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2021 July August Marina World

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The magazine for the marina industry

BOATSHARE & CHARTER Left

BOATSHARE & CHARTER Left & below: Freedom Boat Club’s new venture in Portsmouth, UK is part of its strategy for continued expansion in Europe. First foray for Freedom The world’s largest and oldest boat club, Freedom Boat Club – a division of Brunswick Corporation – has made its first foray into the UK market, announcing in April the opening of a new company-owned location in Portsmouth, near Port Solent. The area is one of the most desirable boating destinations in the UK and the new club is part of the company’s strategy for continued expansion in Europe. The Solent coastline is a 20- mile (32km) long stretch of water offering plenty of activities for outdoor enthusiasts, including nature reserves, country parks, sailing and windsurfing. Much of the water is sheltered by the Isle of Wight, which has helped contribute to the area’s success as a yachting hub. Freedom’s new club is located at the already-established Trafalgar Wharf in Portsmouth and will officially open this summer, with membership sales currently underway. “With Freedom Boat Club entering the region, consumers who want to enjoy the water without owning a boat will have the opportunity to do so,” says Jason Worthy, vicepresident of Boating Services EMEA. Freedom chose the UK – and Trafalgar Wharf specifically – because of its prime location on the stunning English south coast, an area that offers plenty of beautiful boating destinations. The new purpose-built club is set to deliver a welcoming environment for boaters, in which they can relax after time on the water and enjoy refreshments and member Wi-Fi. With regular social events and barbecues, the clubhouse is a perfect environment to socialise with family and friends. Using the company’s reservation app, users can book a boat at any club worldwide and choose which type of boat they wish to take out for a day on the water. The company’s fleet in Portsmouth currently includes 6m (20ft) Ballistic RIBs, 6.5m (21ft) Ballistic RIBs, Quicksilver 675 Opens and Bayliner VR6 Bowriders. Members can also enjoy unlimited onwater training at all levels. All members are given RYA Powerboat Level 2 training to familiarise themselves with the boats and advice on how to navigate in the Solent. Training is standard across the Freedom Boat Club network and a UK Master Trainer is based in the Portsmouth clubhouse to deliver RYAaccredited training. “We do all the work, leaving you with more time to spend with family and friends to explore the water,” Worthy says. “There is no other boat club out there that offers its members such freedom locally and internationally. In addition to hassle free boating, we pride ourselves on building local boating communities through our clubhouses offering social events and refreshments.” Growing interest When Freedom Boat Club was founded in 1989 in Florida, the boat club model was revolutionary, the company says. There were no boat clubs, fractional boating, boating timeshare or even many boat rental facilities. Since then, the company and the boat share concept has gone from strength to strength – and Freedom’s model today allows its members to access boats from any of its 285+ locations in the US, Canada, France and now the UK. “We believe the UK and Europe is a prime market for the growth of Freedom Boat Club. This is the first in what we expect to be multiple new locations in and around the UK. We are excited to introduce our award-winning Brunswick brands and the Freedom Boat Club model to boaters across the UK,” Worthy says. There is further opportunity, he adds, to successfully expand Freedom Boat Club across Europe, as boating is one of the most popular outdoor activities in the region. “This expansion into a new region represents the beginning of our continued efforts to replicate the successful model we have built in North America to provide a pathway to introduce more global consumers to the on-water lifestyle.” Interest in boating has grown substantially in recent years, with concepts such as boat sharing and boat charter helping to make boating more accessible than ever. During the COVID- 19 pandemic, interest in the activity climbed to an all-time high as being out on the water became a perfect activity for social distancing, with most regions reporting an increase in boat sales during this period (see Marina World, 46 www.marinaworld.com – July/August 2021

BOATSHARE & CHARTER Using the Freedom app, users can book any type of boat for a day out on the water. November/December 2020, p.19). According to British Marine, UK boat sales rose by almost 10% in 2020, demonstrating that boating in the region continues to grow in popularity. “The whole boat charter [concept] is making a huge shift towards sharing a boat fleet,” says Worthy. “It is like almost owning the boat without the hassle and the large investment in buying and owning it. The ever-growing sharing economy is a major driver for such a change from sole ownership, charter to shared access. In addition, due to the pandemic, people were able to go boating and have rediscovered through Freedom Boat Club how easy it can be. Advantages include no cleaning, no hassle on insurance or owning a berth.” And he believes boat club membership – not just charter – is key for the future to help make boating simple and more accessible. Expanding in Europe The UK club is now Freedom’s seventh corporate-owned territory and its first in Europe, joining its US clubs in southwest Florida, southeast Florida, Raleigh in North Carolina, Charleston in South Carolina, Chicago, Illinois and New York. Freedom also has a growing presence in France with locations at La Rochelle and Île de Ré, in Cap d’Agde and Freedom Boat Club Carnon (Montpelier). These are all privately owned franchises that operate on their own territory but remain part of the Freedom Boat Club network where members can enjoy reciprocal access to a fleet of boats. Brunswick started franchise development in Europe at the end of 2020 and is organically growing the network, further expanding in the UK along the south coast, France and Spain as its initial target markets. The UK office will not only support new franchises and drive ongoing support, but also offer members a great experience on the water in Portsmouth and surrounding areas. www.marinaworld.com – July/August 2021 47

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