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DaVinci charters steps forward for 2012 Bay Regatta



PHUKET: It’s not unusual when marinas and yacht brokers cross over into the restaurant business, but co-sponsor of the Bay Regatta 2012, Phuket’s iconic Italian restaurant DaVinci – scored a first when they crossed in the opposite direction.

Sponsoring yachting and yacht racing is one thing – and DaVinci has shown other island businesses how that should be done – but what’s an Italian restaurant doing dipping its toes in the yacht charter market?

According to DaVinci partner, David Roberts, also CEO of Aedas, the world’s largest architectural outfit, the move should come as no surprise.

“The restaurant and boats are individual business units, but as part of the same brand they’re complementary – as will be our future real estate and retail businesses. The key underlying thread is our ‘lifestyle concept’, which is not limited to any one type of business,” he explained.

A clever master plan or just a bit of a hobby? Neither really.

“I don’t subscribe to any hobbies; DaVinci is a viable ongoing business, but it all began quite casually over a bottle of fine wine with my business partner Mark Norris,” said Roberts.

“As an architect, I’m in the business of creating buildings and places that are ever more a reflection of lifestyle aspirations. DaVinci is my interpretation of what a lifestyle brand can be in Asia and, after the purchase of my first boat in 2010, the charter business seemed a natural progression for the DaVinci lifestyle concept, at the same time as promoting the brand through yacht racing,” he said.

From that first boat purchase in 2010, the fledgling DaVinci Yacht Charters already operates four vessels: an Andaman Cabriolet sailing catamaran, a Sunseeker Manhattan 50 fly-bridge power yacht, a classic sailing yacht, (Willow II – based on a 200 year old design) and the soon-to-arrive DaVinci 007 ‘Hovpod’ hovercraft.

On whether it makes sense for a restaurant business to take a crack at the yacht charter market, Roberts said, “DaVinci offers a different approach, whereby boating alone is only part of the experience – and not necessarily the major part. Our bespoke packages meet the expectations and needs of our customers, for whom entertaining, adventure or simple relaxation may be their main motivations.”

But where does sponsorship fit into all this? Mr Roberts said, “As with all my businesses, community engagement is a key pillar of being relevant to the communities in which we live and do business. This keeps us relevant and tuned in with people and places, as well as informing us on business opportunities, while enhancing the reputation of our brand. Yachting is great way to get rid of the stress and pressures of business. I’ve always enjoyed sailing and participated in a few King’s Cup Regattas, so yachting was a logical choice as a sponsorship vehicle.”

Sponsorship has certainly helped establish brand recognition for DaVinci the restaurant; high profile Phuket Raceweek sponsorship for three consecutive years, the donation of a floating pontoon to Ao Chalong Yacht Club and the purchase of a training Optimist dinghy for young Thai sailors in Ao Yon have all contributed to the brand’s exposure.

“Taking on the role as a major sponsor of Phuket’s own Bay Regatta was the logical next step as we move forwards with our yacht charter business. Not only does it reinforce that we’re serious about DaVinci’s yachting arm, but as the region’s premiere cruising lifestyle regatta, there’s a perfect fit,” said Roberts.

But what about Roberts’ own time on the water? “I must confess that, although we’re serious about the business side, I have priority on taking the boats out and thoroughly enjoy the time we spend on them with family and friends,” he said.


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