I´m back in Les Sables d´Olonne again for a very special occasion. Handing over our flagship, the wonderful Beneteau Oceanis Yacht 60 isn´t something you do every month, really. For me, no matter which size the boat our clients decided to go for, the handover day is a very, very special occasion. Having waited for months now, having spent a significant amount of money and not least, having saved this budget for even longer times, a lot (!) of emotions are cumulating on that day. So, naturally, I am keen on making the day of the handover something special, something unforgettable for our clients.

Welcome to your new boat!

It is indeed a great luck having our shipyard at our side. The guys understood very well that they have to do more than just building and delivering the boats. Apparently, some (smaller) boat dealers cannot put so much effort in organizing a “perfect” handover. In this, at least for the premium boats of +55 feet, the shipyard had set up the Premium Service: A dedicated team of specialists focusing on those events. A great asset for the shipyard, big time help for smaller boat dealers and for me a big-time ace up my sleeve to provide the perfect time for our clients during handover.

A special day, an exciting occasion

The handover is the climax if you will in a series of events taking place before. For example, the family that has bought this Oceanis Yacht 60 in fact went through all of the occasions we provide for our prospect buyers to help find the right boat: Meeting on a boat show, doing a sea trial to check the boat in its natural environment and last not least, after the purchase, a visit to the shipyard when their yacht is in building process. We organize this, the professional assistance of the Premium Service is a valuable asset to make it a perfect occasion.

Cutting the ribbon is a must!

Handover of such a big boat is not a matter of one day. In fact, I´ve seen so many boats handed over without any assistance by the selling dealers. Unimaginable! Just think of it: You arrive at the marina, someone (the guy guarding the parking lot for example) hands you the keys and then you are left alone. This happens a lot. I´ve seen it and know some people: No welcome, no explanation, no training. It´s unbelievable, but also partially at least self-inflicted: Many buyers insist on getting the cheapest boat. Well, if you are not willing to pay for this, you don´t get it. In any case, this is not how we work – not with small boats and certainly not with those big, complicated yachts for sure!

Small nice detail: Shoe box.

For the Oceanis Yacht 60, handover with our clients is scheduled to take place over three days. Of course, these boats are stuffed with technical equipment and thus are very complicated – our brains can only take in so much information per day. After 7 or 8 hours training, there´s no chance to stuff more and more. So, from a strategic standpoint, the program is stretched to three days – still, a very intensive time! Nevertheless, we of course try to make it special, provide our clients with a lush and welcoming environment. It´s the details which count.

She´s not really that empty

As the boat is of course absolutely empty with no personal belongings allowed aboard before signing off the yacht, this backdrop would be a bit cold. So, first of all, the yacht is decorated with at least some nice things. Be it a shoe box right at the entry, some cosmetics (for a nice smell) in the bathrooms, fresh flowers in the saloon and loads of cushions, towels and carpets. It´s just to make our clients feel welcome and at home: Amazing how those seemingly small things dramatically change the whole picture and really work to make them “arrive” at their new boat.

Doing it right

Handover is a big psychological thing. As I mentioned, the customers have often waited for months and months, eagerly sucking in any information we can provide about the progress of the building process of their boats. Huge budgets – and any budget for any boat in any size is huge – had been invested. And of course, as in this case, in a family with four members we have to tackle the four individual mind-sets and different expectations. We want to do it right, so, how to take on this task?

Take some time, explore!

First of all, after a little ceremony of cutting a ribbon to the boat by the owners (which is always very heartwarming and sometimes producing some tears), we welcome our freshly baked owners on board and let them discover their boat. It´s a 30 to 45 minute free roaming time during which we restrain ourselves to remain in the background whilst the family can go around, have a look at their boat, up on deck and down below … just arriving, I shall say.

Talking about the coming program

After this we assemble in the salon to explain the program of the coming three days. It´s just to make them comfortable and take away some of the pressure. Usually, the first day is just “theory” – showing, explaining. The idea is to make the owners familiar with the “big” facts so that they feel much safer on the second day. Second and third day is a mix of explanation and test of the various parts of the equipment and, of course, first dashes out with sailing, maneuvering and really driving the boat. Of course, with smaller units, this whole program can be compressed into two days and sometimes one single day as well, but a yacht the size of the Oceanis Yacht 60 simply needs this amount of time. Or let´s put it this way: Our customers need that amount of time. After a welcome chat and the program, we start.

From bow to stern

The idea is to systematically go through the boat from bow to stern. As nice as she may look, underneath every floorboard and behind every panel there is something worth looking at and to explain. For example, in the owner´s cabin. She is sleek and clean, a nice island bed, two large windows and many skylight hatches, TV (will be installed in a few days) and some buttons to switch on light and the AC. But there is much more to discover here!

We start in the bow

Underneath the bed for example, the large AC unit for the bow cabin is installed. We put away the matrasses and open some access blinds. Suddenly the nice lounge-like appearance of this cabin is changed into bare technics. A very thorough explanation of what is where and which is what follows. Energy supply, sensors, intakes, outlets, pumps and valves. It takes more than one hour to go through all the details in this cabin alone!

Fuses, switches, relais …

Putting back together the cabin, nicely re-arranging the bed, closing all panels and putting back the floorboards into place, the owner´s suite is transformed back into the nice cabin again. We proceed to the next room, which is the adjoining owner´s bathroom. Again, all decorative panels and blinds are taken off to explain where flushing water is taken in, where the locations of the valves is, how the shower drain works and such. Another fourtyfive minutes fly by like nothing. We end at the main fuse panel in the salon. One of the sons of our clients is always taking pictures, the owner is filming and simultaneously commenting the filmed material. For me, although this is my daily business and you might think such a handover is routine, it is very interesting too – there´s always something new to learn, always a new detail previously untouched, some new hints and tricks to be learned.

A thorough technical briefing

A ship as big as this 60-footer naturally is stuffed with many, many amenities making sailing and cruising a better experience. One of these parts is the water maker. Taking off all the floorboards, we kneel down and get a thorough “dry” explanation of the workings of this part. Our owners can ask all the questions they have in mind whilst one of the kids is filming. From time to time, the owner will shoot a video himself with his own commentary. There will be a practical test and training, but regarding the watermaker, this is better to be done outside when sailing.

Watermaker underneath

Of course, all the parts which the shipyard has installed inside the boat have their own dedicated manuals. This accumulation of manuals, CDs and USB-sticks fills up a one of the seat-lockers in the salon. Legally, the owners are obliged to read them carefully to learn how to operate, to secure and to troubleshoot. Naturally, in reality, this is rarely done, so, we adapted our training to explain at least the main points of operating the different installations.

Tank management

For a boat like the Oceanis Yacht 60 almost two full hours are spent to explain the tankage. This yacht can take on 800 liters of fresh water and 600 liters of Diesel fuel. In addition to the four fresh water tanks and the two Diesel fuel tanks there are three holding tanks for the septic/black water. This means, operating these tanks is a huge part. So we take off all the floorboards and get a thorough session in how to manage tanks.

Really an important part

You can imagine that this is an important thing: To know when and how to use the tank valves to switch from one tank to another can make a difference in sailing. Emptying the tanks equally on both sides helps to maintain a leveled waterline and good sailing performance. Imagine that – for whatever reason – only the portside tanks are emptied: The boat will have considerable heeling when in port and, much worse, sail much worse on portside tack.

Avoiding brain overload

Of course a human brain can only take in so much information per day. Apart from the fact that the fresh owners are excited and therefore often not really focused, there are new questions coming up frequently. We try to fresh things up by offering drinks, a strong coffee for re-focusing or an ice-cold Coke. We also serve a nice fingerfood lunch to get the empty stomachs filled a bit – a handful of tasty Eclairs will shoot some sugar into the system to fire up surplus energy.

Let´s snack!

In all of this sometimes dry and very technical, often kind of boring theoretical, stuff, we try to have fun. Those boats are made to produce fun, create lovable memories and be the base for unforgettable holidays. Thanks to the awesome guys of the Beneteau Premium Service and also our own experience, it´s often some sidekicks and funny stories we tell to spice things up. We are in France, so an occasional glass of Champaign or a fresh, cold Rosé wine should not be missed.

Full days – fun days!

Well, after little more than eight hours we close this first day´s session. Brains are glowing, synapses are firing and our clients have learned so many new things. That´s enough for today – tomorrow we´ll start over. This time, some recap will be done, some new things will be added and then the eagerly awaited moment of sailing out for the first time will certainly be the highlight of the day. For now, we part for our hotels and meet for a nice maritime dinner. This, trust me, can best be done here at the French Atlantic coast, where fish and seafood is as fresh as it can be and French cuisine really lives up to its fame. Bon nuit, chers owners, we meet tomorrow after surely sleepless night …

Click here for part 2 of the handover process.


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