The hiring of couples can be a contentious subject for owners and managers, with strong and verified arguments both for and against welcoming couples om board. Some are concerned with segregation in the crew mess, an exaggerated hierarchy on board or the danger of both crewmembers leaving following the dismissal of just one, while others embrace a dual leadership on board, the establishment of a ‘family’ atmosphere and the financial savings that can be made. But what do the couples think? What about those who have CVs to verify their successes as individuals and as a team? Brian and Sue Mitchell, both qualified superyacht captains and engineers, have worked together in the industry for 30 years and are tangible proof that, at least in some cases, the hiring of a couple is a worthy and worthwhile consideration.

“Over many years, yachts and crews have changed from the earlier, Spartan-type yachts crewed by men only, to the very modern superyachts of today that have been built to accommodate for a more unisex crew. This opportunity has now comfortably allowed couples to enter the industry, but to be able to qualify these people is difficult, particularly with ‘green’ teams who may have only recently become attached,” explains Brian. “A short time into their life on board, one either likes it or the other doesn’t, maybe their own personal relationship fails and sometimes crew politics play a part. It causes disruption and extra work and naturally enough a mindset and attitude is created, and is a consideration when employing couples.”

But if the couple can prove their worth as individuals and a cohesive team – bearing in mind those who can do this will naturally be slightly older – there shouldn’t be a problem. “If you are a young team that has never worked on a yacht together in the past, it will be difficult to convince any manager, crew agent or owner that you are suitable and compatible for a team position in any capacity on board,” explains Sue. “If you have a proven track record and can back that up with personal accounts from previous owners, brokers and crew, then the perception issue of the team should disappear.”

"Past experience has demonstrated that an owner gets more ‘bang for his buck’ hiring a team instead of individual crewmembers to manage the yacht."
- Captain Sue Mitchell

Having worked for a number of different owners over their 30 years in the industry, the Mitchells believe that there is, in fact, a financial advantage for owners choosing to employ couples. “Past experience has demonstrated that an owner gets more ‘bang for his buck’ hiring a team instead of individual crewmembers to manage the yacht,” adds Sue. “There is an economic advantage in most instances. We work as a cohesive team, in every capacity required on board. Cabin configuration is also another advantage. With a couple operating the yacht, the crew cabin arrangements generally work out for the better. Depending on the size of the crew and the cabin layouts, we have found that occupying one cabin, generally on the bridge level, allows the rest of the crew more space below deck.”

However, the invaluable experience of well-established couples is potentially under threat from the younger, inexperienced generation of ‘yachties’. "I think the older couples of the industry will disappear," says Sue. "It’s getting harder to deal with the differing standards and work ethics we see in the younger crews coming along. Maybe they are the smart ones and maybe we were just too committed to drop tools, take a break and think about number one first and the boss and the boat second."

Find the interview with Brian and Sue Mitchell in issue 69 of The Crew Report - out 24 June, 2014.

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