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Embracing the human essence of yachting

Article written by The Superyacht Life Foundation

Posted on 18/07/23

It’s not the yachts that make yachting, it’s the people. Superyacht Life, in collaboration with the Monaco Yacht Show, is set to celebrate the human side of yachting with The Honours, an event that acknowledges exceptional contributions to the industry's advancement.

" Words cannot do the signature experience justice: its uniqueness lies in the relationships and memories created between the guests and the crew ",says Alex Skaris, Captain of the 95-metre yacht O’Pari, on the true superyacht experience. It’s an intriguing and informed opinion, and it speaks to a fundamental truth about the superyacht industry and the superyachting good life. While incredible yachts and beautiful destinations are important pieces of the superyacht puzzle, it is the people and their interactions that lie at the heart of what makes this industry so extraordinary. This is a human business with a human soul – and, increasingly, an industry that is taking steps to positively impact humanity.

The superyacht industry is replete with examples of people not just doing their jobs well, but also doing good. It’s something that the Superyacht Life Foundation aims to promote and, in collaboration with the Monaco Yacht Show, celebrate with the introduction of a new annual award that puts the people of superyachting in the spotlight rather than the yachts. There are so many stories to tell that can inspire so many more people, and The Honours – where three Honourees will be feted at an experiential gala event on the eve of the Monaco Yacht Show – will be key in bringing those stories to light.

There are, for example, the pioneers whose drive and ambition to expand access and inclusivity are inspiring drive and ambition in a new type of yacht crew and a new type of industry professional. There’s Chief Officer Jenny Matthews, who set up She of the Sea as a platform for women within the industry to connect with each other; Margarita Amam, whose journey from pot-washer to crew and business owner has inspired her to set up Grit, an ethnic talent pipeline for the industry; and female captains such as Kelly Gordon and Sally-Ann Konigkramer who are inspiring the next generation of female crew to reach for the top.

Then there are those whose impact either directly or indirectly is felt by those far beyond the normal scope of the yachting industry family. Ron Cleveringa, Vice President Sales and Marketing at US superyacht builder Burger Boat Company, highlights the impact the business has had on the small town in Wisconsin – population 30,000 – where the yard is based. “The purchase of a yacht employs a lot of people,” he says. “What we do also brings a huge amount of pride to the community. We often open up the launch ceremony to the community, and we’ll get hundreds and hundreds of people turn up because of the pride in the community of what Burger does.”

Cleveringa also cites the case of the late, legendary Floridian shipyard owner Bob Roscioli, who actively promoted various yacht trades among young people and would hire ex-convicts to teach them a trade and get them back on their feet. Similarly, the yard’s Burger University provides new and ongoing training in all trades and departments. "There are a lot of caring and loving people in the superyacht industry who are able to do what they do because someone like Jeff Bezos buys a boat", Cleveringa says. "If he were just to stick that money in the bank, what good does that do anybody?”

The industry has also been experiencing a quiet revolution not only in the technologies it is evolving for more sustainable yachts and building practices, but in owners’, industry people and crews’ attitudes toward the environment and toward supporting communities. Pierfrancesco Cafaro, Captain of iconic 88-metre sailing yacht Maltese Falcon, has witnessed it first-hand. "rom the efforts of crews and the more sensitive and positive interaction with communities to the way modern yachts are built and run, I’ve seen a real shift in attitudes over the past 30 years", he says. The industry is changing. We really do care about the environment and about the sea in general.”

Adds Gaëlle Tallarida, Managing Director of the Monaco Yacht Show:“ The industry has become far more concerned with the environment over the years – after all, the ocean is our playground. The yacht show is becoming a good place for companies to highlight their new projects in this area. We all know we have a long way to go ,” she continues,“ but more and more innovations and technology have arrived over the years which will change things for the better.”

Such positive actions don’t just derive from the owners, but are frequently shared between owner, crew and shorebased management team. There is a growing number of yacht owners making their vessels available for relief missions and scientific projects, which the crew then enthusiastically embrace. There are plenty of examples of this, from the projects undertaken by YachtAid Global and the Yachts for Science initiative to the Discovery Yachts programme by the International Seakeepers Society.

These endeavours are making a real difference to real people, and they are pulling all quarters of the industry together. The Pasifika Collective, for example, stepped into action at the start of 2022 to help with the aftermath of the Tongan volcanic eruption, although the initiative has long been operating with a wider remit to engage with Pacific island communities." We really love this part of the world,” says Isla McKechnie, Pasifika’s General Manager,"and Pasifika is a way that we can both further involve ourselves with communities in the Pacific, and also help superyachts that are coming through this part of the world get a better understanding of those communities."

The Collective was the brainchild of yacht agent Mark Donaldson. "It has been well received and it’s growing, and we have a number of companies that we work with already here in New Zealand." he explains. "The vision was to create an inclusive platform that not only the New Zealand superyacht marine industry but that of Oceania as a whole could buy into," It’s indicative of how the people in the superyacht industry are continually looking beyond their own interests to protect and preserve the interests of others, and are coming together as a community to achieve those goals. It’s that sort of heart and soul that creates unique relationships and memories, and it’s what makes the superyacht industry so extraordinary.

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