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(voiceover), Dilan Sarac, Charlotte Thomas, Diane Byrne
Welcome to Megayacht News Radio, the first and longest running podcast series dedicated to the large yacht industry; hosted by Diane Byrne, the editor of MegayachtNews.com. We feature conversations with engaging and inspiring people in yachting, from shipyard CEOs, to designers, from yacht managers, to young entrepreneurs. And yes, even owners. You’ll learn how they got into yachting, how they’re building better businesses, and especially how they’re helping people like you get more enjoyment out of the yachting lifestyle.
Diane Byrne 00:53
Welcome, everyone. If you read media other than yachting magazines and websites, and surely you do, you’ve likely seen more than a few headlines and stories chronicling gossipy details about superyacht owners’ lives, giving the impression that people who buy these yachts are hoarding their wealth, have no empathy for the rest of society and essentially live like Thurston Howell the third from Gilligan’s Island did before he got shipwrecked. Now, as a journalist, I certainly appreciate attention grabbing headlines, but I also appreciate that there is way more to the story than a stereotype. So, too, does the Superyacht Life Foundation. Its mission is to change the conversation around superyachting, showing what really goes on with lots of different owners and their families, plus the companies that are making these yachts possible. Joining me today to explain all of this are Dilan Sarac, the marketing manager for the foundation, and Charlotte Thomas, the editor in chief for all of their content. So Dylan and Charlotte, welcome to Megayacht News Radio. I’m glad to have you here today. So Dilan, for the benefit of people who have never heard about the foundation before, what is it and who’s behind it?
Dilan Sarac 02:22
Yeah, it’s first of all, it’s really nice to be here and thank you for the invitation. Superyacht Life Foundation is a nonprofit, commercially agnostic industry organization, on a long term mission to change the conversation around superyachting. We do this by challenging the misconceptions about superyachting and improving this perception. We constantly create like positive stories surrounding superyachting and share the stories in our channels like social media and newsletters, all of like forms of digital marketing. We are also currently working on a PR campaign. For the mainstream media, we are working on two strategic events. And at the same time, we are trying to feed the industry with the right information through different research conducted together with third parties. So to sum up, there are lots of far reaching good things going on in and around superyachting, and we are trying to bring our industry the recognition it deserves, change public perceptions, and start positive conversations.
Diane Byrne 03:29
You mentioned that there are misconceptions. What are some of the misconceptions about the owners of these yachts and maybe even ultra high net worth individuals at large, as well as the misconceptions about Super yachting.
Dilan Sarac 03:47
Yeah, you already actually mentioned about stereotyping, right? So lots of arguments against ultra high net worth individuals that we are facing these days, and also it was there before as well. So for example, the ultra high net worth individuals, the rich people doesn’t care anything, superyachting is a war of ego, the bigger is the best, lots of things around this. So thevast majority of references to superyachts we read in the mainstream media or see on television are contrary and generally negative so yeah, I mean, just look at the tabloid headlines all the time and or like very famous films like Wolf of Wall Street, the new one like Triangle of Sadness, just won the Palm d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. So we have lots of lots of examples, and lots of misconceptions and negative sentiments actually around superyachting and ultra high net worth individuals.
Diane Byrne 04:56
Charlotte, what would you say are some of the misconceptions?
Charlotte Thomas 05:01
I think it sort of follows the same, the same pattern really. And a lot of it stems from I think there’s a disconnect between the general public and yachting and superyachting in particular, it’s one of those things that is perhaps less relatable than a private jet. Well, everyone flies, everyone can aspire to a private jet, a super fancy or, you know, luxury car or hypercar. It’s kind of an extension of what we’re already used to and drive everyday. So it becomes an aspirational thing. But, but the sort of superyachts, it’s sort of it’s encapsulated in the Bond villain who always has a, you know, boat somewhere where he’s trying to manipulate the world. This then creates an image problem, if you like. It’s because of that disconnect that the general public has. And then that’s coupled to, you know, the things that sell newspapers, the big headlines, which we’ve sort of touched on, because superyachts are not cheap, but they’re not always super expensive, but it’s the super expensive ones that get the headllines. So when Jeff Bezos is reported to spend $500 million on a new yacht, then that’s a big headline and, and then the focus is on that number, which seems an obscene amount of money to most people to spend on what is essentially a toy. That’s where the misconception comes in. Because of course, it’s not just a toy that one person is giving another person they’ve earn money for; there’s an awful lot more to the story than that, which is what we’re trying to do at the Superyacht Life Foundation is to, is to open up the discussion about superyachting, to talk about all the benefits that come from it, and all the people who make a living from it. And, you know, ordinary people and ordinary communities that are built around this industry.
Diane Byrne 06:42
You know, you just said something that was, I think, pretty noteworthy in reference to spending, say, $500 million on a yacht, and that there’s way more to superyachting and to sizes of, of these yachts. Charlotte, what would you say if you were speaking to somebody who really doesn’t know anything about this industry? And if you are going to try to explain to them what superyachting is, and what it encompasses, what would you say in terms of the types of the boats? And if they were curious about the costs of some of these boats, maybe?
Charlotte Thomas 07:15
Well, I think there’s there’s such a broad spectrum of what we might term superyachts, which typically is is recorded as something over a regulatory boundary, which is around 80, 90 feet in length. So the crossover is actually quite small compared to current typical leisure boats that you see in the local marinas and that sort of thing that people are maybe less associated with a high degree of wealth, for example. So So right at that point, you get, the vast majority of the superyacht fleet is is under 40 meters in length, which is much more accessible is much more accessible for charter. But it still sort of encapsulates that idea of a really luxury environment in which an owner or charter guests or other people who enjoy it can actually go off and really experience something. And that’s what it’s about. It’s about experience, it’s about interacting with, you know, it’s not just about the glamour of the South of France, and things. More and more, yacht owners and charter guests are trying to get away from all that and actually really get involved in sort of small communities and exploration and finding all these interesting places in the world. And I think that, you know, the, the top end of the superyacht industry, the really rarefied cloud, which is the really big boats, that the ones that get all the headlines, there’s only a handful of those, it’s only a handful of owners that that that sort of area touches. And of course, from the smallest to the bigger, there’s an industry around that which which is, which is critical to communities all over the world. And that stretches from shipyards who employ welders and fabricators to designers to craftspeople who keep all sorts of artisanal skills alive from furniture making to leather work to whatever it may be, and so much more beyond as well. I think the last numbers that we had sort of estimated that a quarter of a million people make a living from this industry, which is significant, and the the contribution to the global economy is significant. So I think that that is this little microcosm of the superyacht industry is actually a lot bigger than people think it is.
Diane Byrne 09:34
Dilan, what would you say? What would you add to that?
Dilan Sarac 09:37
Yeah, most of the time, I mean, when we think about superyachts, we think about the owners only or the product itself, but there’s like whole world like behind this, this, this huge things and the industry itself, the crew. The things that we are doing here it’s it’s almost It’s invisible. Like no one talks, no one cares. And that’s why we are trying to add this part of the story as well into the, into the Yeah, into the into the world. So definitely like the superyachts are not only the huge big vessels first of all, it starts from 24 meters and most of the current fleece are consisting of between 24 and 30 meters. First of all, we should include those a little bit more and we should see not only the you know, like the shiny part of it, but try to understand in a in a better and unbiased way.
Diane Byrne 10:44
Just to follow up on something you just said, for those of you who are listening who aren’t familiar with meters and are more familiar with feet, in terms of a measurement, 24 meters is roughly about 80 feet, and 30 meters is roughly about 90 or so feet. So we’re talking about yachts that are truly not much larger than like Charlotte said a moment ago, not much larger than the you know, quote unquote, standard yachts that you see in marinas, in your backyard or around the world. So there was also something that both of you were touching on that I think is really interesting. And I’d love to explore a little bit more. In all the years that I’ve been covering superyachting, I’ve met some truly amazing owners–fascinating, wonderful, generous with their time. The adventures that they’ve gone on with their families and with their friends are so inspiring. And it makes me want to, you know, hop on a plane and go to Tahiti or go to the Galapagos and see the wildlife that they’ve been able to see. But the thing that really always fascinates me is when they are giving back to the community and doing so in a very low key way. They’re not sending out press releases, they’re not calling a publicist or anything like that. They’re just doing it because they love the communities they’ve been visiting. So um, Charlotte, can you share maybe some stories about some of the owners who you’ve met who are doing some pretty amazing things with local communities?
Charlotte Thomas 12:16
Yeah, I think this is a really important part of it, because a lot of superyacht owners are very wealthy people, obviously, but a lot of them do have their own charitable foundations which which operate in a number of different spheres. And you think of Bill and Melinda Gates as they work that, you know, a big charitable drive. But then people like Ernesto Bertarelli and the family foundation called the Bertarelli Foundation, which covers a lot of different things, but because they are sort of avid yacht owners as a family, ocean conservation is very large part of of what they do as the foundation. This also goes to how owners think about designing and building and using their yachts, which of which Paul Allen, the former, the late Microsoft co founder was a great example, because science and scientific research was a big part of how he saw the use of his yacht Octopus, which is 400 feet long. And that’s, that’s also true of a lot of other people, we see more and more yacht owners and their crews getting involved in citizen science projects, the Feadship your Archimedes has been collecting data continuously over the last 12 or 24 months, I think it is, and that data from all these remote places that the yacht goes to has actually helped reshape some of the climate models. So there’s all sorts of good stuff going on, that doesn’t get talked about because as with any good charitable giving, people do it because they want to help or assist rather than because they’re looking for praise for it if you like. And this also goes down to owners and charter guests going to maybe out in the Pacific, or it could be out in Indonesia, or it could be anywhere else in the world, where they really enjoy the places they go to. And they want to give something back to those little island communities, whether it’s helping with a community center, or building a little library or a school room or something to give back. And again, it never gets talked about because there’s never any publicity about it. But the outfit YachtAid Global, which is a nonprofit set up by a former superyacht captain, initially, I think with the idea of helping with disaster relief, because yachts can get the last mile and get goods in there without taking away any resources from from an island or somewhere that’s been hit. But they’ve actually I think, in the last 15 years that they’ve been operating, they say that more than 250 yachts have actually taken part in all sorts of different little community projects to give back to places that they think is special. And so I think that you know, it’s such a, there’s such a wealth of kindness in this industry, from yacht owners and from their crews that it’s just again, it’s never makes the papers it’s never talked about, it’s never heard of. So that’s what also what we’re trying to do is to say, ‘Look, you know, these people do have a heart, they do have a conscience, and they do actually give something back.’ And the fact that they go to these places, or the fact that they experience all these things with the ocean means that they’re far more aware, not only of different cultures, but also of what those cultures need, of how they can be of assistance of, you know, understanding more about marine mammal migration routes, and therefore, actually getting involved in ocean conservation. So it’s, it’s also an accelerator of charitable giving, if you like, which is, which is the benefit of all of us.
Diane Byrne 15:51
Right. All right, Dilan, what would you say in terms of getting involved with the communities, whether it’s from a an aid standpoint, say for a natural disaster, or even the citizen science aspect? What have you seen, and what are the stories that owners have shared with you?
Dilan Sarac 16:10
I mean, I think superyachts has a kind of a self educating system, because maybe the owner or the person who chartered the yacht, maybe they don’t have any interest or anything for ocean conservation, or science or anything like that. But once they go to those remote places, they are impressed by it. And so that’s why they, they wanted to give it back something or they want to preserve it. So also, it’s same for their, like children, their families. They educate their, their families, their child, going those areas, showing those remote places, the wildlife and everything. So it’s a constant, like self education, and they are coming back, they’re doing lots of projects, they are initiating lots of projects, they are empowering their crew to do more. And also, they are yeah, they are kind of contributing to a lots of things very silently. Um, and it’s, it’s very valuable to show this. Because also, this creates some kind of community culture. This creates, this has an impact of the the other owners or potential owners to show superyachting is not only asset ownership, but it’s the whole kind of experience involving lots of meaningful things in it. So yeah.
Diane Byrne 17:39
Yeah. I want to switch gears a little bit from, from talking about the people side–well, actually, it’s still the people side to a certain degree–but I want to talk about some of the technology that’s changing, because this is this is also pretty interesting. In general, in society right now, there’s a lot of talk about sustainability. And of course, there’s always a lot of talk about innovation. That’s certainly going on in our industry in terms of propulsion, and in terms of some of the other technical equipment on the yachts. What I find so interesting, though, is that it’s being customer driven. It’s not, it’s obviously also coming from within the industry, but largely, it’s coming from the owners, who are approaching the shipyards, approaching the designers and saying, ‘What can we do?’ They’re more than I would say, the driving force, they’re the funding force, right, to a certain degree. What would you say about that, Dilan? What would you say in terms of the message that the foundation is trying to get out about the sustainability efforts and, you know, other technological innovation?
Dilan Sarac 18:50
I mean, I will start with a very, you know, like basics, that the meaning behind it, the process behind it, and I will leave it to Charlotte, because she’s a naval architect, so she’s always better with technological stuff than me. But I mean, I just want to look at the process behind it. For the most of the owners, the superyacht journey starts when the building process starts. Most of the time we think it’s just a just, yeah, nice to nice, nice toy for like vacations and holidays. But we see that most of the owners, they are very, very enthusiastic about the building process. And when we think about these owners, they’re most of the time very successful business people, right, and, which means they want to reflect themselves on their yachts too. So they want to they want a yard full of cutting edge technologies and innovations, and lots of great stuff, though, this leads us to good and great technological processes and discoveries. And of course, in these days sustainability is a very hot topic in our industry, but I think this started like this comes from the beginning, it was always there with with the owners and their desire to do better. Because of these technological investments, we have lots of examples like that the owners paying lots of money to, to find something new to solve lots of problems. And then that’s, that’s why I think superyachting industry is Formula One of the whole maritime industry, because we are finding solutions. And then we are and then the whole maritime industry will is like, for for them to possible those solutions as well. Yeah, and Charlotte, maybe you can give a couple of examples of owners and technological advances from the past.
Charlotte Thomas 20:58
Yeah, I think there’s so much going on in the, so much development going on, I always think back to, I covered a boat called Ethereal back in 2009, I think; it was launched from the Royal Huisman yard. A large sailing yacht, but it was built for Bill Joyce, a Silicon Valley magnate who, who really wanted to push technological boundaries in terms of the sustainability of that yacht, including building and designing the boat to take fuel cells, which of course, at the time, were still sort of a nascent technology. And he, he put a lot of his own money into developing that technology. And although it didn’t reach maturity by the time that boat was launched, it did sort of act as a catalyst for a lot of the a lot of the fuel cell developments, which have happened since then. And in fact, now you can actually go into not quite the superstore, but you can get hold of cells to for marine applications, I think they’re starting to be fitted to a couple of projects, which are currently in build now and soon will hopefully be adopted by a much wider sector of the maritime industry, for example. So just one example of where technology is starting to evolve because of what superyacht owners are either driving themselves or asking for. And I think a lot of the big superyacht builders and shipyards are looking at ways both to reduce their own footprints by installing solar panels on the roof of their build sheds to recycling wastewater to using biomass heating, right through to even the materials that they use, the design of their hulls to make them more efficient. And, and this is all important because of course, the next generation of yacht owners, whether they’re old or young, it’s not a generational thing, but in terms of, you know, the next swathe of yacht owners, I think is so much more conscious of this, and conscious of the image that they project to the world by by what they own or what they buy and how it’s built and how it runs. That it’s becoming imperative that we develop these technologies. And, and it really is something that like you said, with the Formula One parallel that that the superyacht industry is kind of at the pinnacle of that little mountain of leisure yachting, if you like that, that it has the resources and sometimes the design capability in order to address some of the challenges and find out, come up with solutions, which then have a much broader, broader scope of impact beyond the yachting industry.
Diane Byrne 23:39
Yeah, yeah, very good point. You know, we’ve talked a lot about the owners so far. And I want to make sure that we also talk about the crew, because I know superyacht crew are quite important to the Superyacht Life Foundation. What are some of the ways that the foundation is striving to ensure that the overall culture includes them and pays attention to them?
Dilan Sarac 24:04
I mean, we always focus on the human side of superyachting either its crew or owners or the professionals in the industry. So therefore we cannot do without including them, and we cannot explain our culture and community without them. So we mostly try to engage with the crew and showcase their unique experiences under the, our story pillar of Humans of Yachting. It’s not only crew stories, of course it’s a covering lots of other professionals as well. And also we are trying to spotlight their experience in our social channel channels on there, the crew spotlight under the crew spotlight concept. It is very impressive to see that superyachting is home for not only owners but also the crew working on board. We heard lots of amazing stories from lots of young people from lots of old people working as a crew on board. And I mean, we will continue to bring their stories up more because, yeah, that’s that they are all very, very inspiring and very, very different.
Diane Byrne 25:21
Definitely, definitely. In the last few minutes we have left, I want to make sure that I also cover this new award ceremony that the foundation is launching, because it’s really quite different, I would say, than anything else that exists in yachting right now. The award ceremony is called The Honours. Walk us through the mission for it, Dilan, if you can, and also the nomination process, because some of the people listening might be quite interested in nominating somebody.
Dilan Sarac 25:51
Yeah, sure. The Honours, as you said, it’s an award ceremony, and it’s organized by Superyacht Life Foundation and the Monaco Yacht Show. We, we think The Honours is an opportunity for all of us to recognize all the good going on within the super yachting. So that’s why we organize this ceremony for not like the products for the yachts for the first time in our history, but for the people itself. So the evening will highlight the pioneering owners or people at the heart of our business, aiming to share their inspiring stories with the world. And, and yeah, and inspire the others actually. So we will choose three honorees, and we will award and recognize and award these honorees during that night. And before, of course, choosing the honorees with the judging panel that we have we have now online nomination. And this nomination is open to everyone; anyone can nominate the people they think deserve this award. And and also when it comes to who can be nominated, the nominee can be anyone involved in any area, as long as it demonstrates the exceptional world of superyachting and the good that it can do. So it can be a scientist doing ground breaking research on board, or a deckhand who goes above and beyond and initiating, initiating good things, good programs, or, yeah, processes or anything like that on board. It can be a yacht owner as well. So there is no, you know, difference between a crew or the owner in our eyes. It’s it’s, it’s about people. It can be a yacht owner who has used their yacht for good causes. So it can be anyone, we don’t have any categories. And everyone is more than welcome to nominate in our website, which is www.thehonors.org.
Diane Byrne 28:14
Very good. Charlotte, you know, you and I both go back aways in the journalism side of yachting. And I think it’s not exaggerating by saying that this really is very people oriented and very different than a lot of the other awards that are very product oriented. What are you looking forward to seeing in terms of the nominees?
Charlotte Thomas 28:35
I think, you know, we did go back a long way, I’m embarrassed to say, I don’t know how old I am now, but it feels like a long time. And I so I worked as crew back in the ’90s; that shows you where I’ve come from, after I did my naval architecture. So I’ve sort of seen that that live facet of, of the community of people from the crew, from the shoreside support, from the design offices, from the shipyards, and the owners themselves and, and I think that it kind of mirrors that idea of what we’re trying to do with the Superyacht Life Foundation, which is to highlight the people. So I’m really excited to see just how diverse a selection of nominees we get, whether it is somebody from a shipyard who has done something amazing or whether it is an owner who clearly has put a lot of effort into or empowered their crew to to do something with charitable funds that they give them to disperse as they wish, or whether it is a science project or whether it is a deckhand or whether it is a chef, maybe, or who knows. It’s there’s such a broad scope of who it could be. I’m just really excited to see who comes in from this because a lot of what we do, which is developing stories around people, you come across the most fascinating and interesting lives that are connected to or involved in yachting. And, and I think that this is just going to throw up all sorts of sort of lightbulb moments of more of these great ordinary people who were central to the superyacht experience and who are doing incredible things.
Diane Byrne 30:14
Well, that’s a great note to end on. Thanks to you both for joining me on the podcast today. It’s been a real pleasure learning more about what the Superyacht Life Foundation is doing, and especially to showcase the good differences that owners and crews and other individuals in the industry are certainly making. So thanks once again.
Charlotte Thomas 30:37
Thank you so much for having us. It’s been a pleasure.
Diane Byrne 30:40
everyone to learn more about the Superyacht Life Foundation, you can visit their website, which is thesuperyachtlife.com. And as Dilan mentioned a moment ago, if you are interested in nominating someone for The Honours, that website is thehonours.org and ‘honours’ is spelled h o n o u r s, for those of you who are Americans like me who need a little reminder every now and then that we spell words differently. That wraps up this episode of Megayacht News Radio. Thanks so much for listening. Until next time, I’m Diane Byrne.
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