For Elizabeth and Rory Brooks, owners of 32m classic Feadship Heavenly Daze, the purpose of their yacht has always been as a vehicle to explore the Mediterranean. However, equally important to the couple has been the ability to run the yacht as a business, chartering her out for as much of the season as possible. Having now owned the classic 1972 boat since 2002, they have certainly learned a thing or two about creating the best experience possible on board.
“It takes a lot of commitment to run this boat on commercial lines,” begins Rory. As we speak, the boat is currently between summer charters and the couple are enjoying some time on board in Mallorca. Rory goes on to explain that they have had to learn what works best for the clients, as well as what works for themselves. While they admit it has been a steep learning curve, especially as they are not from a boating background, they feel they have become more at ease with owning a boat.
Part of the couple’s secret to their yacht’s success is forming a strong team with their captain and, in turn, the rest of the six-strong crew. Captain Guy Guildford is in the middle of his fourth season on board and is given much of the credit for the smooth running of Heavenly Daze as, say the owners, he makes the management appear “effortless”. A lot of the on-board experience comes down to consistency, and the yacht is able to boast a very low crew turnover. This has helped attract repeat guests each year and Elizabeth and Rory recognise the importance of this.
“We don’t get involved with the hiring of the crew – that is Guy’s call,” explains Elizabeth. “We have been blessed over the years with very good crews, but the team we have now is the best combination it has ever been. Also, we strongly believe that this job is hard work and you have to be respectful of that. We understand that a worn-out and tired crew is less fun for everybody, but a rested and relaxed crew is much happier and ultimately that is better for us.”
Captain Guildford is equally appreciative of the part Elizabeth and Rory play in the operation. “I think the open communication and trust that we have as captain and owners is probably where it ultimately starts,” he adds. “This allows me to build the team with Elizabeth and Rory’s trust, and getting the mix right gives us the ability to keep crew. Furthermore, because Elizabeth and Rory are a pleasure to have on board themselves, that makes a lot of difference to the way our relationship is and that relates down through the crew. It is a unique relationship.”
One of the most unique aspects of the partnership is that these owners fully respect the authority of the captain. Rory recalls the first time they came on the boat, when their children were young; they sat them down and asked them who was in charge. When their children replied that their parents were, they were promptly corrected. “Because the captain is always in charge,” Rory explains.
“We learned very quickly that if the captain suggests or recommends a place to go, then that is where you go. We respect the captain’s authority on the boat because they always know about the most favourable conditions in terms of comfort and safety. These are some of the things that you learn as an owner that you might not understand to begin with. My one recommendation to first-time owners is to find a good captain, and then spend your early years listening, not talking and just learn. It is a great learning experience and we have really enjoyed that part of it a lot.”
This humility allows Captain Guildford to make the best decisions for the boat, owners and crew, which he believes is crucial to maintaining a good atmosphere on board. “You can always walk on to a boat and sense exactly how it is run by the way that the crew are,” he explains. “Everybody who comes on board Heavenly Daze comments immediately that it is a happy boat with a happy crew.”
Elizabeth and Rory acknowledge that the 32m size of Heavenly Daze is key to allowing them to be heavily involved with its management. From both the owners’ and captain’s perspective, this means there is a much more personal relationship with the crew. Apart from working closely with Y.CO as their charter agent, there is also no need for a management company or other intermediary to communicate between the owners and captain, which both parties believe would dilute the experience.
“In some respects, this can be more challenging for us as owners as we have to constantly be up to speed with what is going on and understand what the captain’s requests mean,” says Rory. “But on a boat of this size, we want to have a direct relationship with our captain. It is much more beneficial for us because we know what’s happening, it eliminates a layer of expense and it makes the experience much more human.”
This is a preview to the full interview, which features in issue 183 of The Superyacht Report, out now. To subscribe to the magazine, please click here.
Image credit: Stuart Pearce