Superyachts need super stewards

By Martin Neville

Published on Friday, October 12, 2012 - 11:17


Superyachts need super stewards

Learning about champagne are, from left, Effie Moore, Emma Bean and Ella Bradley. Picture by Peter Boam.

WIGHT LIVING RECESSION? What recession? If last month’s Monaco Yacht Show is any kind of measure of the buoyancy of the superyacht industry, business is booming.

We’ve all seen them — probably on the television as Lewis Hamilton races his Formula 1 car around Monaco, Valencia or Melbourne — brilliant-white, streamlined palaces of the sea, the playthings of the rich and famous berthed in the world’s most exclusive locations.

The yachts, which can be anywhere up to 100 metres long, offering luxury almost unimaginable to us ordinary folk, are the ultimate showpiece of wealth, which nothing short of a Bugatti Veyron can match.

It is a world which also presents unique career opportunities for those itching to escape the confines of traditional office jobs and who have a desire to travel the world.

And with work both plentiful and well-paid, with the starting salary around £2,000 a month, it’s an opportunity for superyacht crew to put money in their bank accounts, too, while enjoying minimal living costs.

Cowes-based training provider Flying Fish, which offers a range of courses, is one of the few places where young people can learn the ropes to become a steward or stewardess on board one of these luxurious vessels.

The company even boasts its own super motoryacht, MY Viking, owned by multi-millionaire businessman Peter Harrison, to give their superyacht interior trainees real hands-on experience.

Over a two-week programme, trainees are put through their paces learning everything from food hygiene and elite hospitality to housekeeping and mixing cocktails — all to the exacting standards captains and billionaire yacht owners expect.

In order to work on superyachts, new stewardesses need a good understanding of the environment in which they will work, so the course includes compulsory basic safety training and radio operation, an introduction to powerboat driving — the ticket to drive a yacht’s tender — an overview of the yacht industry, nautical terminology, bridge watch and communications as well as all aspects of housekeeping.

Learning gourmet catering and how to open and serve champagne, arrange flowers and greet guests are just a few of the new skills the trainees will learn.

Serving cocktails becomes an entirely different proposition onboard a healing sail yacht, while the intricacies of a full silver service can seem baffling to the uninitiated.

The amount of information — the dos and, perhaps more crucially, the don’ts — is mind-bogging and takes dedication and a lot of hard work to learn.

Sarah Diggle runs the company’s recruitment days in Antibes on the French Riviera, where trainees are given the lowdown on how to find work on superyachts, including interviews with the leading crew recruitment companies.

Speaking from her own 13 years’ experience working on superyachts, in various roles including purser and chief stewardess, she said: "You get to see the world from the most amazing vantage point, how the richest people in the world see it, and the places you visit are often remote and unbelievably beautiful.

"The team you work with can become your family and lifelong friends. You have constant cash and never need to worry about coming home to an empty house or fridge.

"If you get the right yacht, it can be a life-changing experience that develops you personally."

But she is quick to add that working on superyachts is no holiday.

"Life at sea is hard, both mentally and physically. I have never worked so hard or even heard of another job that demands so much of your time. It’s seven days a week, every day, for up to six months, and when you do get a day off you spend it catching up on sleep."

The course was developed by former chief stewardess, Gemma Deloud Clark, 36, from Cowes, who brings a wealth of experience to the role.

Gemma worked on various superyachts around the world for the last ten years, met and married Islander Sam Deloud Clark, who was a superyacht captain, and returned to Cowes last year to start a family.

Originally from land-locked Bolton, a million miles from the glitz and glamour of the superyacht world, Gemma fell into the industry quite by chance when, while backpacking in Australia, she spotted a job vacancy for a hostess serving drinks onboard a 12-metre sail boat doing day trips around Sydney Harbour.

It was a move which would later see her progress to superyachts, working her way up from third stewardess on a 52-metre sail boat to chief stewardess onboard an 85-metre, 3,000-tonne, eight-deck motorboat.

As well as financial security and even a husband, Gemma’s career has given her the opportunity to travel the world with numerous seasons in the Mediterranean and Caribbean as well as transatlantic and transpacific voyages.

Gemma, who also worked with a crew to build two 41-metre boats in Turkey, said: "Sometimes I have to pinch myself when I think about what I’ve done."

After returning to Cowes last April, she was approached by Flying Fish to help develop a course to give other wannabe stewards and stewardess the necessary skills, and contacts, to work in the industry.

One trainee hoping to follow in Gemma’s footsteps is 23-year-old Emma Bean, from Cowes.

After a brief spell working in an office in Bristol, the former Cowes High School pupil realised a typical nine to five job was not for her.

Speaking about the course, she said: "We’ve already done our basic safety training, which is a compulsory qualification for crew on super-yachts, and now we’re learning about service. There’s so much to learn."

She added: "I want to travel as much as I can and hopefully make a good career working on superyachts."

For keen sailor, Effie Moore, 22, also a former Cowes High School pupil, working in the industry is a natural progression.

She is hoping to find a job when she heads down under backpacking.

Effie said: "I think Flying Fish is a fantastic company and the course is brilliant.

"I have done a lot of hospitality before and I was shocked at how different it was onboard a boat.

"At the moment I am not doing the long-term goal thing, I want to do some travelling and see a bit of the world."


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