Not long ago, few people outside the yacht and recreational powerboat industry had ever heard of Peters & May.
That’s because what the company does — providing yacht transportation services worldwide — isn’t particularly sexy. After all, when you see a stunning yacht or high-performance boat in some far-flung port, the last question you ask is “How did it get there?” Instead you look at the vessel and think, “How do I get invited aboard?”
As the widely acknowledged global leaders in yacht transportation, Peters & May, headquartered in Eastleigh, England, handle the logistics of getting aquatic things—often big, unwieldy multi-ton aquatic things—anywhere in the world. The company has offices in Asia, Australia, France, Germany, New Zealand, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.
And thanks to its acquisition last year of a United States agent, Peters & May now handle the logistics and shipping needs for approximately 80 percent of that country’s overseas shipping of new powerboats. That means that if a U.S.-built boat—from a wakeboarding model to a go-fast hot rod—ends up overseas, Peters & May probably had a large hand in getting it there.
Behind this worldwide vessel transportation giant is a funny, 33-year-old, self-described “boat racing guy” named David Holley. So serious a race fan is Holley, that under his leadership Peters & May have become the official transportation service provider for the Qatar Union Internationale Motonautique Class 1 offshore racing team.
In addition to fielding their own Unlimited hydroplane on the Air National Guard H-1 Hydroplane Tour, Peters & May sponsor 14 powerboat racing teams. They run the gamut from the white-hot talent of tunnel-boat driver Shaun Torrente to up-and-comers like 16-year-old Ben Pocknell and 14-year-old Steve Curtis, who run on the United Kingdom Formula Future Offshore Racing circuit.
Holley, a cool character who is equally at home in formal dining attire at Buckingham Palace (yes, he’s been there) as he is in a T-shirt having a cold one and rubbing elbows with fans at an Unlimited hydroplane race in the States (he’s done that, too), developed his passion for powerboat racing early on. He parlayed that passion into a business opportunity.
“I grew up in the Middle East—I spent 20 years in Dubai—and I got to know Sheikh Hassan of Qatar,” he says. “We started shipping Unlimited hydroplanes over there when they got involved in racing them. I eventually went to a race and realized that sponsoring an Unlimited hydroplane was a good way of getting our brand out there. It’s become a vehicle for getting the sport to grow. The more we invest in it, the more the sport grows and the more we get out of it.
“Two years ago, nobody knew what Peters & May was,” he adds. “Now, everybody does.”
The rather sudden and significant involvement of Peters & May in offshore racing in the United States had led more than a few industry observers to wonder if the company will become the next Geico or Amsoil, a title sponsor willing to support an entire racing series. While Holley doesn’t rule it out, he says that his company’s primary interests are in growing powerboat racing at the grassroots level, which, in turn, will bring greater name recognition to Peters & May. After all, there’s still some 20 percent of United States’ powerboat overseas shipping business to be captured.
“Last year, we made $320,000 on shipping race boats and we spent $350,000 on race boat sponsorships,” says Holley. “We are essentially reinvesting what we make from the sport back into the sport. We have to be careful about what we’re spending—I still have to answer to a board of directors who will ask me, ‘What did we get for the money we spent on this?’—but we’re definitely looking at it [becoming a race series sponsor].
“A lot of people say they want to develop the sport, and then they just take money out of it,” he adds. “The real satisfaction is in developing something. We just have to keep developing it.”