Charting New Waters: Douglas McFarlane’s Digital Odyssey in the Yachting Industry
Discover the fascinating maritime journey of Douglas McFarlane, CEO of Lomond Yachts, as he shares insights into the yachting world. From his roots in Scotland’s shipbuilding legacy to his innovative digital ventures with SuperYachters.TV, Douglas reveals the driving force behind Lomond Yachts and the future of the industry. Explore his unique perspective and advice for those venturing into the world of superyachts.
Can you share the inspiration behind Lomond Yachts, especially considering your personal maritime heritage through your father?
Well, Scotland, and in particular Clydebank where I was born and brought up, was the world’s best shipbuilder with around 50% of the market in the 1950s. My father was at the core of that, spending most of his career at the infamous John Brown Shipyard and was a shop steward on the QE2. Sadly, it all went downhill, and when I was looking to follow in my father’s footsteps, he told me in no uncertain terms that no son of his was going into the yards. It was possibly a great decision because instead, I entered the world of computers and technology at a time when the world didn’t know much about them. Fast forward, and my time in the West Coast of Scotland sailing weekends with the Royal Bank Sailing Club led to me buying a Bayliner motor yacht to play with on Loch Lomond. The bug had crept into my life. I decided to use my technology skills to build a website and understand the process of being a SuperYacht broker. My father passed away 4 months into the journey while I was just getting off the ground and had been keeping it a secret. I decided there and then that I had to continue the journey come what may, and here I am today.
How does SuperYachters.TV complement the services and vision of Lomond Yachts? What was the motivation behind its inception?
I’ve worked hard over the years to bring the experience and enjoyment of a yacht to life in digital form to encourage potential buyers, all year round, instead of only when a boat show comes to their town. I had always created my own videos and photos, and over the years, I had Nikon and Canon DSLRs and a variety of Sony video cameras, and even made an award-winning documentary. So I used that experience to start creating my own yacht videos, and with the latest smartphones, the quality and features have just about caught up with DSLRs. This year, I took almost all the footage on the new iPhone 15 Pro Max. So all of this led to setting up a partnership with streaming sites like Amazon Fire and Roku TV where you can now watch a lot of my videos. However, I didn’t want it to become just my footage, and I now encourage a lot of industry partners to showcase their yachts, tenders, slides, and other toys and submarines. The TV channel has grown, and there’s a growing community of interest, some of whom become clients.
With exclusive interviews and behind-the-scenes footage on SuperYachters.TV, how do you curate content that resonates with both industry insiders and enthusiasts?
Well, over the years, I’ve had community sites and connected with people I’ve met at the Monaco Yacht Show or online on social media. So when it came to starting up and looking for content, I reached out to those who I knew were also keen content creators to promote their product. I reached out, told them it was all free, and the proposition made sense to collaborate and get a wider reach and more eyeballs on their own content. They continue to do that, and I’m hoping to continue to grow that. As new technology options come along, I’m able to make decisions quicker and try new technology with the aim to both promote the industry as well as partners. By doing so, the Lomond Yachts brand gets visibility too.
In a competitive yachting market, what sets Lomond Yachts apart, especially in terms of client experience and yacht offerings?
Well, boat shows can be rather intimidating affairs. Wealthy clients often have to hustle to get on a yacht if they don’t have a broker. The demand is high, and everyone wants to be on these beautiful yachts, even though only a few can afford them. So my job is to ensure I talk to the selling agents and shipyards in advance and organise a viewing schedule that suits the client’s requirements but also fits in with the timeline it takes to view and then get across the marina to see the next one. Often if you miss a time, that slot has been taken up and the appointments fill up fast. Additionally, there’s the element of security and having to prove your net worth isn’t something that clients like to do, so I pick up that task for them ahead of the game. This personal touch brings me closer to the client, and we end up becoming good friends, which makes the buying process more pleasurable without the hustle and bustle. Additionally, as I’m an independent yacht broker, I can offer every yacht on the market and work with every yard without having to commit to selling any one specific yacht. This way,
I’m able to keep the focus on the client’s requirements. I’m also able to offer financial, legal, insurance and other services in partnership with my SuperYachters community of professionals.
How do platforms like SuperYachters.Net and SuperYachters.Pro enhance the yachting community’s experience, and why are these online communities crucial for the industry?
When you’re at a yacht show, you meet so many people from the industry, and it’s just a pleasant experience being among others who also love the yacht lifestyle. So to continue that beyond the boat show, connect and share articles, stories, and videos, I created these platforms, which were similar to mainstream social media but had an absolute focus on yachts, nothing else. No distractions from all the adverts and sponsored stuff you get on social media, and no spammers, hackers, and cons. This allows us all to operate in a safe social space and get on with our connections and collaborations outside of a yacht show. The Pro version is for those at the top end of the industry, like Captains, Crew, Surveyors, lawyers, and all the specialist product providers that become content providers on the streaming platform.
Throughout your journey with Lomond Yachts and SuperYachters, what have been the most significant challenges you’ve faced, and conversely, the moments you’re most proud of?
Well, every year is different; there’s always some surprises around the corner. I think I’ve got through some of the early challenges of dealing with time-wasters and tyre-kickers, and those showing interest in Lomond Yachts nowadays tend not to need too much due diligence and background checking. This makes it more of a pleasure when you’ve got genuine clients looking for a fantastic product. The time I get proud is every year at the Lurssen End Of Summer Party. It marks the end of the yacht show, a time when you’ve worked solidly all week talking to clients, showing them yachts, walking across the marina and back many times, and it’s time to have a bit of a party and relax. It’s also a privilege to be among the owners, buyers, brokers, who have all equally worked hard to get to this point in their life. The Lurssen team is also the best in this business, a few months ago it was good to party with Peter Lurssen and his sales director Michael Bremen.
As the yachting industry continues to evolve, where do you see Lomond Yachts and SuperYachters in the next five years?
Five years, wow. That’s a long time. Each year I look back and think that last year’s Monaco Yacht Show was such a long time ago. Each year is a different experience and energy. So I suspect that I’ll still be much the same. For Lomond Yachts, I’ll continue providing my bespoke and personal services to clients. Enjoying each time I’m helping a partner with some business. Loving each time I get a win, and sitting onboard the latest incredible yacht having a glass of champagne to celebrate a new owner’s success. With Superyachters, I’m already starting to use AI technology and I created some fantastic images of some Superyachts on Loch Lomond when I was playing around earlier this year. I also had fun having a go at creating the first AI Broker, where I scripted what he was saying and created it in a Scottish accent. There’s so much evolution to be done on that front, and I think it will save a lot of time and help me to grow my digital footprint and reach around the world, while minimising the resources needed to do that.
How have your personal maritime experiences, from helming yachts to spending time on Loch Lomond, influenced your approach to both Lomond Yachts and SuperYachters?
Those experiences I still talk about. I overheard some young guys encouraging each other to go on their first sailing experience, and I jumped in and shared my first experience going through a force 6 wind through the Kyles Of Bute in Scotland and being told by the skipper to get harnessed in, with the yacht at almost right angles, and being both terrified and exhilarated. Everyone who loves yachts shares that passion of adventure, where the unknown is part of the experience. That’s what I like about the industry. The future is often uncertain, but you know it’s going to be an adventure. I’ll take each year as it comes. I don’t think of having competition. What I do is unique in the industry, and I’ll continue to do my thing, and others will continue to do theirs.
For someone looking to invest in a superyacht or engage with the yachting community, what advice would you offer based on your extensive experience?
Contact me first. I can save them years of hassle. I can make it a smooth journey and enjoyable without the drama of dealing with the sharks in the industry and hitting the pitfalls and paying over the odds. A trusted broker, a personal guide, someone who has been at the sharp end and is still going strong. That’s who you need to engage with. Well connected with not just the buying process but the ongoing management, maintenance, and the enjoyable experience of bringing your family and friends on board your new yacht.
Are there any strategic collaborations or partnerships, either for Lomond Yachts or SuperYachters, that have been particularly impactful or that you’re excited about for the future?
Digital streaming and AI are taking some interesting turns, and I see that opening up a lot of exciting things for the future. I’m also looking closely at some partnerships which may provide savings for the customer in their financial transactions and also useful for the ongoing management. I’ve also got some key colleagues in the legal and insurance side who have become best friends over the years and we are due a catchup to start planning our 2024. The future is bright; I’ll make sure I wear shades.