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New horizons in Phuket
Tristan Rutherford with Carmen Lau Stratton
10th January 2019
Carmen Lau Stratton, Managing Director for Asia, showcases the firmâ\'s newest bureau in Phuket, the epicentre for another burgeoning yachting scene.

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New horizons in Phuket

In 1961 Phuket’s sole industry was tin mining. Barges would park themselves on the virgin sands, then motor o with the occasional backpacker on board. Only later would Thailand’s largest island be connected to the mainland by a bridge. Few locals would have heard of Gina Lollobrigida or Alain Delon. Even fewer read Vogue or Paris-Match.

In 2017 Camper & Nicholsons dropped anchor on this island, whose indomitable spirit remains unchanged. Like Cannes, Phuket is now home to 100 nationalities, while airplanes swoop in from as far as Helsinki and Hangzhou. But turtles still nest on Mai Khao Beach, a blissful 10km of undeveloped sand.
The Sino-Portuguese Old Town still hums with tailors, temples, printers, potters and tropical juice cafés.
And one hour out to sea, the golden sands of Ko Similan appear as they did at the dawn of time.

“Like George Nicholson in Cannes, we opened our Phuket office for commercial reasons,” says Carmen Lau Stratton, Camper & Nicholsons’ Managing  Director for Asia. “Our continent has tens of thousands of islands garlanded over a dozen countries, with Thailand among the most telegenic.” One of Stratton’s most popular charges is 41m Ocean Emerald.
Designed by British architect Norman Foster, she casts a swooshing silhouette against the Andaman Sea and boasts two chefs: one ai, one French.

“Compared to the past we notice strong trends towards unique experiences,” continues Stratton.
Years ago guests might have been content with a week sailing in the Mediterranean with family and friends. Now, many charter clients have ‘been there, done that’.” For Stratton, operating a wide range of yachts from several Asian offices plays to this trend. “We offer surf charters in Sumbawa in Indonesia, cultural trips to the Spice Islands, even exotic wildlife tours of pristine Papua New Guinea with a botanist onboard.” Some of these voyages are conducted aboard Kudanil Explorer, a steel-hulled emergency rescue boat converted into a 50m surf-dive-entertainment vessel in 2018.

For scuba, many clients are demanding Indonesia’s Anambas Islands, a day sail from both Singapore and Malaysia. Here the 273m wreck of the Igara, an Italian iron ore carrier that struck an uncharted rock in 1973, has been colonised by turtles, angel sh and nurse sharks. “A yacht is perfectly suited for fantastic experiences in these exotic destinations within the luxury of a private ' floating villa',” says Stratton.

And next year’s rising star? Stratton predicts Thanda Island, a boat-only eco-resort just across the Indian Ocean in Tanzania. Here, Over the Rainbow, a 1930s cruiser refitted in 2018 with fine marquetry and a chef fresh from Manhattan’s finest restaurants, plies the cyan waters around the Zanzibar Archipelago. “We must also consider charter opportunities for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo,” says Stratton. “Plus the 2021 America’s Cup in New Zealand. In Auckland right now is Twizzle, a luxurious racing yacht that could give the regatta’s competitors a run for their money.”

The new Camper & Nicholsons office in Phuket, combined with an established bureau in Hong Kong, points to the final plank of Stratton’s Asian strategy. “ The Made in China marque now extends to luxury yacht manufacture,” she says. “Chinese yards are crafting stunning vessels for clients around the world.”

Stratton is a key figure in this burgeoning market. In 2004 she was drafted into Kingship to create their first steel and aluminium superyacht. e Hong Kong based rm now melds American marine products with German engineers and Chinese craftsmen at its Lloyds and MCA compliant shipyard up the Pearl River. Recent deliveries include 27m exploration yacht Belle Isle, currently for sale with Camper & Nicholsons. Other China-based shipyards like McConaghy have expanded into Australia and New Zealand, creating futuristic superyachts of the type barely envisaged decades ago.

Such globalisation remains an overriding trend. “We are brokering yachts for Asian clients in the Mediterranean, like the 44m Feadship Moon Sand,” says Stratton. “Yet at the same time our Mallorca office is brokering 51m motoryacht Atlas here in Hong Kong.”

Whereever the industry sails to next, Camper & Nicholsons will be there. They started the trend back in 1961.