Yas Marina looks like the real deal

Millions of dirhams worth of yachts lined Yas Marina at the weekend, affording their guests some of the closest views of Abu Dhabi's inaugural Formula One race.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates --- November 1, 2009 --- F1 fans watch the F1 Formula race from yachts at the YAS Yacht Marina. ( Delores Johnson / The National ) *** Local Caption ***  dj_01nov09_YAS F1 Yacht Marina_003.jpg
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Millions of dirhams worth of yachts lined Yas Marina at the weekend, affording their guests some of the closest views of Abu Dhabi's inaugural Formula One Grand Prix, with cars just metres away roaring past at speeds of up to 250kph. The marina was an important part of the event, attracting vessels belonging to the Royal Family and some from the Mediterranean that had travelled for two weeks to get here. One boat even came all the way from Australia. For all, having a berth at Yas Marina was a sure way to impress. Jeroen van der Geer, 28, who owns a company called AA Properties in Dubai, chartered a luxury yacht for the four-day event. The Dh9 million (US$2.4m), 88-foot yacht, which featured an outdoor hot tub, took a prime position overlooking the track with the glow of the Yas Hotel providing a surreal backdrop. Mr van der Geer paid Dh250,000, the most he's ever spent on client entertainment, and invited clients, business connections, and some friends and family, hosting about 40 people. Never mind the slowdown in the property market, he said. "There is still money with people like me for marketing, but only for special occasions," Mr van der Geer said. "This is such an incentive as it's a lifetime memory for some people." His company is an official agent for Nakheel, selling villas and apartments on the Palm Jumeirah. Mr van der Geer said he was not using the event to negotiate deals, but he did expect it to generate future business. "Obviously, we have hundreds of customers but you only invite your best, let's say, 20 customers," he said. "It's good to do something back for your customers, although you won't have direct returns out of it. But in the future, when they want to buy something, they won't forget you." His firm has offices in Belgium and Holland, and most of his customers are European, he said. One of the clients Mr van der Geer was entertaining for the weekend bought the Taiwan island in the man-made Nakheel World development last summer. He explained that impressing such clients would have immeasurable benefits for business. "We already made good money out of the deal," Mr van der Geer said. "It's a people business - you treat them like friends. It's not my product, but you sell the information that the island is there for sale and it's a great investment." For the week, berths at Yas Marina could be rented at prices between Dh15,000 and Dh250,000, Cedric Le Rest, the manager of Yas Marina, said. Some people are already asking for reservations for next year's race and for year-long berths at the marina, Mr Le Rest said. Rates for next year have not been set, he added, but they are likely to rise. Berend Lens van Rijn, the chief executive of Belevari Marine, which rented the yacht to Mr van der Geer , also rented a Dh25m, 100-foot yacht to an events management company for Dh280,000 for the race weekend. "I think for next year it will be easier to sell," Mr van Rijn said. "Next year it will be fully booked way in advance." Mr van der Geer said he was so impressed by the experience that he was keen to return next year. "You can almost feel the wind from the speed of the cars," he said. "There's nowhere that you can get as close as this. "Next year we want to be here again, with a bigger boat." @Email:rbundhun@thenational.ae