“I started in the yachting industry at 16-years-old, as an electrician. I did that for five years and then decided I wanted a change, so managed to become first mate very quickly on a 40m,” Captain Laurent Bliekast tells me as we take a seat on board Heliad II.
In the past, Captain Bliekast has worked on the other side of the industry as a builder, with experience on the construction and refit of yachts including Salvaje, Forever One, Samja and Anita at Overmarine’s Mangusta shipyard, as well as working on more than 40 boats a year while with Rodriguez Group. It was on the shipyard scene where Captain Bliekast met his current owner – the owner of Lynx Yachts shipyard. Yacht support vessel YXT was under construction and the owner asked Captain Bliekast to oversee the final six months of the vessel’s construction. Following that, the owner offered Captain Bleikast his first captain’s position on board 33.4m Heliad II.
“I have a really nice owner and it’s a real pleasure to work for this family. The boat is really nice,” he says. But that’s not to say that the owners have had some serious questions about hiring such a young captain. “I have a good CV but I am young and sometimes it’s difficult. The crew companies and agents push for me really hard, because they know I have a good CV, but each time I met an owner the first question was always, ‘How old are you?’ And when I said I’m 27, they would say, ‘And you want to be captain?’ Yes, I do.”
"The crew companies and agents push for me really hard, because they know I have a good CV, but each time I met an owner the first question was always, ‘How old are you?’"
Half of the crewmembers on board Heliad II are older than the 28-year-old captain, but it’s still a young crew, which Captain Bliekast values. He requests the crew play sport together during their free time, which adds to the good morale on board. “For me, the most important thing is team spirit. My girls inside are always ready to go outside and polish; the chef and the engineer also help in the interior. What I ask first is to have good people on board,” he explains. “I can teach them what I need to, but having good people is the most important thing. We have a good spirit. When we are at sea we never know what’s going to happen, so spirit is important.”
The full interview with Captain Laurent Bliekast will appear in The Crew Report later this year.