Happy New Year! A Reflection on 2020


Here's a look back on a year that was like none other!
Here's a look back on a year that was like none other!

By Josh McLean

Jan 15, 2021

There are more than a few reasons why 2020 will be a year to remember. At the onset of the year, the DWY Team prepared for an exciting start to the Spring Boat Show Season. Anxious to see our clients on the docks and launch our new models.

Looking forward to getting back to the business of letting dreams set sail in anticipation of the start of the 2020 boating season.

Then came March, and the uncertainty that came about as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, I rallied our Team together and laid out what we expected to be our plan for a very challenging year. At that time, our focus shifted from fun on the water toward ensuring our people, the greatest asset we have at David Walters Yachts, was protected and secure in what we expected to come. In short order, our Team rose to the challenge and, quite literally, overnight, reinvented our strategy for the coming months.

We expanded our emphasis on digital media, poured resources into developing the tools and platform necessary to host virtual showings, and transitioned to our remote home offices. Our investment over the previous few years toward modernizing our workspaces, marketing, and resources made the shift not only easy but ultimately quite efficient. Through the challenges and, at times, the chaos of the situation, the Team persevered and adapted as I knew they would.

In short order, we were up and running with a full schedule of live webinars, which reached over 5,000 individuals. We hosted our Virtual Drinks on the Dock happy hour every Friday for the first few months, bringing comradery and laughter to our clients and friends spread throughout the world. On one Friday, we had clients tuning in from 9 different time zones around the world! Our industry partners and friends from Hylas, Italia Yachts, North Sails, Quantum Sails, Cruising World, and our friends Pam Wall and Billy Black all joined in on the fun.

Then, come May, fueled by a demand-driven mainly by the "If Not Now, Then When?" attitudes from those dreaming of boat ownership and families recognizing that yachting is the perfect "socially distanced" escape for their families, the boating industry roared to new highs. Later in the year, the gains some had realized by playing the stock market even further fed the fire, especially in larger yachts. In the brokerage market, the loss of production capability from new manufactures caused by shuttered factories in Europe put pressure on the pre-owned yachts' inventory. In a rush, many boats went under contract, many at or close to full ask price.

With the demand came new challenges. How do we responsibly meet clients and facilitate deals in an environment where travel and handshakes are no longer possible? Our Team quickly became savvy with Zoom Tours, 3D Virtual Walk-Throughs with Matterport technology, and became obsessive hand sanitizer users. Through developing trust and excellent communication with our clients, our Team became adept at handling all aspects of a transaction while our clients stayed remote, often not even being present for surveys and sea-trials. Our Team sold over a dozen boats in 2020, where the first time the client saw their new boat was after closing. That's trust built on confidence.

Our New Boat Team's also had an unprecedented year. We kept customers updated on what was going on at the yard through constant communication with our partners at Hylas and Italia Yachts and kept their confidence that their yachts were on schedule. Despite the challenges, we're proud to say the production at both factories is at full capacity for the coming year. We can not say enough about the strength and fortitude demonstrated by our manufacturers. Both Hylas Yachts and Italia Yachts have proven, by their dedication and devotion to their customers, why they are both world-class builders. In 2020, Hylas Yachts launched two of their newest models, the Hylas H60 and H57, and Italia Yachts launched their new 14.98.

By June, with our Team in overdrive and a wholly renewed approach to connecting with our customers, it was apparent we needed to bring in some fresh perspective and outside expertise to continue adapting. We welcomed Marina Neal, our new Marketing Coordinator, aboard the Team in early June. The impact of bringing Marina on the Team was immediate.

She singlehandedly took charge of our DWY Newsletters, focusing on quality content and articles geared to inform and entertain our customers. She organized a series of webinars with our industry partners to connect them with our clients. She breathed new life into the news and articles section on our website, making it a resource instead of a smattering of price reduction notifications. Bringing Marina onboard not only added depth and breadth to the DWY team, but she's also added tremendous value to our customers. A big thank you to her!

In June, we had been looking forward to sailing the Italia 13.98 Artemis in the 2020 Newport to Bermuda Race as planned, but instead, we shifted to sponsoring the virtual regatta. This event, which included hundreds of participants worldwide, allowed them to "helm" the new Italia 14.98 in a realistic simulation of the race. We look forward to the race in 2022!

With the Team growing, partnerships with manufacturers expanding, and a natural desire to be closer to the water, I announced to the Team in August that we'd be moving. The new office of David Walters Yachts and Hylas Yachts opened officially in September 2020 at Harbour Towne Marina, just south of Fort Lauderdale. At the same time, we also wholly remodeled our Annapolis office in Port Annapolis Marina with a new customer lounge, event patio, and upgraded offices for our Team. When some semblance of normalcy returns, and we can all gather again, we will look forward to hosting regular events at both locations and hope to see you there.

This year, many things looked quite a bit different. In the yachting industry, that was certainly noticeable with the absence of the major Fall boat shows. For the DWY Team, we always look forward to gathering on the docks with our customers and showcasing our premier listings and latest models in Newport and Annapolis. However, that experience took a very different form at our Annual Bluewater Brokerage Show. Returning for the third year, the Bluewater Brokerage Show is traditionally an event hosted exclusively by DWY on the docks at Port Annapolis Marina. Still, this year we expanded the show to include several of our closest industry partners. North Sails, Quantum Sails, Raymarine Electronics, FLIR, ICOM, M-Yacht Services, and Sirocco Marine, along with our partners at Hylas Yachts and Italia Yachts setup outdoor vendor displays, over 16 boats in the water and another 12 on the hard. Our Team donned their masks with safety at the forefront and pulled off three days of private tours and 6' conversations with welcomed guests. In the end, our Team sold five boats as a result of the show!

With the end of an unusual 2020 boating season, we looked to concluding what had already demonstrated to be a record-setting year for David Walters Yachts. By mid-October, we had well surpassed our total sales for 2019 and looked on track to beat the goal we set even before the pandemic struck.

Late Fall is generally the busiest time of year for yacht sales. 2020, as unusual as it was, proved to be no exception to the rule. The DWY Team kept busy through the holiday season, with an astonishing number of boats heading to new owners right before the end of the year. In total, in November and December, the Team sold more boats than in all of 2016! A record end to a record year.

In reflection of 2020, I am immensely grateful for David Walters' mentorship while he was with us. Dave's moral compass, willingness to do things differently, and dedication to those around him, served as a guide for overcoming the challenges of this past year. I'm also thankful to my Team for having the opportunity to lead them for going on five years. Undoubtedly, our success is due to them; they are the best in the industry. And most importantly, for our customers' continued trust and loyalty, I am exceptionally thankful.

Happy New Year,

Josh McLean
President, David Walters Yachts