Tuesday, 24 October 2017

New hire boats named after heraldry tints

A NEW luxury boat hire business has been launched in Henley.

A NEW luxury boat hire business has been launched in Henley.

The Henley Boat Company began operating this week in partnership with established river operator Hobbs of Henley.

Based at Hobbs’ boatyard in Station Road, the firm owns six new Bullit 660 boats worth £45,000 each.

These can be hired on a self-drive basis or with one of Hobbs’ skippers for four or eight hours. The 22ft vessels can seat up to 10 people and are equipped with champagne coolers, wooden decking and removable rain covers.

They were built in Holland, where they were originally designed to navigate canals.

The boats have been renamed Argent One, Azure One, Gules One, Sable One, Vert One and Or One after the colours on Henley’s coat of arms.

They complement Hobbs’ existing fleet of about 50 self-drive boats but are being marketed as a more upmarket alternative.

The company is the brainchild of former accountant Gareth Davies, who works for a private equity group in London called Mana Ventures.

One of his clients bought the boats for an Olympics-related project last year and asked him to come up with a new way to make a profit from them.

Mr Davies, 31, looked at several locations on the Thames and settled on Henley because of its place on the social calendar.

He brought the boats from London in November and stored them at Bushnells Marina in Wargrave over the winter before agreeing a deal with Hobbs’ managing director Jonathan Hobbs.

Mr Hobbs owns an undisclosed share in the company and will be offered a place on its board of directors.

His staff provide the service while Mr Davies markets it and arranges bookings through his company’s website.

Mr Davies is interim chief executive until a replacement can be recruited locally.

If the company is a success, Mr Hobbs will be invited to buy the fleet and take charge of the business.

Mr Hobbs said: “It’s a great opportunity for us because what we put in now will benefit us in the long run but there’s nothing to lose if it doesn’t go well. We are going to put our utmost into making it a success and bearing in mind the public’s reaction so far, I’m confident that it will be.

“When the boats arrived at our yard in April people were coming up to me and saying how much they liked them. Customers have come in specifically asking to book these boats.

“They are very luxurious and stylish so we can cater for a market that we might not previously have been able to. It means we can offer boats across the board according to people’s budgets.” Mr Davies said: “We spoke to Jonathan at length and he felt it was bringing something to this market that wasn’t covered.

“We already have a lot of bookings for Henley Royal Regatta, which is brilliant. I think once the boats go out and people see them with clients on board it will generate more interest.

“This business will allow people who don’t want the expense of owning a boat to enjoy the benefits it offers when the weather is good.If you look up and down the Thames, as we have done, there are very few — if any — boats of this quality available as day hire boats.”

Hire costs range from £295 to £620, although different prices will apply during events such as the regatta, the Henley Festival and Rewind Festival.

There are also plans to loan the boats out at reduced rates for one or two months at a time.

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