And while a multitude of external factors affect our industry’s augmentation, a prosperous captain-owner relationship is absolutely invaluable to keeping our owners happy. After all, running a yacht is like running a business, and as such the partnership of captain and owner needs to be equally fruitful, with benefits reaped not only by the captain and owner, but by the industry, too. A happy owner will continue to invest in, and have no reason to leave, the industry (especially important against the background of today’s economy) and a happy captain will stay on board, improving crew longevity figures and the on-board experience for the owner.
“First, it is important to realise that trusting relationships take some time to develop, and this is the case with owners and captains, as well as with life’s other more intimate relationships,” explains Captain Mike Conquest, captain of Picchiotti’s 43m Golden Eagle. Captain Conquest has been privy to a number of successful relationships with previous owners, and has now been on board Golden Eagle, working with her owner for four years.
The benefits for the owner of investing in the development of this relationship are many, especially when it comes to stepping on board, explains Captain Conquest. “An owner develops a trust in his captain to look after the yacht, his significant investment, as if it were his own. He has the knowledge, rather than the hope, that all his spend on the yacht is being looked after and not wasted. He knows when he arrives that everything on board will be according to his own tastes and preferences. And this knowledge of an owner’s preferences, likes and dislikes is of great importance in helping the captain look after and prepare the yacht and its cruising programme to maximise the owner’s enjoyment on board. Not all owners are after the same type of experience on board their yacht and this is where the relationship enables both to enjoy the experience to the maximum. And in time this knowledge is naturally passed on to the rest of the crew, who also get to know what is needed on board. Wastefulness and unnecessary acquisitions can be avoided.”
- Captain Mike Conquest, Golden Eagle
In recent years, however, as yachts are getting bigger the role of the management company becomes an increasingly important factor. “There have been numerous cases I have come across lately where the management companies run the yacht – the captain is just a tool of the whole management structure. This, I think, is very sad, as the captain-owner relationship is very special. It is so sad to see yachts being run by people who have little or no contact with the owners. Can they really offer and meet the exact needs of someone they have never cruised with or know so little about?”
Nevertheless, it is important to remember that for the management company, the captain-owner relationship is equally important; room just needs to be made for management.
Yves Damette, director of yacht management at Y.CO, elaborates: “As yacht managers, good relationships and clear communications between owner, captain and manager are essential for everyone to do their job and key to successful and enjoyable experiences for all parties. Owners must be ready to place a great deal of trust in their captains and their yacht managers, who take responsibility for the safe handling of a valuable asset and, most importantly, the well-being of all those on board. Likewise, captains and crew must feel comfortable putting their faith in an owner who takes a responsible approach to ownership: investing where needed, and ready to accept advice and guidance from experienced captains and yacht managers alike.”
There is certainly a balance to be found, but there is no doubt that working towards finding and achieving this balance will be of benefit to all. “The most successfully operated yachts,” concludes Damette, “are those where the captain, manager and owner (or owner’s representative) have an open, honest relationship, clear lines of communication and a great deal of mutual respect.”