MEET BERNARD GALLAY: VENDÉE GLOBE COMPETITOR, CEO AND GLOBAL SUPERYACHT BROKER

Bernard Gallay Yacht Brokerage has its roots in the infamous round-the-world Vendée Globe race, since then its reach has become global and has expanded into all aspects of yacht charter, brokerage and management.

Like so many of the most prestigious names in the yachting
industry, Bernard Gallay’s career began as a sailor. Bernard
joins many of the industry’s leading designers, brokers and CEOs in transferring from sea to land, a testament to the strength of the relationship that sailors build with the ocean, and the vessels they use to conquer them. Based out of Montpellier, Bernard has built up a formidable yacht brokerage, charter and management service. Bernard Gallay Yacht Brokerage (BGYB) is headquartered in the South of France, but operates on a global scale, with Bernard’s crew of brokers and professionals spanning Europe, Russia, the Americas, the Far East and Australasia.

“I started sailing with Sir Robin Knox-Johnston quite a long time ago” Bernard explains, “he really drove me to the
single-handed sailing.” Single-handed sailing, one of the most
demanding manifestations of the sport, is renowned for the
gruelling Vendée Globe race. The race is formidable, encompassing the most challenging aspects of any sailing race: it’s a single-handed, round-the-world, non-stop race. “I did my first Vendée Globe in 1992-93” Bernard reminisces. Whilst Bernard was disqualified from the 1992-1993 Vendée Globe after making technical stops, he returned for the 2001 race, finishing in 8th place. The 1992-93 Vendée Globe was the second time the race had been held, scheduled to take place every four years. It was this race which gave the Vendée Globe its notorious reputation. Even before the race had begun, Mike Plant, an American sailor, was lost at sea on his way to the race’s start point in Les Sables-d’Olonne. The race opened with gruelling weather conditions in the Bay of Biscay, with a number of competitors being forced to return to port for repairs. Tragically, four days after the race’s start, British sailor Nigel Burgess was drowned off Cape Finisterre, a rocky peninsula in the West of Spain. It was after the formidable Vendée Globe, in these uniquely challenging and inhospitable circumstances, that BGYB was established. Bernard had been inspired by his experiences in the Vendée Globe, and especially by Nigel’s legacy: “Nigel had a boat called Nigel Burgess, and that’s the name of his company. In fact, he had no sponsors other than his company.” Encouraged by Nigel’s independence and fortitude, Bernard created BGYB the following year, in 1994. BGYB In the first decade and a half, BGYB specialised in sales brokerage. Prudently, at the height of the brokerage market in 2007, Bernard diversified BGYB’s business activities. Lisa Spiller joined the firm in this year as manager, developing
and cultivating charter activity. This move was well-timed,
as the luxury yacht industry was hit by the 2008 financial
crisis, with brokerage suffering especially from the global downturn. In recent years, as BGYB has consolidated and expanded its market presence, Bernard has steered the firm into yacht management. “We started doing yacht management
more intensively three or four years ago. This includes class
and flag management, insurance and crew management, as
well as receipt and accounting.” BGYB has gained considerably from Bernard’s sailing pedigree, giving the firm credibility and a rich sailing heritage that clients value and appreciate. The quality of BGYB’s practices were recognised when the firm became a member of the Mediterranean Yacht Broker Association (MYBA) after only four years of operation. MYBA accreditation has secured the brokerage’s high-quality reputation, and has resulted in clients seeking out the services of BGYB and its international-minded team of brokers and managers. Family offices represent a significant portion of BGYB’s business, for both brokerage and charters. Bernard describes the chartering process as one which “usually takes a month and a half to two months.” Though for sales, Bernard draws a longer timeline: “The buyer, of course, wants to visit a few yachts before they make an offer. We have a team selecting a number of yachts which we think would be appropriate for the buyer.”

“Sometimes we will pre-visit the boat on behalf of the buyer, so that they don’t have to travel. Finally, we would show the buyer one or two yachts. Then we assist in the sales process should the buyer wish to make an offer, and if the offer is accepted. We will help the buyer through the entire sales and contract process, including payment, surveys and sea trials.”

“The apps don’t provide a full service, and I think the yachting clientele for large
yacht charters are looking for services, not just something which looks cheaper.”


BUYER’S MARKET
For Bernard, the brokerage market is unambiguously a “buyer’s market.” The supply of luxury super yachts is fairly consistent, whilst the number of individuals who can afford to purchase these yachts is circumscribed. Bernard explains that this dynamic can frustrate sellers, who often “think that their yacht is the best in the world.” “It’s understandable because their yacht is full of emotional memories.” Bernard, the seasoned yacht broker, stoically continues: “but these emotional attachments don’t add value to the yacht!”
In some respects, BGYB eschews some of the ‘orthodox’
practices of the superyacht brokerage scene. Bernard
understands BGYB’s Montpellier location, rather than the traditional Monaco basing, to be advantageous. “We are in between Monaco and Barcelona; Barcelona is a good place for
yachts, but also offers good access for Palma de Mallorca where we often show boats.” BGYB’s competitive advantage
is their dynamism: they aren’t confined to one location, or one type of client. “Our team is all over the place” Bernard elaborates, “including Paris, Moscow, Palma, the Americas. We’ve also opened an office in Auckland, New Zealand. We thought it was a good idea, given the arrival of the America’s Cup.” In recent years the brokerage and charter market has
become increasingly competitive, especially with the development of a number of electronic services and applications which offer the services of traditional brokers at a lower cost. Bernard’s response to these newcomers is ambivalent: “We will be pleased to work with them, of course.”
“The apps don’t provide a full service, and I think the
yachting clientele for large yacht charters are looking for
services, not just something which looks cheaper.”
Bernard describes a successful charter as a combination
of two of a yacht’s criteria: the number of cabins and
the community of the crew. A particularly successful charter
yacht for BGYB has been the 41 metre ‘Ocean Sapphire’,
designed by the much-acclaimed Norman Foster. According
to Bernard, this charter has done “extremely well”, creating a
one million euro income for the owner last year. The success
of the yacht is down to its character, which Bernard describes as “special”, complemented by the “very good” captain.
Delineating between the sales market and the charter market, Bernard surmises that charters have been “quite stable for a few years now.” In comparison, “the sales market is much more unstable. Usually it is about the same for every brokerage company, one year is good and the following year is not that good.” With an esteemed single-handed sailing history, and a flourishing brokerage and management business, Bernard is optimistic about BGYB’s future. “We plan to launch a brand new, elaborate website. We also want to develop and enhance
our capacity to sell motor yachts. We have always sold them, but we want to increase this part of the market.”

“We started doing yacht management more intensively three or four years ago. This includes class and flag management, insurance and crew management, as well as receipt and accounting.”

www.bernard-gallay.com