More than 250 yacht crew turned Port Vauban a vibrant shade of orange at We Orange Antibes’ inaugural King’s Night Celebration.
Hosted by Luxury Hospitality Management, Onshore Cellars, We Supply Yachts and We Ship Yachts ahead of MYBA in Barcelona and the Palma Yacht Show, the event on Friday 26th April brought together captains, deckhands, stews and staff from Crew Network, Abacus & March, Excelerate Marine and Candelicious amongst many others to celebrate the start of the season in a distinctly Dutch fashion.
Spirits were high as revellers donned orange T-shirts, flower garlands and even afro wigs to party, with wine supplied by Onshore Cellars, beer from Heineken and hotdogs on offer as DJ Ben ramped up the sounds. The event raised cash for marine charity Ecomer, whose Yachts with Heart initiative collects old uniforms and other materials that yachts are about to throw away to redistribute to populations in need.
The idea for an annual party came out of a conversation between Peter Vogel, of Luxury Hospitality, and Jess Dunnett, who runs Onshore Cellars with her husband Ed.
‘Jess and I chatted about the idea a year ago as she and Ed have been coming to Holland a lot over the years,’ says Peter. ‘We wanted to do something fun to connect with people in the business as well as celebrating King’s Night.
‘Before the summer season, there used to be the Antibes Yacht Show which was particularly good for crew but that disappeared so we tried to think of a good time of year to organise something which gives the crew a great night out.’
They decided to plan a party to coincide with King’s Day – a celebration of the Dutch monarch’s birthday on April 27th – at the start of the Med yachting season in the South of France and enlisted the support of We Supply Yachts and We Ship Yachts to help with the planning.
‘The night started quietly, but by the end it was very busy with a mix of yachties right across the board,’ adds Peter, whose brand partnered up with the We brand earlier this year. ‘Dilbar brought their interior team along from Monaco and we had business people here too. For a first effort, it worked really well and it feels like a great opportunity for the future.
‘Next year we will aim even higher and hope to have 1000 people here to celebrate with us. We will fill the arches by the port with something special and make the party a lot bigger. The 2020 event already has the support of the Maire of Antibes, who thought it was an excellent idea.’
Ed and Jess Dunnett, who set up Onshore Cellars in Antibes four years ago, were also happy to sponsor the event. ‘Jess and I spent a number of years working on yachts and we love Holland and have always enjoyed King’s Day so this grew out of a chat with Peter at our shop,’ says Ed.
‘I think it’s important that companies who supply yacht crew realise that you’re not just supplying the owner, you’re making the crew’s life easier and recognising that they are your clients and are the people who really support your brand. We operate by remembering the way we wanted to be treated when we were yacht crew. Our team of six now run tastings with wine producers from around the world every few weeks.
‘I used to work on a scat and we had a dock party at the end of the year in Antigua where locals, crew and everyone who had helped the boat let their hair down and had fun together. It’s important for crew to mingle with other crew, especially for the smaller boats, because opportunities can come out of that for jobs and contacts.
‘Hopefully, this party will get bigger year on year. Next year we plan to lay on coaches to bus people in from La Ciotat and San Remo.’
The party was also a chance for yacht professionals who weren’t heading off to Palma and Barcelona to welcome the season in a relaxed fashion, according to Evan Kortmann of We Ship Yachts.
‘The birthday of the King is a big party in Holland so it was a nice idea to incorporate that and organise something for yacht crew who weren’t going to the shows – it’s the perfect time of year to get people together before they are on a tight schedule and heading off all over the world,’ says Evan.
‘It was like a party for the neighbours which we can make larger scale in future and extend invites to other yachting companies and brokers.’
The We brand was born 18 months ago when Evan met provisioners Joost and Maarten Van Gorsel, who now run We Supply Yachts. ‘We are autonomous companies but we combine forces, our strength and the contacts we have to make us stronger,’ add Evan. ‘The yachting industry is less professionalised and less mature than industries like retail. We want to professionalise the whole work/play set up and make ourselves more efficient.’
Joost believes that the informal and low key nature of the party will be key to its ongoing success. ‘It was an idea to bring people together, share some laughs and look forward to what the new season will bring in a chilled, not too commercial environment,’ he says.
‘It’s less about work than the boat shows, more about bringing friends together, sharing contacts and networking with other companies to all grow together so that everyone can benefit from each other.
‘We will also support a charity each year like Ecomer because there is only one ocean.
‘It’s an exciting time for our company. We started small last year, focusing on quality rather than volume, and we initially aimed to supply two to three boats a week but we now supply 10 – 15 boats a week worldwide. We want to keep things as good as they were when we started. The biggest challenge is to keep your feet on the ground and maintain your quality.
‘Hopefully, King’s Night Celebration is the start of something really big. Our goal is to make it the biggest and best party or festival in yachting.’
Images: Karen Hockney