Over the last 20 years the superyacht industry has gone from “wild west” to “highly profesh”. To get an insight into how this happened, DMARGE spoke to Greg Newby, director of Superyacht Crew Academy.
When you think of superyachting, you may be liable to think of a red-faced billionaire flanked by models, snorting cocaine off a gold-plated tray, while sitting in a hot tub next to a helipad (jetskis and eFoils buzzing in the background). But the industry has changed a lot over the years. Now, according to Greg Newby (the director of Superyacht Crew Academy, and a guy who worked on superyachts for more than 15 years), unprofessional operators generally don’t last long. This is because, among other things, boats are getting bigger, and standards are getting higher.
It wasn’t always like this, though. As Mr Newby explained, “superyachting took off in the early 2000s when it appeared in an article in the Lonely Planet, which basically said: ‘Go the the south of France and you can earn some quick cash while you are backpacking.’ I think that really lured in a lot of Australians and New Zealanders on their gap years.”
“It’s only got more and more popular since, but the yachts have got bigger and bigger and there are so many jobs now that really most people that turn up will land a job with or without experience.”Greg Newby
Mr Newby added that there are certain entry-level qualifications that you need (that Superyacht Crew Academy provides), but really if you don’t have any boating or hospitality experience if you turn up and give it a go and stick it out you’ll get a foot in the door.”
“Once you get a foot in the door,” he added, “you’re away.” Mr Newby told DMARGE superyachting has becoming a mainstream aspiration partly due to social media, saying: “It’s become a lot more mainstream – pretty much everyone knows about it whereas 15 years ago it was just… you knew someone that knew someone that had made it over there, and you would just try and find out information by talking to friends.”
“Now all the information is out there. It’s more well known that if you want to finish high school and go do a bit of travelling and get paid you can do it.”
Mr Newby added: “It’s not so much the wild west anymore. There used to be fewer rules; more partying. I don’t know how I survived some of it. Now there’s definitely a lot more control over it because you’re talking about partying on these yachts that are travelling in the sea – obviously, there’s a lot of danger to go along with that.”
“Superyachting is a lot more heavily regulated. The rules in place are all there for safety reasons. If you can’t follow those rules then you don’t really last too long. Having said that, it’s still a ‘work hard, play hard’ environment.”Greg Newby
“The biggest thing to have changed is the size of the yachts,” Mr Newby said. “When I first started there were a few superyachts around the 100m mark, and the majority were 60 or 70m. These days the majority are 90 metres plus.”
“There are a lot of yachts over 100m now, and some of these boats have 60-70 crew on them. You’re really just running a small hotel at that stage, so the personal side comes out of it. I try to stay on smaller yachts.”
Mr Newby also shared some of his stories from the earlier days in the superyachting industry, where he said people would “party like rockstars” with the money they made from tips. He said that on one charter boat he worked on, he had a safe, where he would put all of his tips. At the end of the season, he cracked it open and went through it. There were 18 thousand euros in there, from tips alone.
“When you’ve got 18,000 euros in tips, going and dropping $1,000 in a nightclub is just nothing.”Greg Newby
“I met my wife on yachts and she’s got a lot of stories about certain American rappers and how they treat boats and getting banned from them – and moving onto the next one… and having the chief stew in the main guest cabin once because she jumped into bed with a rapper. Every day is bizarre.”
“I’ve heard stories of U2 coming on as guests and recording on these yachts. The bizarre just becomes normal, which is the weird thing about it.”Greg Newby
Mr Newby continued: “Sometimes you just pinch yourself when you’re standing in a particular location next to some of the richest people in the world and you look around going: ‘What am I doing here?’ One minute I’m working on Dive Boats and just driving little tenders and next thing I’m standing next to Bill Gates or some Russian Oligarch or the captain’s given you the keys to the Bentley or Rolls Royce and you’ve got to run down to the carpark to drive it back up.”
“You’re sitting in this world that is just bizarre: you’re in the Monaco GP and getting invited to these ridiculous parties.” Mr Newby then went on to tell us about how he was in Athens on a yacht in 2004 and the owners “didn’t even turn up to anything” for the Olympics so “we had tickets to every single event.”
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“We’d do a day of work, go up to the bridge and talk to the captain, and he’d give us tickets to whatever event was on and we would just go. It would have cost the owners hundreds of thousands of dollars and they didn’t even show up.”
Mr Newby also spoke to DMARGE about the demographic change (or the lack thereof) he has seen in superyachting. He said this aspect hasn’t actually changed as much as you might think, and owners can still largely be broken down into new money and old money.
“I think you’ve always had the nouveau riche – they’ve always been there and as a generalisation, they are the worst because they… don’t understand how to be rich. They really just expect everything rather than just trying to chill out.”
“There’s only so much a human can do and these yachts, although they are glamorous, the upkeep on them is huge. The amount it costs just to keep the thing afloat is millions of dollars every year and I don’t think the nouveau riche realise you have to spend millions to keep these things running.”
“When you work on a private yacht with billionaires generally it’s a lot more structured: there is definitely a difference between the rich and the super-rich.”