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In Conversation With: Greg Norman

Ocean Independence chatted with Greg Norman to learn more about what drives the former international golfer and discuss his love of yachting.

Known worldwide as an athlete and a businessman, Greg Norman has seen international success both on the golf course and in the boardroom. An icon of the sport, Australian-born Norman started golfing at the age of 15 and joined the PGA tour full-time in 1983. He went on to hold the second-longest reign as world number one and win over 90 PGA tournaments, earning him the name “Great White Shark”. 

Now a successful entrepreneur, Greg is chairman and CEO of the Greg Norman Company, which owns over a dozen businesses worldwide – encompassing golf course design, global real estate award-winning wine, lifestyle apparel, and a diverse investment division. He lives with his family in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, where he continues to be involved in sporting, business and charitable endeavours. An avid yachtsman, Greg Norman has owned multiple superyachts, including the 70m Oceanfast superyacht AUSSIE RULES, which he sold in 2004.

Having sold AUSSIE RULES once as FLORIDIAN and then for a second time as NOMAD at the Monaco Yacht Show (agreeing the deal as yacht horns blared to signal the end of the event), Ocean Independence were keen to learn more about what drives Greg and discuss his love of yachting.

OI: Did you have a connection to the water from an early age? 

GN: I grew up in Townsville, close to the beach, and my family had a holiday hut on Magnetic Island, only eight kilometres from the shore, so the Great Barrier Reef was in my blood! Every day as a young kid, I would come home from school and we would go out fishing, surfing, snorkelling, and diving. I would ride my horse bareback along the beach, skim-board, and fish in a little boat with an 18-horsepower motor on the back. My sister and I grew up sailing a little boat called Peter Pan with the Townsville Sailing Club. I was very fortunate – I had a wonderful childhood.

OI: And how about golf?

GN: At age 15 we moved to Brisbane because of my dad’s work. I lost all my mates, though I was still surfing a lot at Sunshine Beach and Byron Bay. My golf really came on around the age of 16 after caddying for my mum one day. She was a four handicap, so I figured if she could do it, so could I. After that everything else got tossed aside, including watersports, cricket, rugby, and Aussie Rules. 

OI: How did you get involved in superyacht ownership?

GN: It came out of my love of the ocean. My dad built me a boat with wood framing when I was about 11 years old, and I thought the woodworking process was amazing. I had watched my dad working under our house and was fascinated by how much work was involved in shaping, and the tools involved. This whole experience really stayed with me.

The first AUSSIE RULES was a 27m sports fishing boat, built by Oceanfast in Australia. My passion for deep-sea fishing and scuba diving were the motivators behind this build: I wanted a platform that would allow me to do both. I shipped it over to the US, and quite honestly it was one of the biggest sports fishing boats there at the time – I was ahead of the game. It was the platform I wanted with the four state rooms and plenty of dive rooms. Great for the Bahamas and the Caribbean.

Then I bought a Feadship, which I enjoyed, but at the same time I knew there was something missing. I needed to have another sports fishing boat to go diving and fishing. I had the idea of building the 69m AUSSIE RULES at Oceanfast, with a combination of all the things I needed. I designed it to circumnavigate Australia, which I really wanted to do. It had a flat bottom, because tidal flows in the northern part of Australia are 45 feet. I got involved with the tank testing, the stringers, all those engineering things - I was fascinated with the build process and I really studied hard. I wrote the specification book before I even went to the yard. 
 

What did you like about the build process?

All of it! I loved understanding the engine room and the working spaces, the generators, centrifuges and water-makers, all that stuff. There was the question of where we were going to put everything. There is a refrigerated trash compactor in the transom. The boat just grew and grew to be the 230. To build something of that magnitude and sophistication in the late 1990s, we had to be innovative in our mindset. We won the Showboats Yacht of the Year award. It is very important to remember that the yacht is a testament to Oceanfast, my captain (who was present throughout the build), and all the engineers, the sparks, and the skilled people who did a phenomenal job in Australia. This yacht was ten years ahead of her time. I really couldn’t get to enjoy her as much as I wanted as I was still playing golf. If I had the yacht now, you would never see me working. I regretted the day I sold her!

Tell us about a favourite adventure on AUSSIE RULES.

I remember a month in French Polynesia with my family. We almost ran out of fuel as we got back to Bora Bora. We held like 285,000 litres and used the lot on the most amazing experience I’ve ever had: the most beautiful water, great experiences with oceanic white tips and bottlenose whales. Amazing! 

How have your businesses been during the pandemic?

My businesses are global, so it’s not a one-size fits all answer. I think the world is in a confused place right now. From a geopolitical standpoint, there’s so much white noise and media bias. I have this saying: ‘The voice of the critic is far louder than the voice of the advocate’. Nowadays, one person challenging and complaining about a company can change everything. You have to be extremely sensitive to those situations and demands from customers. Through my travels, I love seeing what happens in different countries. Take Vietnam, a communist country loving free market capitalism. It is a red-hot country - great people, great food, great cities and very safe. The Vietnamese recognise that market capitalism is as good as gold. I was asked to be the Golf Tourism Ambassador in Vietnam, and I accepted wholeheartedly. All of that being said, I love where we are at and I think we’ve done a very good job of managing the whole process with my consumer products during the pandemic. We are in a strong position. Now we are looking into expanding further into the health and wellness space and looking at new opportunities - you have to be a forward thinker. I never look to the past, always to the future. 
 

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