The person at the helm of a superyacht should be experienced – after all, they’re in charge of a multi-million euro asset. But a captain always has to have their first command, so how do owners feel about this when that first command is on his or her boat?

“In many cases, owners are hesitant putting a multi-million euro possession in the hands of someone who has never driven before. They tend to go for the safer option of a captain with a verifiable track record driving yachts in a similar size range to their own,” explains Louise Cailbourdin, crewing manager at The Crew Network.

A relatively popular alternative is promoting your yacht’s first officer to captain. This way, your new captain already has plenty of experience of the yacht and, if he was working under a proficient captain, will have had lots of opportunities to drive. “If there is a substantial handover period with the incumbent captain, then licensed first officers with potential may well be considered by owners,” Calibourdin adds.

With promoting a first officer comes a number of factors to consider. Can the first officer manouvre and operate the vessel safely? Can they ensure the expect level of service is provided when owners and guests step aboard? Can they manage and interview crew? Can they deal with flag, audits, budgets and owner relations?

If the answer is yes, then there is a big advantage for many owners in promoting a first officer, explains Liam Dobbin, managing director of Wilsonhalligan Large Yacht Recruitment. “Choosing a captain is something very personal to an owner," he says. "They need to think, who do I want in charge of my asset? Previous experience as a captain is obviously a very important factor to consider, but lately we have seen a rise of first officers taking over yachts they are already working on, as the relationship is pre-established with the owners.”

"Lately we have seen a rise of first officers taking over yachts they are already working on, as the relationship is pre-established with the owners.”
- Liam Dobbin, managing director, Wilsonhalligan Large Yacht Recruitment

I recently interviewed Captain Laurent Bliekast. Captain of Heliad II, he is just 28 years old – a fact in itself that leads to a lot of questions from owners. “I have a good CV but I am young and sometimes it’s difficult. The crew companies and agents push really hard for me, 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.”

Captain Bliekast has been on board Heliad II for a year, and has used this time to build up a relationships of trust with her owner, Slim Bouricha – also the owner of Lynx Yachts and yacht support vessel YXT, featured in Issue 15 of The Superyacht Owner. In fact, it the construction of the YXT, which Captain Bleikast oversaw in the final six months, that led to him being offered his first command. “I have a really nice owner and it’s a real pleasure to work for this family. The boat is really nice. Last summer we had about two months with the owner on board. On this boat I have proven myself and I think the owner completely trusts me.”

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