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The women of superyachting

As the world honours International Women’s Day, we revisit interviews with female superyacht owners…

In celebration of International Women’s Day, I dove back into the archives here at The Superyacht Group’s HQ, to uncover conversations with some of the most interesting female superyacht owners, who shared their experiences and allowed us a sneak peek into their world.

Mary Shores, owner of the 33m S/Y Marae, believed that a motoryacht was never truly on the cards for her and her husband, Mark.  “We did give a brief thought once to a motoryacht, but knew deep down that a sailing yacht was always what we wanted.” The couple, who have spent their lives on the water, growing up around the USA’s Chesapeake Bay, wanted to make the leap from their smaller vessels but were waiting for perfection, which came in the form of the sloop built in 2004 by Alloy Yachts.  “We looked at a number of sailing yachts over several years, but when we saw Marae for the first time we were so struck by her beauty that we were left speechless,” she remembered.

Not afraid to get her hands dirty, Sherron Hemsley spoke to The Superyacht Owner about the refit of her and her husband’s 30m Feadship La Mascarade, launched in 1997. The duo consulted with a number of refit experts, consultants and designers, but after the initial shock of their advice (“Common sense just seemed to go right out the window,” recalled Hemsley ), they decided to manage the project themselves. “I loved the refit process. I enjoy having lots of things to fit into a space and making it all work, like a puzzle,” she added.  This autonomy continued after the refit was completed, as the couple still manage the busy charter vessel themselves.

“I loved the refit process. I enjoy having lots of things to fit into a space and making it all work, like a puzzle.”

The inspiring work of the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) is due to the co-founder of the project and owner of M/Y Phoenix, Regina Catrambone. Catrambone, alongside her husband Christopher, have rescued nearly 15,000 migrants from the Mediterranean using their 40m refitted vessel, built in 1973. “The law is rather straightforward in that it is everybody’s obligation at sea to help somebody else in distress,” explained Catrambone. “Equally important is the moral obligation and the age-old tradition to save lives at sea no matter what, but many just don’t know what to do.”

The husband and wife team are dedicated to helping migrants in the region, but also enabling captains, owners and other vessels to assist in their endeavors. “Many captains and crew end up in tears because they don’t even have enough water to give to these people. I’ve heard them many times on the radio,” she said. “We want owners to enjoy the sea. I understand their frustration and fear of encountering migrants in distress. Their holidays will be ruined in a way – there is no shame in that.” Catrambone exemplifies the breed of yacht owner who believes that they have an important part to play in using their vessel, influence and means to make the world a better place. “It’s incredibly rewarding to know that you’ve participated in saving the life of someone else, particularly young children who could now have a better future ahead of them."

“It’s incredibly rewarding to know that you’ve participated in saving the life of someone else, particularly young children who could now have a better future ahead of them.”

Managing a refit for a yacht is a tricky process for any owner, but tackling the iconic, classic 1986 Feadship The Highlander, must have been a fairly daunting task. But, for Joanne de Guardiola and her husband Roberto, the prospect was too tempting to pass on. “I had seen the boat and decided it was too good an opportunity to resist: it was both a Bannenberg and a Feadship and had a steel hull, which makes life on board a lot more comfortable and the yacht sit so well in the water. We went and looked at her and decided to buy her with a significant refit in mind.”

Using her extensive design experience, including three refits of her previous vessel the 49m Audacia, de Guardiola had a vision to preserve The Highlander’s history, but give the yacht a fresher, modern look, as well as adding in features for a modern family. “We love swimming and water sports so taking off the back end of the boat was really about making it for the family. Now we have a swim platform that lifts out into the water and a toy garage underneath.” De Guardiola also focused on the realities of family life, not wanting an interior that was impractical or uncomfortable for those on board. “I don’t want silk or satin or tassels: I want it to be good-looking and stylish but also very practical. I certainly learned that some things lasted better on Audacia than others; I was able to see what holds up and what doesn’t. I ended up using a lot of indoor/ outdoor fabrics for Highlander,” she recalled.

As the prominence of ultra-high-net-worth women continues to rise, the number of female superyacht owners is set to grow in the coming decades. Something definitely worth celebrating.

Image: Regina Catrambone

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