'Bentley of the seas'

Last Updated: Fri, Dec 14, 2012 19:36 hrs

Whether it is aboard his superfast Mangusta or the sporty Riva, Binatone Telecom Group Founder and Chairman Gulu Lalvani loves to unwind across the high seas on his many yachts. The 73-year-old businessman, an avid sailor, has been a yacht aficionado for over 30 years. So much so that he came out of retirement in 2002 to set up the Royal Phuket Marina, investing nearly $20 million and persuading the Thai government to abolish a 200 per cent import duty on boats. Lalvani talks to Priyanka Sharma about his yachts.

The queen of your collection:
My 72-feet Mangusta named Happy’, one of the fastest luxury yachts in the world. It races across the seas at around 80 kmph, which is why it is often called the “Bentley of the seas”! [Mangusta, by yacht-maker Overmarine Group Shipyard, means Mongoose in Italian and is considered the benchmark for large open series yachts.] It has three sprawling master bedrooms and six bathrooms. I bought it for around five million Euros from Italy. I often use it to travel to Malaysia in two hours and even Burma in three hours!

Do you prefer to sail alone or have a captain on board?
Since the Mangusta is a complex yacht, I have a captain and crew on board to help me sail. But more often than not, I prefer to sail alone. After all, if you own a Ferrari, would you hire a chauffeur to drive it around? My children prefer the other four yachts — the 42-feet Riva or the 32-feet Riva named Semiramis’ ($2 million), which I bought in Turkey, are sporty and can be self-driven. The Sunseeker 37 Sportsfisher and the Sea Ray Sedan 65 Flybridge, too, are family yachts and travel at about 30 kmph.

Things to look out for before going yacht-shopping:
That completely depends on the personality and budget of the buyer. First-time buyers may start with a 30-foot yacht, gauge their comfort and then shop for bigger models. Today, yachting enthusiasts are willing to spend over $10 million on a good yacht. If you can afford it, there is no limit. The best yacht builders are concentrated in Europe and are mostly Italians.

But the most important thing is a marina. Since my villa is on a waterfront in Phuket, I can park my yachts behind my house. I have seen the marina in Kochi — I was quite disappointed by its state. Make sure you know of a good marina before you buy a yacht!

Best yachting destination:
I have sailed across Florida, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and France and can vouch for this — the ideal place to own and enjoy your yacht is Phuket. Businessmen can hold meetings and parties, and simply unwind on their yacht in Phuket. Phuket has all the ingredients to become one of the best yachting hubs in the world — you can sail round the year, loan it to friends or rent it out for charters. The fuel and mooring costs, captain and crew’s salaries are cheaper than in Europe. The island is scenic and almost magical! If given the chance and if the government relaxes restrictions, I would love to set up a marina in Navi Mumbai. Then, one can sail from Nariman Point to Juhu in 20 minutes!

Yachts on your wish list:
I am heading to the London Boat Show in January next year and will look around for options. I am willing to splurge anywhere between five and ten million Euros.

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