Held at the splendid Trinity House in London and sponsored by Viking Crew Management, the event hosted a wealth of industry professionals as well as 18 of UKSA’s 30 cadets currently in its winter intake, who are being financially supported by Trinity House and Seafarers UK.
“We are putting the ‘professional’ into yacht cadet training and underpinning it with its own dedicated bursary fund,” explained David Squire, UKSA maritime training ambassador. The PYCB, which covers funding for the first, 15-month, £15,000 phase of UKSA, offers three tiers of financial partnership, starting at from £1,000 to above £45,000, and has been established primarily to tackle what Squire outlined as two of the biggest problems in our industry. “The shortage of funding available for the individuals that apply to UKSA each year is a big issue, and although we work with them to find solutions, we inevitably can’t always help everybody that we would like to. Another of the biggest issues we are encountering is a lack of awareness among young people that this career route exists,” said Squire. “The PYCB is a long-term remit attracting increased funding, support and awareness.”
“I’ve been supporting the PYC since 2008 and we’ve had cadets on some of the biggest yachts I’ve worked on. They’ve always provide to be that bit sharper and that little bit more interested in what they’re doing."
One important aspect of the PYC and its associated PYCB is its focus on mentoring, and one of the biggest advocates of the PYC and mentor to many cadets throughout the many intakes, Captain Richard Bridge of M/Y Vava II was on hand to discuss the importance of these programmes. “I made the move to yachts after five years as captain on cruise ships with no problem at all – I had the background and experience from a seaman’s point of view, but I was very lacking when it came to the finesse of operating a yacht. It is a very different job, and for me the crew who have come up through the yachting industry are the people who have lived it and understood the demands and needs of the owners, and this makes a very big difference,” he explained.
“I’ve been supporting the PYC since 2008 and we’ve had cadets on some of the biggest yachts I’ve worked on. They’ve always provide to be that bit sharper and that little bit more interested in what they’re doing,” he added. “They’ve made a commitment to come on to the boat, to come into the industry, and most of them have a goal of eventually being captain. That is a very, very important thing.”
There are a number of ways the superyacht industry can make a better name for itself, attract talented crew and improve skill levels, said Captain Bridge. First, he echoed Squire’s point on the importance of altering the perception of yachting as a ‘leisure industry’ which, he said, “always leaves a bad taste”. “Everyone thinks it’s a great deal of fun. It is a great deal of fun, but it’s a great deal of hard work. Since I’ve been in yachting I’ve operated vessels with DP systems, submarines, two helicopters and tenders larger than most people believes yachts to be. You need specialist training and qualified people. It’s no longer a ‘leisure’ industry.”
Captain Bridge also advocated support for cross training, suggesting crew take time working in the cruise line industry, for example, to build up their wider experience and knowledge, while also asking for a more defined career path towards Unlimited certification for superyacht crew. Crew, he said, who work very hard – something not enough people recognise. “When guests go away the work doesn’t stop – it carries on. And I think that’s a perception outside of the industry that is incorrect – certainly with regard to earning sea time and getting the respect of the work on boats.”
The evening closed with Emma Baggett, industry and cadetship manager at UKSA, requesting the industry get involved, whether this be by acting as a mentor, financially supporting the cadets through the PYBC or offering them placements on board. She also recognised the cadets in attendance, telling them, “We can’t tell you how proud we are to se you all looking so smart tonight and behaving so professionally.”
And Baggett was right. The 18 cadets at the event exuded professionalism and offered a professional picture of what – and who – we can expect to see operating superyachts in the very near future.
Images courtesy of UKSA