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26th Captains’ Forum

Under the collective Monaco Capital of Advanced Yachting brand, and following the 2nd Smart and Sustainable Marina Rendezvous, Yacht Club de Monaco (YCM) continued to give a voice to participants in the luxury yachting industry. The day after the traditional Owners Lunch, which was attended by 90 guests, it was the turn of superyacht captains to attend the 26th Captains’ Forum, organised by the Captains’ Club which consists of 150 captains holding a 3000 certificate who work on superyachts flying the YCM flag.

Over 100 of these captains attended the event, organised in partnership with Jutheau Husson and Oceanco. MB92 Group, keen to strengthen its collaboration with YCM and place an emphasis on networking as a link with these professionals who have a pivotal role to play in the yachting chain, also leant its support. This Captains’ Forum raised the debate bar high in thinking way outside the box.

The sea as seen from the sky

“Monaco is the capital of yachting, just like Houston is for space missions,” began the keynote speaker for this event, Scott E. Parazynski. The former NASA astronaut with an extraordinary career kicked off the event not just by recalling his experiences, but also by comparing the similarities between the two worlds. “Going into space requires a certain type of preparation. There has to be a balance. You have to be very calm while being extremely focused. It is the same for you captains when you go to sea.” Parazynski also spoke to the human factor as a key cog in the machine, saying “during space missions, multi-disciplinary teams from various backgrounds have different opinions but must jointly lead a mission and solve problems together.” Like the crew on a superyacht, it’s the human element that carries a mission, be it in space or at sea. An inspirational speaker, Parazynski was not short of anecdotes that captured his audience’s attention from start to finish, concluding with “and like you I presume, when we return to land, we’re wondering when we will be leaving it again”.

New generation determines training

“You have to know who they are and imagine what they will become,” says Luca Triggiani, captain on M/Y Roe (74m), in regards to the profiles of future mariners, and the question of how to adapt to younger generations. “They are not so patient,” continues Luca Triggiani, “It’s up to us to help them find their strengths and develop them.” As many leave the industry without having persevered, “you have to give them the opportunity to grow,” adds Craig Coker, captain on M/Y Skyfall (58m). All agree they need a goal, not just a process to follow: “We mustn’t forget that we are also training tomorrow’s managers,” concludes Dan Smith, M/Y Savannah (84m).

The new generations’ expectations and needs are different to their elders. “They want to stay connected with home. I remember my first big trip – I called my mother once in four months,” remembers Barry Sadler, Chartered Master Mariner and Senior Lecturer at YCM’s La Belle Classe Academy. The industry must offer more and recognise a candidate’s potential by encouraging them to better themselves. Although future crews may need tangible goals, they are nonetheless very aware of current concerns. “I think they are the ones who educate us in the sense that they are worried about environmental issues,” continues Dan Smith.

Machine supports man in success

Both humans and machines are constantly having to adapt. “Innovation is the key word. To build the future, we need courageous people, be they owners, shipyards, architects, or whoever,” says Luca Mosca, Captain on M/Y Quantum Blue (104m). “True visionaries are ready to change the rules be it in terms of ecology, efficiency or use of new materials. Everything will change in the next few years and everyone knows it”. 

Far from being a substitute, technology will always be complementary to the human being. “I don’t think we can replace the human element on a boat,” says Matteo Morra, Area Sales Manager for Wärtsilä, Italy. “I see the captain like a chef in a Michelin star restaurant. The interaction with the client is essential.”

However, if the future is to be virtuous, some questions still remain unanswered or in suspense. Only 5% of yachts on the order books qualify as innovative. The majority still have conventional propulsion systems. “We need to improve our standards,” says Armelle Roudaut-Lafon, Director Maritime Affairs in Monaco, “we have no choice but to go in this direction. And you, captains, are the link to ensure regulations are being respected on board.”

The changes and how to put them into action affects everyone, but there has to be consistency between yachts under construction and new infrastructures. “You can have all the technology you want on board, but the problem is finding people able to use it,” says Snorre Halvorsen, Senior Executive Advisor for Norwegian Hull Club Risk.

“Those working in this industry have a duty to improve it,” concedes Dan Smith. “It is important to protect the environment for the next generation. The industry in the next 20 years, in my opinion, is going to suffer as a result of huge pressure from the United Nations which is going to impose restrictions on carbon emissions. We need to take up that challenge as of now.” 

There is only one way to move forward successfully, and that’s to facilitate exchanges between clients, owners, shipyards, architects and designers so they work together on new innovative ideas: “I believe that in the next few years we will find an alternative to the fuel we use today. We therefore need to develop a technology that produces fewer carbon missions,” says Barry Sadler. “From a sustainability point of view, the industry is moving towards social responsibility to try and respond to climate change.”

After addressing infrastructure, and then captains, Yacht Club de Monaco is set to open its doors to the yachting industry itself with the first Monaco Smart and Sustainable Yacht Rendezvous. The event will be held March 24, 2023, with the goal to shed light on environmentally responsible innovations specifically for boats.

On the occasion of this World Maritime Day, for the captains who are witnessing climate change and the state of our oceans every day, this was another chance to recall the importance of mobilising the industry to find concrete actions to safeguard the oceans.