Owner’s column rightly points to captain-owner relationship

May 22, 2015 by Ian Bone

Peter Herm’s article, “Captains, boat shows are the perfect mix to feed the dream,” [Owner’s View, page A3, March issue] raises a number of interesting topics and captures some of the more unusual features of builder/buyer interactions occurring at boat shows.

The part that particularly interested me was Peter’s discussion concerning the role of the yacht captain in the boat show experience. My interest extends somewhat farther into the ongoing relationship between the captain and the yacht owner, particularly the benefits that accrue when that relationship develops and strengthens over time.

The relationship that exists between yacht owners and captains can be, in many cases, one of the strongest, closest and most trusted relationships that exists in any professional or business environment. Naturally these relationships, like all relationships, take time to develop and are underpinned with mutual respect for each other’s position, roles, skills and responsibilities.

I understand that for many reasons not all captain/owner relationships are strong and close. Much the pity, I say, because it is clearly the case when this relationship is strong and built on a platform of trust that great things can happen.

When one unpacks the fundamentals of the captain/owner relationship, it’s not difficult to understand why the interactions have the potential to become so enduring. Quite simply, the owner trusts the yacht captain with his safety, security and, in many cases, life (and that of his family and guests). The yacht owner entrusts the captain with significant assets. And the owner trusts the captain with complete confidentiality relating to personal matters.

Astute captains understand that this granting of trust is the most fundamental of responsibilities. The establishment of trust and mutual respect takes time and energy to develop, yet can be destroyed with a foolish action or decision in seconds.

The astute owner understands the importance of strengthening his/her relationship with the captain. An experienced, competent and capable captain will be a significant asset not only in the context of the employment relationship, but if and when the yacht owner decides to climb the “yacht ownership ladder”.

The captain who has a strong relationship with the owner will bring a valued perspective to the process of upgrading or building a new vessel. The captain who understands the yacht owner’s preferences can freely bring forward these opinions, knowing that her/his views will be listened to. On many occasions, the captain’s advice in the purchase or build process has saved owners significant sums of money and resulted in a vessel more in tune with the owner’s needs.

The salient point that Peter Herm makes throughout this article is that the role of the yacht captain is far more diverse than what is generally understood or given credit for. Competent captains understand and accept that they have a diverse array of responsibilities beyond that of being behind the helm.

The captain sitting on the aft deck in Peter’s article is an example of a captain that just doesn’t get it.

Captains who see their role as being constrained to a limited number of roles and feel as if they have achieved their career goals with the awarding of the 3000gt CoC will inevitably find themselves being sidelined in an industry that requires women and men who step up to a more comprehensive command and leadership role.

As one captain recently put it “just about anyone can drive the yacht; it’s the crew and the relationships that really matter.”

Those captains who decide not to develop their people skills and leadership capabilities, including their own emotional intelligence awareness, will struggle to advance their careers.

One of the key reasons why a group of captains formed the Yacht Captains Association was to seek to improve the relationships between captains and yacht owners. We recognize that in many cases these relationships have not achieved their fullest potential. Our aspirations are to help address these shortcomings by uplifting the professionalism in the leadership and management capabilities of yacht captains. We hope that owners will encourage captains to develop their personal and professional skills as part of their ongoing career development.

The Yacht Captains Association promotes the concept of continuous professional development for yacht captains. We encourage all captains to seek to develop their own leadership and people management skills, and we plan to help captains develop these skills as part of their career development.

Capt. Ian Bone is a founder of the Yacht Captains Association and serves as its chairman. Find out more at www.yachtcaptains.org. Comments on this letter are welcome at editorial@the-triton.com.