Hello! Please introduce yourself to the readers of the yachting magazine Sailica and tell us a little about yourself.
Hi, I am Irina Bortnyk, CEO of EGOcharter, Athens. It’s great that we are meeting with you in the same circumstances as with the readers)
Are you from Kiev? When did you decide to move to Greece, why?
You know, our migration to Greece was not connected with yachting, but with our legal profession. My husband and I, as part of our law firm, conducted a large number of significant cases, and the crises of 2004 and 2009 led to the fact that we needed to take our children to school in another country, where it is safe. The choice fell on Greece. In 2009, my son turned five years old and we went to study) As it turned out later, we were exactly 2 years late, as compulsory education begins at 3 years of age in Greece. Our very first trip on a yacht — more precisely, immediately on a catamaran, took place back in 2004. It was funny. In a Turkish hotel we saw a port filled with masts and Wondered how we have never tried such a vacation? At the time we did not really know anything about yachting and about the sea. Although, the more experience we have, the more cautiously we treat this miracle, the sea. On the eve of the first exit, we were puzzled by everything: we did not understand how to cook food, how trips to the toilet are arranged, what to do while the boat sails to the land. It’s even funny to remember how all fears disappeared on the very first day aboard.
In a Turkish hotel we saw a port filled with masts and Wondered how we have never tried such a vacation?
Tell us about your decision to open a charter company: when, why, what were the first steps?
Well, this is the main complaint from my husband. In 2014, we took boats for charter 8 times. We’ve exceeded the annual budget for the maintenance of owning a yacht. Besides we sailed for 10 years already — preferring yachting to hotels and excursions. After spending a week on the water, sailing becomes an addiction. So we decided to buy our own boat. The simplicity of the approach amuses me now. We determined the budget. Took it, speaking roughly, and went to the exhibition in Dusseldorf. We thought we would point finger, pick the boat and sail to Greece on it. But everything is arranged a little differently))) We had to wait 4 months, and we got boat number 5 of the French shipyard Bali. I am infinitely proud of my husband’s insight. He was able to understand that it would be the most fast growing brand of the decade. And in May 2015 we received the handsome called AdvoCat.
We spent two months on the water, going around the whole Mediterranean. And in October, when we returned to Greece, we had a conversation with Alex. Well, we will sail 10, even 12 weeks a year. In July and August (school holidays) we are always in Kiev. Let it work for these two months, right? Moreover, I did not have my own business in Athens. And Alex, reluctantly, agreed. The first step was enormous. I had no idea how guests appear on board. I felt comfortable only in the Russian-speaking world. Therefore, I manually sent more than 2000 letters with the following written in it:
“Have a look please. Catamaran Catana Bali 4.5 “AdvoCat” Flybridge version. The first boat of this shipyard in Athens. 4 cabins — 4 bathrooms. Equipped with everything — solar panels, twisted gennaker, 5 air conditioners, generator. The kitchen is equipped with a dishwasher.
Located in the port of Olympic Marine, Lavrio, Attica
The catamaran has 4 cabins with double beds and their own bathrooms (toilet + shower), + 2 skipper cabins without amenities.
Cost — 04.01−29.05 — 3850 euros
30.05−01.07 — 7800 euros
01.07−01.09 — 9000 euros
01.09 — 03.10 — 7800 euros
03.10−04.01 — 5500 euros
20% is yours.
Plus, I am the owner, we can discuss the discount if you have the order. You can’t see the booking on the site, as the charter license has just been received. The catamaran is absolutely new and is still available for the whole season”
Therefore, I manually sent more than 2000 letters
Well, now it is already clear that market professionals were not supposed to answer this letter) But still I received 3 or 4 responses. And, despite my childish mistakes, at the end of October I didn’t have a single free week. Then my husband decided to buy a second boat. And for 5 years now we have been kicking into high gear. Ukraine teaches to build business very clearly.
Why are you focusing on catamarans?
First, I’m a girl. I understood that all our weekends we would spend on the water with the whole family all year round. Greece allows it. Therefore, I wanted a country house by the sea. Honestly, the fridge in our house is smaller than on the catamaran. Now yachting trends have come to this and will continue to develop towards comfort. Yachting is no longer for salty, brutal and bearded, but for intellectual sportsmen with their wives and children, in coastal voyages, with an evening program on the shore. It seems to me that catamarans are the trend of the next decade.
Your opinion: is it better to buy a yacht or rent it in different parts of the world?
This is math. Rent is an expense. Yacht maintenance is an expense. Here you need to understand whether you are inclined to risk-free subsidies or to profit. For example, let’s say you spend € 10,000 per season on vacation. It does not matter, alone or with friends. And this is the average cost of maintaining a yacht with a purchase price of 200,000 euros. At the same time, when transferring it to management, this boat will be able to bring you 20,000 net profit after taxes are paid. I think this way, you take boat for profit anywhere in the world. And after selling your miracle in 5 years for 70−75% of the purchase price, you get ROI — which I tell, of course, only to my clients)
I would like to touch upon the subject of putting my yacht for management to a charter company. As far as I know, you practice this model of work?
Putting a yacht under the management of a charter company: how does it work?
What is the payback period, what is the yield?
I will answer these questions in a block. Yes, I have adopted this model of work. For us now this is the formation of a closed-cycle company. We are the dealer of the Catana Group shipyard, we provide technical services in Greece to third-party customers, we own a fleet and provide legal and brokerage services in Greece.
We are the dealer of the Catana Group shipyard
It works easily. Handed over, signed a contract, once a year (usually at the end of the season) accepted the money. Minimum bookings, conditions… These are serious nuances that are highly dependent on the boat that we take on management. The payback period is 7 years. Profitability — up to 20% per annum. But again, the absolute profit depends on many factors and is calculated individually for each investor.
Does it make sense to buy a new yacht for commissioning or is it better to transfer a used yacht to a charter company?
The new one is easier to work with. Imagine you are renting a car. Do you want a time-tested adult with a handle instead of a button for window lift — or a fresh, fast car? It’s the same here. The new one generates a cash flow. But asset management is again a different topic.
Do you want a time-tested adult with a handle instead of a button for window lift — or a fresh, fast car?
What are the parties main risks in the owner / company / client interaction and how do you solve them?
Risks on the clients part, that the company will not be able to make bookings for your boat and, accordingly, you will be forced to pay extra for maintenance. From the side of the charter company, that you will not pay. But for this situations, there are professional players to minimize these risks.
What do you think is the difference between a European yachtsman and a yachtsman from the former USSR?
No difference. I don’t like this template. I have no national division of yachtsmen. A yachtsman is a state of mind. Just yesterday, during negotiations in a serious office, a freediver’s watch on my husband’s arm and similar ones on the opposite side of the table changed the course of negotiations. Language, country, it’s not important. Always Human is the key!
Where is your main client from? What are the popular preferences and wishes for additional services?
The whole world. This is a highly regulated and mature market. Most often, they order a transfer, food on board, less often an entertainment, advice on what to visit. Also SUPs, fishing rods and other to have fun on the yacht.
What are the useful recommendations and life hacks for the client when renting a yacht?
Feel free to ask. Not for discounts:) but we, as companies, have some resources. For example, all sorts of scooters, SUPs, friends with cars, restaurants, villas. We can schedule routes, organize a coastal program. Only people rarely asked for it)
Yachting in Greece
What is your favorite sailing rout (s) in Greece?
We are still looking. Greece has 2,000 islands. Of these, 1,800 are uninhabited. There are places that I consider home. Places where I want to return again and again. There are places we are still exploring. Maybe another 10 years?
What trends do you see in the yacht charter and purchase industry?
I would like to pause on this issue until the fall. The yacht is your uninhabited and safe island. A sailing yacht is a unique autonomy. But economic trends are not yet clear to me.
Yacht charter in Greece: a number of clients have a prejudice to be more careful with the Greeks. What can be the nuances with the deposit, service, technical condition of the yacht. According to our observations, the service in Greece has significantly increased in recent years, and the situation has begun to change. But your opinion on this issue is interesting.
I would not focus on Greece alone here. This is the face of the company, customer focus, and so on. With the growth of competition, service always grows. I am still worried about the infrastructure of Greece but these are not critical circumstances either. Work with trusted people! Predictability is not a bad quality)
Work with trusted people!
What is your favorite yacht or catamaran model?
All OF THEM!!! A yacht is about wings and freedom. A vacation on a yacht anywhere in the world really starts at 30 euros per person, per day — it’s like a hostel — and is not limited to anything. Use your opportunities today and look wide. I think so.
Tell us about your biggest challenge at the sea.
The loss of two propellers on the catamaran and a complete loss of control)))))) I will not say where or on which boat I was, since the weather conditions make it possible to remember this with a smile of distrust to this memory)
A funny (or not so much) curiosity associated with clients when renting a catamaran or yacht?
Saturday, 14p. m., our guests from Ukraine checked-in, after 8 hours one of them had to fly away. And after another 2 days he was able to catch up with his team at sea. Abandoned wedding ring after honeymoon, unwillingness to return after a week of charter … Many!
Let me to tell something:
For us as charter companies the level of professionalism of agents is of infinite importance. You know, we go through such a jungle of misunderstanding from clients when they write directly — that it is happiness to work with such professionals as you. Thank you for this conversation. I hope it was informative and not boring!)