From Monday 21 October to Thursday 24 October, Royale Oceanic hosted its inaugural Captains’ Meeting in association with Maersk Training at South Tyneside College and South Shields Marine School. Two days of bridge simulator training, in six sessions, were created and ran by the college and marine school, and were undertaken by seven superyacht captains, individual debriefs following each, with a view to improve bridge team resource management and emergency response training. The Crew Report was invited along, and witnessed an excellent event for today's superyacht captains.

There was a clear effort from Maersk Training and Royale Oceanic to make the six simulated scenarios superyacht-specific and crew-focused – particularly important considering two of the captains attending were managers of 20-plus crew. Over the two days the captains had to deal with a laundry-room fire, engine problems, GPS failures, an outbreak of contagious food poisoning, life-threatening injuries in the galley, a death on board and a collision with a jet ski, coming into Sydney Harbour on a 90m motoryacht.

The Royale Oceanic team with Maersk Training and the captains

Debriefs took place after each simulator exercise

“One of the reasons I wanted to set up this course is because ninety-nine per cent of captains act on instinct rather than think,” Geoff Moore, Royale Oceanic’s general manager – yacht management, told The Crew Report. “At the close of the two days of training, I feel hugely confident in these seven boats.”

What’s more, the Royale Oceanic team was put to the test, with their office team playing an integral role, dealing with the captains via telephone and testing their responses as managers. Moreover, to ensure maximum knowledge and insight was gained, those captains not involved in the simulations were split up into groups: one to observe and discuss the bridge team’s response; the other to observe the Royale Oceanic team’s response.

"There is a lot to take back from this. I need to go on board and make drills more realistic, and I need to empower the mate to do more of my role." - Captain Jonathan Adeline

The benefits of this type of training were crystal clear and the captains were unanimous in their shock that so few captains in the industry ignore such advantageous experiences. As the final day of training drew to a close, the Maersk Team asked the captains what they would take from the event, with all captains’ responses confirming they would implement a change of on-board procedures and some even altering their own style of leadership.

Captain Jonathan Adeline from 37m motoryacht G Force said: “There is a lot to take back from this. I need to go on board and make drills more realistic, and I need to empower the mate to do more of my role. I also need my crew to appreciate the role Royale Oceanic play and how they fit in to assist us.”

Captain Stephen Barker and Captain Jonathan Adeline getting ready for their simulator training exercise

The Royale Oceanic management team dealing with the emergency as part of their training

Captain Stephen Barker of 59m motoryacht Meamina, added: “I’m going to take back a sense that when we do our drills and training on the boat, in reality it’s only when you take people out of their comfort zones that they can see where they go wrong and where they need to improve. And it’s not about doing the battles yourself; it’s commanding your crew to take ownership of the situation.”

For Captain Philipe Dermauw of 42m motoryacht Element, a better understanding of the role of the Designated Person Ashore (DPA) was gained. “In the past I was skeptical about support from DPAs. Doing this gives you confidence they are doing something.”

"And it’s not about doing the battles yourself; it’s commanding your crew to take ownership of the situation." - Captain Stephen Barker

Moreover, some of the captains learned invaluable lessons about their own behavior and actions on the bridge. Captain Giles Sangster of 80m motoryacht Talitha, noted: “I think for myself it’s about doing a lot more observing. You don’t always know what’s going on, so sometimes you need to take a moment to step back.” Meanwhile, for Captain Edward West of 82m motoryacht Sarafsa, the lesson was one of communication: “One of the biggest benefits has been the observing, and I now know my communication needs to be sharp, clear and concise.”

All captains who attended will receive a certificate, but for the captains this was not their primary goal, and for many not even a consideration. All were there with a view of improving themselves as captains and taking ownership of the great responsibility laid upon them. The Crew Report, fully in support of any such event that provides opportunities to our industry’s professional captains, was thrilled to be invited to this eye-opening event and see already-accomplished captains doing anything but resting on their laurels.

Captains Philipe Dermauw, Edward West and Giles Sangster in the observation room

(L-R) The Royale Oceanic team: Geoff Moore, Peter Edwards, Steve O'Callaghan, David Ormston and Kate Small