FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 15, 2020
Crewed Charter Yacht Season Kicks Off at U.S. Virgin Islands Charter Yacht Show, Territory’s Extensive Cruising Grounds Offer Perfect Socially Distanced Vacation
St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. The U.S. Virgin Islands yacht charter industry is open for business. Nearly sixty multihulls, monohulls and motor yachts lined the docks at IGY’s Yacht Haven Grande for the season-opening, USVI Charter Yacht Show, held November 12 to 15, hosted by the Virgin Islands Professional Charter Association (VIPCA) and having rigorous COVID-19 Safety Protocols in place. Over 100 charter brokers from the Caribbean, the U.S. and Europe attended the Show’s new virtual platform, which included live seminars, crew interviews, and real-time yacht tours, and nearly 50 charter brokers attended in person. Since the majority of the USVI’s charter yachts accommodate no more than 6 to 8 passengers of family or friends, have only 2 to 3 crew, and feature an itinerary that boasts ample time at sea and in secluded anchorages, this segment of the territory’s marine tourism sector is well-positioned to provide safe vacation options for visitors in times of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was our pleasure to support this year’s U.S. Virgin Islands Charter Yacht Show. The resilience of this industry has allowed for tourism to flourish despite these challenging times. The marine industry is a very important sector to our overall tourism product, and we look forward to marketing the charter yachting sector along with all other marine businesses throughout the Territory. We hope that attendees, both in person and virtually, enjoyed this year’s event and recognize the endless opportunities this destination offers mariners. As we continue to navigate the challenges presented by the pandemic, we are encouraged by the interest we’ve seen in the U.S. Virgin Islands by this important community,” says Joseph B. Boschulte, Commissioner of Tourism.
A Boutique Industry – Something for Everyone
The boutique nature of the USVI’s crewed charter industry is its prime selling point. Each yacht, with its own professional crew, has developed its own unique niche in which to compete, therefore standards are high across the board from the smallest sailing catamaran to the largest motor yacht.
“We cater to all clients, and especially enjoy having families with children and guests in their golden years,” says Captain Gus Bolanos, master of the 92-foot Sunseeker motor yacht Elite, named Best in Show for yachts 66-foot in length and over. “U.S. Virgin Islands-only itineraries are growing in popularity. Magens Bay and Santa Maria Bay are gorgeous anchorages on St. Thomas’ northside. Lameshur Bay on St. John’s south side is one of our favorites. Over in St. Croix, we’ll stop at Buck Island and take the tender in to hike the trails there. The Frederiksted Pier has unbelievable pillars of beautiful corals, and the sight of the historic town in the background makes a beautiful backdrop.”
Crew and cuisine are signature features of all-inclusive crewed yacht charters.
“Knowing how to read your guests and identifying early on how best to fulfill their needs, considering the little things or small details about what they enjoy, and remembering that although we’ve done many charters, including in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Greece, the BVI and now USVI, that for each guest this is their special, perhaps once in a lifetime trip,” says Daniela Cox, chef with Captain Ross Matthews on the Lagoon 56, Respite at Sea, winners of the Best Crew In Show award.
The top chef in the Crew Culinary Competition, a perennial show highlight, was Denise Melton aboard the Fountaine Pajot 60, Blue Pepper. One of over a half dozen small bites prepared by Melton included Caribbean-sourced watermelon topped with goat cheese and a drizzle of Grand Marnier-flavored balsamic reduction. “When you vacation on land, you can dine out at different restaurants. On a charter, we are the restaurant. That’s why everything from the guest's preference sheet pre-charter to letting them know the daily menu while on charter is very important to me and the entire charter experience.”
A ‘Must-Do’ Show – In-Person or Virtually
This year’s USVI Charter Yacht Show format provided safe and effective ways for brokers to see the yachts and crews whether participating in-person or via the Show’s virtual platform.
“Attending the show in person was extremely important for me this year,” says Laura Sharp, charter broker with Fort Lauderdale, FL-headquartered Denison Yachting. “It’s one of the few opportunities I'll have in a year to visit with multiple crews and multiple yachts in a few days. It especially gives me a chance to hear the latest news from the various islands. With COVID this year, it especially reassured me that everyone in the yacht charter world is taking the necessary precautions to deliver a safe, clean, yet fun vacation in these weird times.”
For Kevin Jonas, owner of Bedford, NH-based Mainsail Charters, “There were so many new yachts and crews this year that getting to know the newbies was most important for me.”
Engaging with the crews and seeing their enthusiasm and ‘can do’ attitude about Caribbean charter itineraries was key for Nancy Van Winter, owner of Frederick, MD- based Envy Yacht Charters/International Yacht Charter Group. “With the difficult protocols in place for some areas, we have many clients who are moving to other parts of the Caribbean…specifically the US Virgin Islands. This was not an area that was featured on many charters in the past, but the crews are exploring the region, developing incredible itineraries and invigorated about giving charter guests a fantastic week.”
The virtual element of the show proved beneficial for Emily Mack, charter expert at Dade City, FL, based Virgin Island Sailing and president of the Charter Yacht Brokers Association. “While I would have loved to have been there in person, high-risk family members put me in the virtual category this year. The yacht walkthroughs are a helpful piece. That said and looking at the season ahead, a yacht charter is uniquely positioned in its 'solitary' nature to be one of the best types of vacations to take - particularly in comparison to a land-based resort or cruise ship. We've already seen an uptick in interest as compared to this spring and I project this will only get stronger as the world learns how to better combat COVID.”
USVI Charter Yacht Industry Charts a Course for the Future
Looking ahead, despite global challenges, the U.S. Virgin Islands is looking at a tremendously promising charter season with industry professionals planning to continue the present boom in four key ways.
First, the promotion of a USVI-exclusive charter itinerary with the discovery of all three major U.S. Virgin Islands. A USVI Charter could start by exploring the un-explored bays on St. Thomas’ north coast, moving onto the exquisite protected national park’s bays on St. John with the option of nightlife ashore at Cruz Bay or floating restaurants including Lime Out Tacos Bar before taking a morning sail with a comfortable ride on a beam reach to discover St. Croix’s rich Caribbean history, world-class diving, magnificent hiking trails and National Geographic-rated beaches.
Second, through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Ruling issued to VIPCA that now enables member yachts to offer charters to Puerto Rico’s offshore islands of Culebra, Culebrita and Vieques, expanding itinerary offerings for USVI-based yachts.
Third, by developing marine infrastructure to support the industry both on sea and onshore. Case in point, VIPCA has partnered with the Department of Planning & Natural Resources, Division of Coastal Zone Management for an Economic Development Authority grant to install 200-moorings in various bays of the U.S. Virgin Islands. The moorings will reduce anchoring near ecologically important coral reefs and seagrasses, as well as organize the bays to appeal for transient vessels.
Fourth and finally, by providing workforce training opportunities to bring more VI captains into the industry through VIPCA’s Marine Apprentice ‘on the water’ 5-week scholarship program with fiscal sponsorship provided through the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands’ (CFVI) Marine Rebuild Fund. This was the Marine Apprenticeships third year with the graduation of its twenty-fifth student with STCW basic training. More than half of the students have been recruited into yacht crew jobs and are currently working towards achieving 365 days sea time before being awarded continued sponsorship for their USCG 100-ton Captains licenses.
“Something we are particularly proud of is the healthy and effective communication between government and the private sector. This truly creates an environment of progress and growth and we are very thankful to all those involved that have assisted in this endeavor,” says Dare Blankenhorn, VIPCA president and owner of St. Thomas-based Charter Caribe. “The end of this successful 2020 Charter Yacht Show marks the beginning of a new phase for the USVI Marine Industry. We recognize the challenges that still sit in front of us, but we are confident in the agility of our business community and the greatness of our natural assets. Keep your eyes out for big things coming to the marine industry here in the USVI, as we navigate the waters of the modern world.”
Mark Your Calendar for 2020
The next USVI Charter Yacht Show will take place November 7-10, 2021. For more information, visit: www.vipca.org
Sponsors of the USVI Charter Yacht show include the USVI Department of Tourism; Yacht Haven Grande; IGY Marinas; Waypoint Branding; VIYA Business; Gowrie Group, a Division of Risk Strategies; Denison Yacht Sales; Moe’s Fresh Market; Grey Goose, distributed by West Indies Company; Veuve Clicquot and Captain Morgan, distributed by Bellows International; Offshore Marine; Northern Lights, distributed by Parts and Power; the Charter Yacht Broker Association; Cardow Jewelers; Harbor Shoppers; algLink; La Royale Cosmetics; Bluewater Yachting and Reefco Services.
SIDEBAR: 2020 USVI CHARTER YACHT SHOW COMPETITION WINNERS
Best in Show (66-foot-plus):
1st Place: MY Elite
Runner Up: MY Valere
Best in Show (56- to 65-foot):
1st Place: SY Allure
Runner Up: SY Respite at Sea
Best in Show (Up to 55-foot)
1st Place: SY Scuba Doo 50
Runner Up: SY Southern Charm
1st Place: SY Respite at Sea
Runner Up: SY Rapscallion
Crew Culinary Competition Awards
1st Place: SY Blue Pepper
2nd Place: MY Elite
3rd Place: SY Allure
1st Place: MY Elite
2nd Place: SY Blue Pepper
3rd Place: SY Respite at Sea
Crew Cocktail Competition Awards
Grey Goose Vodka Cocktails
1st Place: SY Sea Esta
Runner Up: SY Euphoria
Captain Morgan Rum Cocktails
1st Place: MY Elite
Runner Up: MY Runaway
Most Creative Cocktails
1st Place: SY Blue Pepper
Runner Up: SY Stop Work Order Charters
VIPCA is the territory’s 501(c)(6) nonprofit marine association, whose purpose is to promote, protect and further the capabilities of charter yachts and the marine businesses that sustain them. Projects and initiatives VIPCA membership supports includes producing a marine directory of local information, technical advice and resources; improving Customs and Border Protection facilities; facilitating access for charter vessels between the USVI and Spanish Virgin Islands; compliance guidance; installation of territory-wide new transient moorings; and marine vocational training for V.I. youth under the organization’s charity fiscally sponsored by Community Foundation Virgin Islands (CFVI.net), the Marine Rebuild Fund.