Guest Column: Mark Elkington on How Multi-hull Solutions Evolved

Fountaine Pajot MY44 now available in Asia-Pacific includes design suggestions by Multi-hull Solutions

Mar 05, 2018 | By LUXUO

Guest Column: Mark Elkington on How Multi-hull Solutions Evolved

As we plan to introduce new multi-hull options to Yacht Style readers this year, I’ve been asked to explain how Multi-hull Solutions operates. We are not a yard nor a dealer selling for a single yard. Instead, we offer a range of exciting sail and power multi-hulls from a variety of builders, including some of the largest, such as Fountaine Pajot.

Choice is one of our company’s key founding principles. We are unbiased when it comes to brands, and our objective is always to offer clients our recommendations on the right boat for their particular needs. Whether this is a Catana 47, an Outremer 45, or a Fountaine Pajot Saona 47, they are all such different catamarans, designed for different types of buyers and uses.

Multi-hull Solutions is an Australian company, celebrating our 10th anniversary in 2018, but we are already well-established in Asia, and many of you will know Andrew de Bruin, Charles Robinson and Kevin Quilty running our offices at beautiful Phuket Boat Lagoon, Ao Po Grand Marina and Phuket Yacht Haven, catering to multi-hull sailors cruising the stunning Andaman Sea and other parts of Southeast Asia.

We are regular exhibitors at Singapore Yacht Show and other regional events, and are steadily strengthening our Asian profile, as well as across the Pacific in New Zealand, New Caledonia and Tahiti.

Our policy is never to favour a brand if we feel it doesn’t deliver what our clients are really looking for, and this has led to more than 40 per cent repeat and referral business. It contributes to why Multi-hull Solutions has become the fastest-growing multi-hull company in the southern hemisphere, with annual sales exceeding A$60 million.

In Australia we now have multiple bases on both the East and West Coasts, but I must say, looking back, that 2008 wasn’t the ideal time to start, just as the GFC began to take its toll on luxury goods, including boats, and brokers began to go under or walk away.

I wasn’t exactly a fledgling player, though, having been Australia’s exclusive agent for Fountaine Pajot catamarans for the previous 20+ years. I handled importation and sales of the shipyard’s sail and power range through my role as founding director of Sunsail Australia, based at Hamilton Island, and had affiliated operations called EBS, European Marine and EC Marine.

During that period I watched the French company evolve from a manufacturer of reliable and efficient vessels to the veritable powerhouse that it is on today’s world cruising scene.

Twenty years ago, the market was significantly different to what it is now. Multi-hulls were still a relative novelty, and in the 90s less than a tenth of our Sunsail charter fleet was made up of cats. Local anchorages were full of cruising mono-hulls, and there were no multi-hull divisions in big regattas like Hamilton Island Race Week.

I stayed focused on multi-hulls, however, regularly visiting the factories, attending conferences in Europe, actively marketing their virtues, and rigorously sea trialling new models. Gradually this began to reap returns.

By the late 90s we saw a shift in attitudes towards multi-hulls from many diehard mono-hull enthusiasts. Many people started requesting a catamaran for their charter holiday because of the stability, space and comfort they afforded, and they were pleasantly surprised to discover how surefooted they were, and how well they performed.

It was during these early years that I forged a strong and enduring relationship with Fountaine Pajot’s founder Jean-Francois Fountaine, and then managing director Eric Bruneel, trying to convince them that their designs, while ideal for cruising in the Mediterranean and Caribbean, were not always as suited to the sometimes less forgiving conditions of Asia-Pacific waters. We had to do regular modifications to the boats when they arrived in Australia. For instance, the earlier models had no fixed biminis, barbeques, or large fridge spaces, which was a deal breaker for cruising in this region.

As sales across Asia-Pacific markets for Fountaine Pajot continued to grow, the shipyard became more receptive to our feedback, and by 2006, for example, some of our suggestions started to become standard features across a number of models, including in the latest MY power range.

We hope to tell more of this evolving story in the issues ahead.

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Guest Columnist for Yacht Style Magazine: Mark Elkington on “How Multi-hull Solutions Evolved”

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