“We organise very specialised trips, in remote parts of the world with complicated logistics,” says Cookson. “We stay fairly below the radar so it is mostly word of mouth. We have a very unique product and it takes a special client, one that is even rarer than the type who are able to charter in the first place.”
Unlike a typical charter, Cookson doesn’t work with brokers. Ambitious and involved projects like these require expertise that lies outwith most brokers’ remits, so he works directly with clients and with owners of the boats he uses. “It is really the top experts you need to bring in to make these project viable,” he says. “The yachts that we use are chosen not because they are luxurious, but because they are very good platforms for going to these remote places in the world. It is more straightforward to work directly with the owners of the boats and their captains as they know what their yachts can do.”
It doesn’t get much more remote than the Antarctic Peninsula, a location that Cookson organised a trip to for a family with teenagers on board the 63.3m M/Y SuRi. During the trip the family took a Triton sub under the Antarctic ice for the first time, were the first to bring a Zorb to the continent, heli-skied down glaciers, water-skied around icebergs and sea kayaked with whales.
Yachts suited to such challenging expeditions are fairly uncommon, and the right yachts are certainly not chosen for their typical ‘superyacht’ looks. “Explorer yachts may not be as pretty but they are more functional,” he says. “The owners of boats like this have often built or bought them for adventures themselves.” While he has an informal database of suitable yachts, he admits that finding the right one can often be frustrating because there are only a certain amount of yachts that tick all the boxes for a particular expedition. “They have to be in the right part of the world and have an owner who is willing to let their yacht go off for a considerable amount of time,” he says. “You have to sometimes be pretty opportunistic about what is available.”
He adds that the crew on board expedition vessels are more suited to aiding these unique charter experiences as well. “Crew who work in the south of France may look good and have polish but don’t know how to fit two helicopters and a tender on the back of a deck are not as useful,” he says. “You need thinkers and problem solvers.”
Logistically speaking, Cookson says that he typically requires a separate agreement with the owner or owner’s representative that goes beyond the standard MYBA contract. “You need to agree how the APA works on a much more specific basis,” he says. “It is not just fuel, food, drinks and tips. You are looking at significantly more complicated port fees because of the specialist equipment, as well as extra resources for the staff, more prep time for the crew. It is definitely worth having an understanding of where our responsibilities lie and where the owners start and vice versa.”
In the pipeline at the moment are trips to the South Pacific and another in Central and South America, as well as the whispers of a potential trip to the Arctic. “There is so much potential for these experiences,” says Cookson. “Not only for charterer, but for us to help owners make unique expeditions on their yachts as well.”
Photo credits: Henry Cookson/Andrew Peacock
You can read about Cookson’s SuRi expedition in more detail in Issue 6 of The Superyacht Owner. Subscribers can read it online here. To become a subscribing member, click here.
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