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2016 Jan Feb Marina World

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TALKING SHOP Porto Cervo Marina on the Costa Smeralda is an essential summer destination for the international jet set. Success continues for Sardinia superyacht hub Porto Cervo Marina in Sardinia, Italy, is a key destination for maxi-yachts. Donatella Zucca invited Michele Azara, who has headed up the marina for the past eleven years, to talk shop. Porto Cervo is not a new generation marina and has no need of renowned architectural features to ensure its success. It was an instant hit when it first opened and, since then, there has been no downward slide. Such excellent turnover is enjoyed during the summer months that the marina has been basically resting on its laurels for the rest of the year. For Porto Cervo, location is everything. It sits in an area of outstanding beauty – both in terms of landscape and local architecture – faces wonderful seas and is close to fabulous hotels such as the Pitrizza, Romazzino, Cala di Volpe and the five star Pevero Golf Club; 18 holes in a unique natural environment. In the 1960s, Aga Khan Karim conquered this corner of Sardinia and made it famous and Emir Hamad bin Kalifa of Thani is now following suit via the Qatar Holding fund. With such wealthy advocates, it is no surprise that the region attracts superyachts. Michele Azara is a hands-on marina director, born and raised on the Costa Smeralda. “I’m not young but I try to keep in shape doing my job,” he says. “My life has always been linked to boats and the sea. I started work with the Marinasarda rental company and then moved to Porto Cervo Marina as deputy director, and since 2005 as director,” he explains. Porto Cervo has thrived despite economic pressures and it is now looking to further secure a bright future. Q: Despite the crisis of 2006 - the impact of regional taxes that caused customers to leave Sardinian marinas - and the national crisis of 2012 that severely affected all Italian marinas, Porto Cervo has remained steady, not so much in terms of numbers but because of the presence of larger yachts. Why? A: Our luck lies in having an international clientele. English is the most spoken language in the marina and the people who have suffered most during the crisis are Italian. Taxes and wild controls have put stoppers on the domestic market but only slightly affected Michele Azara, director of the marina since 2005, is a hands-on manager who takes pleasure in personally welcoming customers. foreigners. Around 80% of our regular customers have continued to visit, perhaps shortening their length of stay a little. Q: As owners of very large boats are generally unapproachable and probably not even European, your contact is most likely with captains? A: Mostly, yes. Russian and Arab owners have dominated, especially in the difficult years as the crisis didn’t touch them. The vessels got larger and now we no longer speak of yachts but of pleasure ships. In these cases, our direct contact is with the captain, who is in charge of reservations and payments or management of these. Some vessels are like companies, with an incredible following of employees. But quite often, with regular clients, we also end up becoming acquainted with the owners. Q: As you have fewer annual berth holders and rely on visitors, what special attention do you give to captains and crew? A: The captain is the reference point. You create a friendship with him, paying attention to even the smallest details. For example when the yachts arrive, I am always on the pier to welcome them. This is a sign of respect that they value because it emphasises the importance of their role and puts them in a favourable light with the ship owner. We also offer them access to the tennis club, with gym and swimming pool. Our pub is much loved by the crews and one year we also set up a gym for them in the Harrod’s village. Q: What is the Harrod’s village? 46 - January/February 2016 MW2016JanFeb.indd 46 05/01/2016 09:36:08

TALKING SHOP Small and medium size boats are berthed in an elegant corner with good facilities and plenty of space. A: For the third year in a row, we have set up the Harrod’s village in the Old Port as an attraction for everyone. We are very satisfied with this as there was little attraction in the square before and, now, with super-luxury boutiques, it is much better. Customers love to sit with a drink at the stern of their boats to see and be seen. The more people there are, the happier everyone is. Q: Would you say that Porto Cervo is a bit like Venice in that boats arrive regardless of certifications, infrastructure etc? A: Not quite. For example, we were the first in the Mediterranean and among the first in the world to apply the international directive issued after September 11 th for an IPS security plan for commercial megayachts. This refers to vessels that can stretch to 120m (393.7ft) in length; a size that few Mediterranean marinas, unlike us, can accommodate. We also have a dedicated bunkering station and, in terms of safety, the Consorzio Costa Smeralda can provide body guards upon request. But our location is mostly a great strength. Our only weakness is being on an island quite far from the mainland and where transportation is limited. We are, however, talking about people who arrive by boat and who are not subject to standard airport checks. If they fly, they use a private plane. This clientele bypasses all sorts of problems common to other people. Q: Aside from the obvious financial benefits, what advantages do you see as a result of Qatar Holding’s investment in Smeralda Holding? The realisation of the Qatar Holding project, now awaiting the Regional Landscape Plan 2016, should also lengthen the season at the marina? A: The Harrod’s village, as mentioned, has brought a big benefit but we wait to see what will happen when the plan is fully implemented. During the year, we have around 20,000 boats, over half of which are in transit. Most of our traffic is from June to September, with peaks in July and August. From October to April, we drop significantly but in winter we have a reasonable number of permanent boats especially from Milan owners who come for the weekend. The realisation of the Qatar Holding project could help to extend the season to seven months but, of course this process will take time and there will be plenty to do. This aside, we have good revenue that has enabled us to survive even at the most difficult times. Our prices are calculated in square metres and we are talking about vessels of 80m (262.4ft), 90m (295.2ft) and 100m (328ft). Over the years, we have been compelled to adapt to this new size by providing electricity up to 400A and by streamlining our best feature of giving assistance on land and at sea. When a vessel arrives, irrespective of whether it is 20m (65.6ft) or 100m (328ft), it is received quickly by our rafts that help in the stern-to mooring arrangement. This is much appreciated, especially by Americans who are accustomed to alongside mooring. Q: By extending this level of service to all boats you are not just focusing on superyachts but welcoming a range of vessels – both power and sail? A: Absolutely. The presence of megayachts and celebrities should not deceive people into thinking we are not interested in small boats. We have space for these and they are always welcome. And, although motorboats Aside from being one of the most beautiful and exclusive locations in the central Mediterranean, Porto Cervo Marina is renowned for its fabulous sunsets. - January/February 2016 47 MW2016JanFeb.indd 47 05/01/2016 09:36:16

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