Goldsworthy: ‘I thought I’d been absolutely brilliant’

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Simon Goldsworthy, senior broker, Edmiston.

Simon Goldsworthy is a senior sales broker for Edmiston.

He thought yacht broking was an “absolute doddle”. It had to be. Four months in the game and he had already landed his first sale, a new build Falcon 90 flybridge called Serendipity Blue. He was living the dream in Antibes.

“I arrogantly thought this was all down to me and I’d been absolutely brilliant,” laughs Simon Goldsworthy looking back.

Instead, the ironic truth began to dawn. Serendipity – or luck – had been the overriding factor. The next two years were a painful lesson in the vagaries of yacht broking. No further deals came. London and the real world was calling.

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“It gets very, very hard when you are just working as hard as you can and you feel like you’re getting nowhere,” he says.

“I say this to my junior guys when they get despondent. You’re just sowing thousands of seeds and hoping some of them will sprout. I get clients coming to me now whose parents I met 19 years ago.”

Superyacht Resilience.

Goldsworthy brokered the build of the 65m ISA Resilience for a client.

Goldsworthy is now a senior broker in Edmiston’s powerhouse sales team which has sold 26 yachts so far this season, more than any other brokerage, says the company.

One recent deal was acting for both sides in the sale of the 55m Lady A, designed by Bannenberg & Rowell and built in 1986 by Sterling in Japan.

He describes it as a “tricky sale”, not least because as a displacement GRP yacht of that length it is unusual, “with no pedigree at all”.

It’s iconic in one way being a Bannenberg, but extremely dated,” he says. “The owner eventually got to grips with the market and basically said, get rid of it.”

Pedigree is king

The European buyer came direct to him through the Edmiston website and it sold for a “mid-single digit number” says Goldsworthy.

Often selling large yachts for lower prices means running costs represent a “high percentage of capital outlay”, he adds. Those with lower budgets “gasp at €3m a year” and those with bigger budgets are looking elsewhere.

The owner, who had bought it in 2015, spent “many, many millions” refitting the yacht and Goldsworthy makes an analogy with cars, saying a refurbished Aston Martin might give you back some of your money whereas returning an old Vauxhall to “mint condition” definitely won’t.

“The takeaway is that it’s not really worth putting a lot of money into boats that don’t have great pedigree,” he says.

READ: Feeling the fear, doing it anyway – Ikonic’s rise from ruin

Sailing yacht Twilight.

Goldsworthy twice sold the sailing yacht Twilight.

Leading up to the false dawn of that first yacht sale, Goldsworthy had been earning six figures in financial recruitment in London and had just landed a job as a director at a new firm. But a month into his gardening leave, he was made redundant. Having signed a contract, he was entitled to compensation, and he used his cheque to complete his Yachtmaster qualification before he and a friend went off to work as deckhands.

He spent three years – “the time of my life” – working summers on boats and winters seasons in the Swiss ski resorts of Verbier and Zermatt and Courchevel in France.

‘Turned to rubbish’

It couldn’t last for ever and depressed at the prospect of returning to corporate life in London, he took the advice of his charter manager and instead looked into yacht broking. At the age of 31, he landed a job as a trainee sales broker at Camper and Nicholsons in Antibes, working for an initial salary of €14,000 a year under one of the senior brokers, Mike Payne, who went on to become CEO. “My parents thought I had lost it,” he says.

He spent the first couple of years “carrying bags” for Payne and sitting in a lot of meetings with “eyes and ears open and mouth shut” while trying to build his own network.

READ: Why yacht brokers are braced for revolution

But at his first Monaco Yacht Show in September 2004, he met a promising client and eventually closed the deal on Serendipity Blue in January 2005.

The experienced Payne suggested he had been “quite lucky” but Goldsworthy, flush with success if not much actual commission, thought that he and everyone else had exaggerated the difficulty of selling yachts.

“Mike turned out to be extremely right because I then had a period where everything I touched turned to rubbish,” he says.

Oil and water

The frustrating and wallet-sapping reality of life as a junior yacht broker hit home.

“There’s a lot of emotion in buying and selling yachts,” says Goldsworthy. “There are so many different ways that these deals can fall over when you’ve got two rich people going after each other.

“There’s anxiety on the buyer’s side because it’s usually the largest amount of money they’ve ever spent on anything, even their house.

 “And you’ve got a seller who’s passionate about his yacht, thinks he’s spent a lot of money on it, and thinks it’s perfect. And those two worlds are oil and water.”

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He once nearly lost a deal when he allowed buyer and seller to meet onboard, only for them to fall out. He vowed never again.

“All owners think their boat is the best  and all buyers are suspicious and paranoid. It’s our job to keep them apart and translate what they might want to say to each other into something that’s palatable and well received,” he says, which is why he is “100% of the opinion” that AI will not replace the human connection.

Sailing yacht Red Dragon.

Red Dragon is a 2008 52m sailing yacht built by Alloy Yachts.

God of brokerage

Goldsworthy finally broke the drought with the sale of a small sailing yacht in May 2007, two years and four months after his first transaction.

He followed it quickly with the sale of a Riva – “nothing flashy, a couple of million” – before landing his first significant deal with the sale of Antares, the 40m Royal Huisman, for “about €30m” at the end of that year.

I made a good amount of money, a six-figure sum,” he says. “It made me believe that I could actually sell a big, decent yacht. And it gave me enough financial breathing space to carry on for another year or two.”

READ: Theres always a buyer somewhere on the planet

Since then, he has only had one year – 2009, in the wake of the global financial crisis – when he has not made a sale.

“Occasionally you look like an absolute hero, like you’re a god of brokerage, but actually you just got a bit lucky,” says Goldsworthy, who joined Edmiston in 2017.

“And then equally you can have real losing streaks, where you’re just tearing your hair out and you can’t understand why everything’s going wrong.”

Jumping at shadows

Sometimes an owner’s madness” descends where they “get upset about something really small and insignificant and let it overwhelm them”.

He cites the sailing yacht Twilight, an Oyster 125, which he was selling for the second time. The anxious buyer descended into “utter panic” when a “grandstanding” surveyor turned a “minuscule” patch of osmosis, which was already being fixed, into a major issue, he says. The buyer pulled out, but Goldsworthy lined up another client, who did their own survey and has owned the boat since then “with zero problems and no osmosis”.

It just goes to show you that there’s only so much you can do if you have somebody who’s that nervous and wants to jump at shadows,” he says.

READ: ‘Only buy a yacht if you can afford to give it away’

He has also been involved in about 10 new builds, notably the 2021-built Resilience, the 65m ISA, for a UK-based owner for whom he had bought and sold a yacht previously.

“I enjoy new build. Financially, it’s a disaster because it takes about 10 times more of your time and headspace than a brokerage deal does, and you get paid about the same,” he says.

“But it’s very rewarding and I love the journey from blank sheet of paper to finished article.”

Skin of a rhinoceros

For Goldsworthy, the rewards of the job are winning a client’s trust and being with them throughout the journey, but he is always mindful of his boss’s adage.

“As Jamie Edmiston always says, we’re in the business of disappointment,” he says.

“You have to have the skin of a rhinoceros, be mentally resilient and a very short memory for those disappointments because you don’t half get kicked in the teeth on a regular basis. But when you get to work with nice clients it can be great fun and very rewarding and I certainly wouldn’t want to be in any other career.”

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