- Operations - Simone Ragnetti: 'The Son of Art”

By Dario Schiavo

Simone Ragnetti: “The Son of Art”

The Ragnetti name is renowned across the yachting world, but the descendants of “The Ingegnere” are carving their own destiny in the industry…

Giancarlo Ragnetti and his son, Simone Ragnetti

If you are reading this article, chances are you know the name Giancarlo Ragnetti – the CEO who headed Perini Navi for over two decades. He was one of the most renowned names and biggest players in the industry, with a resumé that boasted various positions in RINA and Perini Navi to the board of Confindustria Nautica.

Giancarlo Ragnetti, an engineer by trade, rose to the highest echelons of the Italian superyacht industry, serving as CEO of Perini Navi from 1988 to 2013. He sadly passed away at the age of 74 in 2020.

I myself spent eight wonderful years in the communications department of Perini Navi, and Giancarlo Ragnetti was the best CEO I have ever seen at work when it comes to technical knowledge and building a positive corporate climate. He was a great motivator. Perhaps what is less known, however, is that Ragnetti’s two children followed in his footsteps and work in the yachting industry too, Francesca as sales manager at Mangusta Yachts and Simone as first mate.

I sat down with Simone, 29, who has long worked as a first mate aboard a 32-metre yacht, with aspirations of becoming a captain before starting his own company on shore. But before we discussed his own life and his experience in boating, his work and his projects, Simone began to tell his story through the memories he has of his father, “The Ingegnere” (The Engineer), as everyone called him, and his story.

Giancarlo began his career in Ancona at Canteri Mario Morini shipyard before moving on to Ortona Navi, where he met Fabio Perini, which set him on course to rise to the top of one of the most famous shipyards in the world. In 1988, he relocated to Viareggio and served as CEO of Perini Navi until 2013.

Not surprisingly, Simone’s goal is to reach the top of the superyacht industry too, albeit on his own merit and ideas. This “son of art”, if you will allow me to call him that, took his first steps in the yachting world on the docks that were the scene of several of the iconic Perini Navi sailboats.

At the age of six, he was already joining his father at the famous shipyard. Simone tells me that for him, everything was like a game – it was normal to meet the owners, participate in various meetings and even board the giant yachts. He often spent his afternoons studying in his father's office. “As a child, I was fascinated by the sailors talking on the VHF and the smell of the boats, which I still remember,” he recalls. Memories like that last a lifetime.

Simone spent the summer of his 16th year in the mast department of the shipyard. “For me, it was a fun and beautiful experience. The following year I embarked on the Corelia, a 48-metre sailing yacht belonging to the Greek Metaxa family, makers of the brandy of the same name. I had no specific role, I was a bit of a wild card, and I started with the simplest jobs. I remember helping in the kitchen, peeling potatoes.” All the jobs that go on in the background, in short.

“The first job is the one that really forms you. That’s when I met my first commander, Gabriele Sanna, who is now embarked on the 56-metre Perini Caoz 14,” he says. “I loved the experience, I had already realised that this was my path, but I had to go back and finish high school. As soon as I had my diploma finally in my pocket, I went back aboard the Corelia. It’s been 11 years since that moment, and I still work on yachts and have not looked back since.”

After Corelia, Simone embarked on an 80-metre Amels, owned by an Italian businessman. He explains that the experience aboard a yacht of that size was intense but very formative since the work was nonstop, from sunrise to sunset, with only two half-hour breaks in between. Of course, the weekend did not exist. “That experience lasted two years and was a real ‘school of life’,” he says.

Growing up, Simone’s parents never exempted him from the humblest or hardest of jobs, which he would never complain about to his dad as one might think a child in his position would do. Theirs was an old-fashioned relationship; that, too, was a ‘school of life’. From the values instilled in him by Gianfranco, Simone says he learned to roll up his sleeves and put in the hard work. He took many courses, from gaining a licence to drive tenders and Yachtmaster to safety courses and EDHs (Efficient Deck Hand), to learn the first rudiments of navigation. Simone was creating a solid foundation on which to build his career.

After a stint on a 45-metre Logica, it was time to broaden his horizons. Simone headed to Fort Lauderdale for further training at Bluewater, a school that offers a full range of yacht crew-training courses and yacht crew jobs for crew of all levels.

Sometime later, Gabriele Sanna, Simone’s former captain on the Logica, offered him the position of bosun on the 56-metre Perini Caoz 14 for a year and a half. “Then my inaugural role as first mate was on the 45-metre Forever, the yacht of a very young German owner who was constantly partying on board. The itinerary did not vary much: the route included the ports of Ibiza and Mykonos.” Eventually, Simone landed back in Viareggio, his hometown, aboard a 32-metre Sanlorenzo, of which he is now the second captain.

With a life spent on the water and a generational wealth of yachting heritage resting on his shoulders, Simone’s passion for the industry has translated into professionalism. And in his professional opinion, one of the core elements of the sector that must change in order to optimise crew operations and attain owner satisfaction simultaneously is to improve the amount of space dedicated to crew.

“There is a lot of room for improvement ... Projects must be done from a different perspective –
one that considers the point of view of those who actually work on the boats.”

Simone recalls time spent on a prestigious yacht where crew had to perform an emergency battery-pack check. A colleague couldn’t access the hatch cover as the mufflers of the engines were running over it. “So, just to check the condition of the batteries, he had to have all the mufflers disassembled. In short, what could have been a two-minute job took hours. This is without taking into account the monetary cost of the intervention. In addition, when a new project is created, yards should consult key crew members more, because in the end, you know the saying: happy crew, happy owners.

“There is a lot of room for improvement, and when you consider that sometimes to perform quick and simple interventions it is necessary to disassemble half a boat it is obvious that something has to change. Projects must be done from a different perspective – one that considers the point of view of those who actually work on the boats.”

Here is the tale of a young man who does not rest on his laurels and didn’t entrust his career to an exceedingly well-known surname, but who instead decided to start from a ‘gavetta’ full of commitment and passion, a passion that runs through his veins along with his DNA. “When I used to get on board with my father, it was beautiful,” he recounts. “He spent a lot of time telling me everything with extreme care; he always had an answer for any question, and today, in retrospect, I regret not having asked him more about yachts, his experiences and his life.”

His path is marked out, and the footsteps of his predecessors that first mate Simone Ragnetti is following will give him a stride of confidence. They will spur him on, guiding him forward and helping him carve his own way and find his place in the world of yachting. It seems fitting to conclude this article with the phrase “a tradition passed down from father to son”. In a romantic sense, we envisige Simone following in his father's footsteps, ensuring that the yachting industry can continue to rely on a name that has already given it so much and contributed to its legacy.

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