Owners are a complex bunch when it comes to recruitment – whilst it might seem obvious to bag the applicants with the most training, the situation isn’t always that black and white, especially when it comes to captains. The Crew Report spoke to Laurence Lewis of YPI Crew, who explained that not everyone is after the same thing.

Is it true in your opinion that some owners think it will be more cost effective to hire less experienced captains?
Yacht owners hire a person, not a concept, and most of the time, they will hire the person who they have the best connection with at interview stage, provided the salary expectations are in the right ball park figure. Sometimes, the best connection is made with the least experienced person who perhaps came across keener. The fact that this candidate’s salary expectation will be less than the experienced captains is a bonus for the owner. Owners may even go for the least experienced captain because they feel that by giving the underdog a chance they will be rewarded with loyalty and enthusiasm. There are of course exceptions but it is my experience that owners will generally go for the “best fit”.

Decision-making on board Varsovie. Image by Tim Thomas. 

How seriously should owners take experience?
A captain is a captain, just like a dentist is a dentist. Some people will be apprehensive to be the dentist’s first ever client, some won’t; it’s the same thing for a captain. Neither the dentist nor the captain will be let loose without the appropriate skill sets, both are equipped and capable to do their job well after years of training, practice and grooming. When hiring a captain an owner will look for evidence of experience or knowledge of what is important to him. If an owner is hiring a captain to go around the world, he will probably look for a well-travelled candidate and this might be an experienced Chief Officer who has already done a circumnavigation; this chief officer could have the upper hand on the experienced captain who has never left the Med…it’s all case dependent.

Do you think hiring a captain is safe in the owner’s hands?
Who else should be involved? It depends on the situation, the size of the yacht and the program. It is always beneficial to involve specialists, the recruiter, the yacht manager and the charter manager if the yacht is commercial. This way all aspects of the yacht operations are covered and all expectations discussed openly. Having a few different perspectives is probably helpful for the owner.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of rotational captains and how can they affect the hiring process?
There has been a baby boom in the yachting industry over the last few years and many captains are looking for a more balanced work/ life situation and are working towards introducing rotation with their employers. The benefits are of course longevity and consistency; once the rotation is set, a captain in theory, has no reason to look for another job. Yachts needs consistency of operations as with each change of captain there is a loss of knowledge which can be costly. Of course, rotational captains cost more in terms of combined salaries/ flights/ insurance etc…but the loss of knowledge can far outweigh this cost. At the end of the day, once again, it is a highly subjective decision. If a yacht owner wants to carry on working with a specific captain a solution will be found and if not, all parties move on. What is important during the hiring process is that a synergy is found between both captains. It seems logical that the captain already in place should take part in the interviews. The crew need consistency and need to know they report to two captains who sing from the same hymn sheet.

Read the full story in The Crew Report, issue 79.