Maintaining a large yacht on the international circuit has never been easy but the current global disruption highlights the many benefits of handing key tasks over to an external specialist
The cost of running a boat of any size is a touchy subject. Dividing the season’s expenses by the number of days spent afloat can sit uncomfortably and lead to many of us choosing not to do the calculations. But the current global health crisis and the near universal shut down of the world’s racing events has made it a difficult topic to ignore. So, while the formation of the new service company Race Yacht Management was not intended to deal with the implications of a global pandemic, the Palmabased company has found itself catering for just that.
‘We set the company up to help deliver the expectations of owners in regattas,’ said Mike Atkinson. ‘From entering and optimising the boat, providing crew, capitancy work, organising maintenance along with the various aspects of logistics, our original focus was based largely around race yacht management, as our name sets out. But the Covid-19 crisis has led us to develop services to help owners and teams in the more immediate future.”
Atkinson has been based in Palma for over 20 years and is well versed in managing big boat projects from the Mediterranean capital of the yacht racing and superyacht world. He has been a full-time professional skipper for more than 15 years, 11 of those aboard the Wallycento Open Season and is currently the skipper of the Wally 77 Lyra.
He set the company up with grand prix racing expert and round the world sailor Luke Molloy, who was aboard Akzo Nobel in the last Volvo Ocean Race and is well known on the global racing circuit. The third partner is Tom Sell of Complete Marine Freight whose background is worldwide shipping and logistics where he has worked for ETNZ and BMW Oracle through various AC campaigns.
‘Clearly this season has already been a challenging time for everyone, but there have been some interesting developments that few could have predicted and, in our opinion, provided an example as to how the sport and the industry can adapt,’ Atkinson says.
‘While racing has been all but closed down by Covid-19, the charter cruising market has been extremely busy as many people have decided that they currently feel safer taking a holiday aboard a boat than in a hotel.
‘But for the racing scene there are a lot of boats here currently parked up, still fully crewed and incurring large overheads. Boats that are sitting on the dock costing €50,000/month are not uncommon here. One of the big concerns currently is that with little or no prospect of being able to use their boat for some time, possibly until next year, owners will start to look more closely at the costs and the value for money and compare that with what else they can do instead. The big risk is that this could see them take the first step away from the sport. Clearly, no one wants to see that.
‘We can’t eradicate those costs but we do believe that we can halve them by running the boat more efficiently and with transparency, without compromising the ability to get back on the water as soon as things open up again.’
But Race Yacht Management is not just about providing a service to maintain boats that are parked up. There are still some regattas planning to go ahead and teams that still have plans to sail. For them the focus is on risk management. Until now, health hasn’t really been an issue in the running of big boats, but the
Covid-19 crisis has brought this factor into focus.
‘Covid-19 has led to some owners to look further ahead to what the future may look like beyond the immediate health threat,’ he continues. ‘It has led them to consider the risk to themselves, particularly the more mature owners who may be in a vulnerable category.
‘With this in mind we are developing a tailored medical service provision as part of our package. We have established a relationship with a UK physician specialising in both family and sports medicine, to provide a personalised medical service to boats. This could include pre-regatta medical assessments as well as medical support during an event with the aim of not only minimising risk but also optimising performance.
‘But for the here and now, it is inevitable that reducing costs is going to involve some tough decisions and conversations, in particular when it comes to staff overheads. One answer lies in the sharing of skills and resources and being adaptable in what we as a sport and industry offer to keep owners both happy and in the sport.
‘Boating is no different from other sectors. To move forwards we need to change, otherwise we risk losing far more than just a season.’
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