In the context of today’s increasingly intricate fleet, when size, tonnage and technological advances are taken into consideration, the process of selling a superyacht is becoming progressively more complex. With this in mind, looks at the relationship between the two most important people in this sales process – a yacht’s broker and a yacht’s captain.

Captain Bill Zinser of Cakewalk. Credit: Andrew Johansson.

For Burgess, communication between both parties is key, as James Clark, broker and central agency sales manager for Derecktor’s 85.6m Cakewalk, told The Superyacht Owner. “With a yacht and size of this value, teamwork is hugely important. If we don’t work together as a team then we’re not as effective as we might be, and the key to this is communication. The worst thing that happens in this industry, and where relationships sometimes break down, is if the captain doesn’t hear from the broker.”

Cakewalk’s owner has implemented a rotational structure for the yacht’s captains, so Clark has two captains to keep informed on a regular basis: Captain Bill Zinser, who has been with the yacht’s owner for 18 years, and Second Captain Tommy Gurr. Both are in agreement about the importance of communication, especially when it comes to the yacht’s whereabouts, and this is perhaps one of the reasons the relationship between the three appeared so successful when The Superyacht Owner was welcomed on board.

“It’s all about communication,” adds Captain Gurr. “When is the yacht available for viewings? Where are we lying? Are we on the dock or at anchor? What’s the movement of the yacht next week?”

“What if we drop off a charter in Sicily and then decide to stop in Naples for fuel, before heading back to Monaco, and we don’t tell the broker what we’re doing?” postulates Captain Zinser. “How would it look if we just said, ‘Sorry, Sir, we just decided to go back to Monaco.’ And then the owner comes back and says, ‘Why didn’t you get in touch with everybody and tell them the yacht was in Sicily? This client was in Sicily and went to see another yacht and on the spur of the moment he bought it.’ This would reflect very badly on our judgement; and just because we didn’t communicate effectively.”

Yet the relationship of the owner with these two parties – the captain and the broker – must also be taken into consideration. For Toby Walker, managing director of Dubois Yachts Ltd, the key to the successful captain-broker relationship is an understanding on the part of the broker that the captain’s relationship with a yacht’s owner is likely to be stronger.

"A good broker will realise that the owner's relationship with the captain may be stronger than with the broker."
- Captain Bill Zinser, Cakewalk

“The success of a broker-captain relationship, from my point of view as a broker, is dependent upon having a happy owner. Everyone in this industry is, directly or indirectly, employed by the owner, so we all need to make the owner content,” explained Walker.

“A good broker will realise that the owner's relationship with the captain may be stronger than with the broker,” added Walker. “In terms of selling the yacht, the captain will know a lot more about the day-to-day running of the yacht than the broker will ever know, and the broker should respect that. And, more importantly, the captain may have a stronger and longer personal relationship with the owner than the broker will have. The captain will know things about the client that his offices or the stock market will never know. His captain and crew play a really important role in the happiness of his life, and recognizing that is part of a broker role. The broker needs to understand that and needs to work with the captain to best serve the owner. We’re all paid by the same guy.”

So when it comes to finding the key to a successful captain-broker relationship, an understanding of each party’s relationship with the owner is absolutely integral. If accurately understood and accepted, it should all be smooth sailing.

Find the full interview with James Clark, Captain Bill Zinser and Captain Tommy Gurr in issue 149 of The Superyacht Report.