A superyacht’s sea trials is an integral part of the delivery process, however with fewer cameras and press involved, sea trials are at times left out of the public eye, somewhere between a yacht’s launch and its delivery. For a captain, a yacht’s sea trial is pinnacle of the build process – the first time a captain can really discover just what a yacht is capable of.

For a success sea trial a captain must plan well in advance, and this is an area Captain Todd Rapley believes has space for improvement in today’s industry. “Planning and recording is the key to obtaining an agreeable outcome for further changes or acceptance of the vessel to the satisfaction of captain and owner, and from my experience, this is where many sea trials fall short or can be improved,” he explains.


The sea trials of Pendennis' 32m Akalam. Credit: Pendennis

“The pre-planning is important to ensure all tasks are covered and methods to undertake the tasks are chosen, meeting all parties’ expectations. A captain should create a document – either physical or digital – for recording these results,” continues Captain Rapley. The contract should also be checked so the trials can ensure the agreed-upon requirements have been met and a programme should be established on when and how the tests should be undertaken to ensure the best use of time and weather conditions, which are essential for efficiency, adds Captain Rapley. These tests, he says, can include tests such as reciprocal bearing speed runs, crash stops and turn radiuses, stopping distances, rescue boat launch speed, or more detailed tests such as noise levels, vibration, air quality and dropping and retrieving the yacht’s anchor.

The date of a sea trial is often susceptible to change due to the variables that arise during a superyacht’s construction, however this is something that Captain Rapley believes must be taken into account in the very earliest contractual stages of a build. “A build contract should even go as far as including the communication requirements for setting, postponing or cancelling a sea trial. Set these ground rules so no one is left standing at the dock, wondering why their time has been wasted or have travelled especially for a date and time that has been changed.”


"Even a crew-based sea trial, which for many of us in the industry is something we do monthly or before every guest trip, gives us peace of mind that we have pre-empted the operational capacity of the vessel before the guests set foot aboard."



Sea trials are paramount to the beginning of a yacht’s journey and they should be treated as such. Nonetheless, sea trials should be an ongoing occurrence, with the best interests of the captain, crew and owner in mind. “Even a crew-based sea trial, which for many of us in the industry is something we do monthly or before every guest trip, gives us peace of mind that we have pre-empted the operational capacity of the vessel before the guests set foot aboard, so we aren’t embarrassed when a generator or main engine doesn’t start or an anchor capstan has failed,” concludes Captain Rapley.

The Crew Report looks forward to hearing your thoughts on the sea trials process: where is there room for improvement? Please comment below this article or join our debate on sea trials by clicking here.