要在茫茫大海与朋友不期而遇，应该难如登天。然而，泰国Boat Lagoon Yachting集团董事经理Vrit Yongsakul却非常幸运，他在普吉岛附近的斯米兰群岛海域，与老友“萍水相逢”，喜出望外。
36岁的Vrit Yongsakul是泰国华裔，曾祖父当年离开中国家乡过番到普吉岛的锡矿工作。后来他的祖父在普吉岛和泰国南部买进很多土地，家族开始致富。热爱海上活动的父亲Kanit Yongsakul则在20多年前创立Boat Lagoon游艇俱乐部，帮助奠定普吉岛作为区域游艇业中心的基础。
从伦敦帝国学院土木工程硕士班毕业后，Vrit回到了泰国，继承家业。Boat Lagoon Yachting自1995年开始在泰国代理英国公主游艇，目前负责该品牌东南亚的销售与服务，在泰国、印尼、马来西亚、新加坡等地都有销售处。去年Boat Lagoon Yachting的营业额约3500万新元，一共售出27艘游艇，其中有九成是公主品牌。
What are the chances of running into someone you know while out on the open seas? Not very high at all, which is why Vrit Yongsakul treasures such a chance encounter.
The group managing director of Thailand’s Boat Lagoon Yachting and Princess Yachts Southeast Asia was sailing at the Similan Islands near Phuket in March when he ran into an old friend, who was on his way back from Myanmar.
“We had not seen each other for two years and this unexpected encounter on the seas was truly a surprise,” he recalled with a laugh during the interview at the Singapore Yacht Show in April. “This is one reason I like the yachting life.”
Yongsakul was then in the middle of holding a large-scale yachting event for the friends and families of his company’s clients. The occasion drew more than 20 yachts with about 200 people, who mingled and relaxed on the waters over three days and two nights. “We lined up the yachts and while the adults chatted over drinks, the kids swam in the sea. The atmosphere was very leisurely,” he said of the event.
The 36-year-old views his job as a godsend. “It has been absolutely fortunate and perfect for me to be able to marry work and pleasure. I have become good friends with many of my clients and often head out to sea with them. Sometimes, I even ink new deals on board.”
Three in five of the company’s buyers are repeat customers, he added. “I even have customers who have purchased 14 yachts from me. This is the best proof of the quality of service our company delivers.”
His great-grandfather had travelled from his hometown in China to Phuket to work in tin mines. His grandfather later managed to buy several land parcels that paved the way for the family’s prosperity. Yongsakul’s father Kanit, a yachting enthusiast, founded the Phuket Boat Lagoon Marina more than 20 years ago, which helped Phuket to establish itself as a regional centre for the yachting industry.
The younger Yongsakul’s love affair with the high seas began early, as the family often went sailing around Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. He was sent to study in Britain at age nine and yearned for the yachting life during his 14 years there.
Said Yongsakul, who is licensed to pilot a yacht: “It was when I was in the UK that I realised I very much missed yachting with my friends and family. We would eat and drink on the yacht and go diving. It was very leisurely and carefree. Sometimes, we would also take our yacht to sea on New Year’s Day or other festive occasions to enjoy the peace. The happy moments we enjoyed are unforgettable.”
After graduating with a master’s degree in civil engineering from London’s Imperial College, he returned to Thailand and joined the family business. Since 1995, Boat Lagoon Yachting has been a distributor for British luxury manufacturer Princess Yachts. It is currently the sales and service agent for the brand in South-east Asia and operates offices in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Last year, Boat Lagoon Yachting notched up revenue of about $35 million, selling a total of 27 yachts. Around nine in 10 of the yachts sold were Princess yachts.
While many yachting enthusiasts like to draw comparisons between the sailing experience in South-east Asia and the Mediterranean, Yongsakul sees distinct differences between the two. He said: “Marina facilities are better in the Mediterranean, where you can entertain and dine on shore and enjoy a higher-quality experience.”
However, the experience in regional waters is superior in other ways. “Here, there are many more private berthing spots where one can take in the beauty of nature. Due to our climate, the underwater world in South-east Asia is more beautiful, with lots of tropical fish and plants. Thus the diving experience is better.”
South-east Asia’s biggest edge, he added, is the friendly service attitude. “The people here are able to treat guests from all over the world with great hospitality.”
With the opening up of the Myanmar and Cambodia markets, Yongsakul is confident of bright prospects for the regional yachting industry. The room for growth, you could say, is as wide as the open seas.