Omega 85 meter boat in Greece for 400000 euros a week . The most frequent rentals are 12m – 15m boats for 1500 $ to 2500 $ all inclusive .  

3. What is the boat you have for personal use, and what is the most enjoyable trip you ever took with it?
For my personal use, I have a Hanse 63 Sailing boat . This is a new generation of epoxy  sailing boats - made in Germany, she is a cruiser racer very fast and very confortable. The aspect that I enjoy the most is speed sailing. I crossed the Atlantic with a similar  boat, with the ARC rally ( atlantic rally for cruisers )  There were 200 boats, and we had the only Lebanese flag, everybody  was asking "what is this flag!?".

We went from Las Palmas - Canary Islands, to Santa Lucia in the Caribbean, and we won in our category.

4. How has your company grown and changed in the past 10 years?
The company has grown very fast, except when there were political disturbances of course.  Now we are 100 times larger than in 2001. We have 42 employees, we have fourteen cars, three offices : Lebanon, Dubai, and Athens, Greece. We sell an average of 50 boats per year, this year we sold about 60. The sailing boat market is growing, because of the cost of fuel, the pollution levels, and also because of new sailing technology that makes it easier to handle.

As for the figures of the company, this year we sold 57 motor yachts, and three sailing boats. The market is mainly dominated by  second hand  motor yachts.  

5. Have there been any business developments this past year as tourism in Lebanon skyrocketed?
Yes of course. Actually, in 2008 we doubled the sales in charter and sales, and in 2009 numbers tripled. People come from abroad, and to charter a boat here is less expensive than chartering the same boat for example, in Europe. Daily rentals are growing at an incredible rate. We always charter our boats with a skipper. The season slows down over the winter, but in the summer, make sure to call at least several days in advance! We offer the service of management so we can charter boats of our clients after they buy from us, which reduces expenses and keeps the boat in mint condition.

7. Are fishing boats included in your business and is there demand for them?
Demand is growing as trawling is becoming more and more popular, we rent and sell many fishing boats. We charter fishing boats for the day, ranging from $1,000 a day, with skipper, sailor, crew, fishing gear, for eight people, to $8,000 a day for 25 people, including professional  fishing gear on sportfisher yacht.

8. In terms of aesthetics, what is most important to you when looking at a yacht and why: the shape (the exterior), or the detailing and comfort of the interior?
Here in Lebanon we look at the lines of the boat mainly.
In America for example and some gulf countries, people often have boats that are classic from the outside, but the inside is very nice. In our market they look mostly at the exterior lines, which is the European style.

9. Concerning boats in general, what do you find to be the most important - safety and luxuriousness, or speed and mechanic ability?
Safety first  - lines , comfort  and  performance .

10. What is the most unique and enjoyable experience you ever had on a yacht?
Crossing the Atlantic with the ARC, at night when we were moored we used to do bbq and  dinghy-race inside the marinas. We had boats from around the world so we met people from Europe, America, Australia and everybody had so much fun .

11. If you could purchase and own any yacht in the world, which would it be, and where would you go with it?
I would have a Perini Navi, an Italian motorsailor, and I would take her  around the world!

12. What is the cost of buying a boat, low, mid and high range?
The cheapest we have is Hanse 32 ft., 70,ooo Euros, and it goes up to 1.5 million euros for a Hanse 630. A Bavaria motor  boat 28 ft. costs 80,000 Euros, up  to 400,000 Euros for Bavaria 46. Sunseeker yachts start around 200,000 Euros and go up to around 20 Million Euros. Fjord fishing boats start around 100,000 Euros, up to 300,000. This is the range of the prices that exists for the kind of boats that we sell.
We are mainly specialized in used  megayachts  2-3 yrs old ,as new condition for half the price new.

13. What are the costs of maintenance, mooring, and upkeep?
The cost of upkeep and mooring varies with the size of the boat.
Mooring costs from $200 a linear meter per year to $750 per linear meter, per year, in Lebanon. For mooring, the most expensive marina is Beirut marina solidere, downtown. The second most expensive is La Marina Dbaye and Movenpick, third is Aqua Marina, atcl , Florida Beach, Green Beach, Halate sur mer. There are many other small marinas around the coast, but these are the well known ones. We heard  that they will be building a marina for mega yachts only, (over 80ft.), with dry docks. Maintenance per year varies with the size of the boat, from $200 a month to $2,000 a month. 

14. Is there anything else that you would like to add for our readers?
What I would like to say is that people should really turn more towards sailing boats in Lebanon. This is because there is so much wind here on the coast, it is ideal for sailing! Sailing boats are becoming more and more user-friendly, with easy technology, navigation, and many options. Sailing boats are also becoming more accessible, also because of the price of fuel they are a more affordable option. And there has never been better time to buy a used mega-yacht because of the financial crisis worldwide .

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