Today’s superyacht industry is home to many young captains who have worked their way through their certificates and up the yachting career ladder speedily, raising the question of relevant at-sea experience. In a preview of issue 70 of The Crew Report, we hear the thoughts of four captains on what we have termed ‘junior paper captains’.

How can we solve the culture of the ‘junior paper captain’?

Captain Joss de Rohan Willner, M/Y Baton Rouge

It is true that there currently seem to be a lot of young captains in the industry in command of large yachts who cannot have really had time in their short careers to gain the essential experience generally expected for such an important position. Gaining such experience has to be a gradual process which allows for reflection on mistakes made, or almost made, and the development of diplomatic skills which will be needed in dealings with owner, crew, management and, in fact, all parties one deals with as master of a vessel. Is this a new phenomenon? I don’t think so.

Captain Phil Stevens, M/Y Slipstream

I believe existing captains have a certain obligation to mould and nurture future captains, while suggesting that they put their own stamp on their style of operation rather than being a clone. This can only be achieved if the first officer has the ability and aptitude to step up to the mark and I have found that this can be evaluated within the first months on board. If an owner can have a large amount of confidence in the team that the captain has built around him, then everybody wins; the yacht can soon become, to a large extent, autonomous, and this only breeds confidence from the individual heads of department.

I believe existing captains have a certain obligation to mould and nurture future captains.

Captain Carlo Summonti, M/Y Nataly

Managing technical, administrative and legal matters is not easy but the management of people may be even more difficult – certainly when managing a large crew it is. The captain is the one who manages the boat and imposes the respect of the rules. An experienced captain is a leader; a sure reference point for all the crew. He is the one who, when difficulties arise, everyone is looking towards and he is strong enough to lead his crew and the boat through. The captain, although he may have a big and professional crew, is always alone since important decisions are up to him and he cannot share this and related responsibilities with someone else. Fast and efficient in decisions, calm and concentrated in every single step, especially during emergencies; this means they have a very ‘cold blood’ – and only experience offers this.

Anonymous captain

I can claim 25 years of seagoing experience; some of that makes me arguably a better master, although not necessarily so. And there are certainly a lot of older captains out there with a lot of experience who are not very good, and a lot of younger captains out there and on some very big yachts now who are, in my opinion, very good, very professional, and they’re always likely to be that way. So I don’t think there’s any relevance or necessarily any direct link between lack of experience and being a good captain.

Find the full article with extended comments in issue 70 of The Crew Report - click here to download.

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