All aboard: Ahoy Club is on a mission to make yacht charter easier

As anyone who has ever dealt with a yacht brokerwill know, chartering a boat can be a complicated, opaque and expensivebusiness. Its slow and cumbersome and difficult to manoeuvre through. Justtrying to find out the pricing says the Australian waste-management andrecycling tycoon Ian Malouf. And you cant get something quickly.

Mischief

As both the owner of a handsome 177ft Baglietto-builtsuperyacht,Mischief, and a long-termcharterer of other peoples boats -not to mention an entrepreneur with acommitmentto innovation, technology and algorithms that has served him well since he bought a truck over three decades ago and started his New South Wales-basedrubbish-collection business, Dial a Dump- Malouf is uniquely placed to disrupt he prefers improve an industry still stuck in the 20thcentury.

Enter Ahoy Club, which he launched last month. A digital platform that is in essence striving to do for boat chartering what Airbnb has done for accommodation, only with a substantially higher starting price. That said, the last time I looked, a week on Scorpio,a 50ft sailing boat sleeping three and based in the Caribbean, could be had for$6,500 (4,900) a week.

Sirroco

We were going to remain quite exclusiveand not do the smaller yachts, Malouf says. But to hell with that, wethought.Why not? At the end of the day, when youre drinking beer on a boat,youll have the same amount of fun whatever the size.

At the other end of the scale, however,Laurel L, a 295ft megayacht that sleeps36, was on offer from $631,818 (475,000),an eye-watering sum for a weeks holiday, but still about $63,000 (47,300) less than shed cost on the retail market.Mischiefis available at 172,043 (about 150,000), representing a discount of almost 15 per cent on her retail rate, thanks to the fact that Ahoy charges commission of four percent, along with a software fee of three per cent, rather than the 20 per centcharged by mostbrokerages.

Inessence Ahoy Club is aplatform accessible via a websiteor app, and allowing its users to register for free that connects those who want to charter directly with yacht owners, soreducing the cost of chartering andwidening the market. Log on, and you cansee immediately when your chosen boat is available, and in a matter of clicksyou can pay a 25 per cent deposit (the industry average is usuallydouble that) by credit card to book it.

The deal is not quitedone and dusted: at that stage the yachts owner still has the right to rejectyour application, but assuming its approved thecontract is formed.The charterer then liaises directly with the yachts captain on mattersof itinerary, provisioning and paperwork.

So far,so straightforward. But Ahoy doesnt leave its users on their own thereafter. Thewebsite is admirably informative, and has filters to help you search for boatsaccording to cost, year of build, sizeand location, and theres a 24/7 conciergeservice that can advise on where to go and when.

By theautumn Malouf plans to have added a yacht-swapping service, Yot Swap, forowners who crave variety and want to save on fuel and the overall expense ofrelocating their vessel when they decideto test other waters, so to speak. Andin time, he plans to add a facility offering discounted charters on yachts thatwould otherwise be empty as they transit between ports without guests on board.

Ian Malouf

For the moment, Ahoy Club has offices in London and Sydney and 45 staff. This time next year therell be over twice as many working for the company. Were a very fast-moving service,he says. If you want something,well get it to you today. This is only the beginning.