My crew are very, very important to me. I mean, would I make a call to them every day? No, but certainly three times a week. I enjoy the little stories, finding out what’s happening and what they have discovered: “We went to this berth, and this anchorage, and, oh my God, this is great and by the way it’s only around the corner, the beach is fantastic and the restaurant was really cool.” I love those stories, I really do.
My crew are like my family, so I have to treat them right. To get the best out of any yacht crew they have to like and respect the people they’re working for. If you look at all the boats out there that have almost serial changes of captains… Well, I would look at the owner before you look at the captains.
The relationship between skipper and owner is key. If the boat is to be a happy, profitable, successful boat, whether charter, private or whatever, there has to be a strong link between the two. And a proactive link, not some upstairs-downstairs kind of thing. I’m sure that does go on but it’s not something I’d ever want on my boats. I had one skipper, Patrick, for 15 years. He taught the kids how to waterski and sail. You don’t forget that.
In the summer I had a chance to get on to Sir Donald Gosling’s 75 metre Leander, and wow! It’s modern but classic and just spectacular to be aboard. I also love the 73 metre Virginian, owned by the Bamford family. I’ve enjoyed both the eating and drinking pleasures on that particular boat as a guest of the family.
I don’t know if I’d have the bottle to go and buy a boat like that because the maintenance on these older boats is crazy. I cringe every time I see those old sailing boats, just thinking about the cash register tallying up. The cost of maintaining all the deck and the mass of sails is a daunting prospect. I’d love to do it but I’m actually more interested in out-and-out speed, so from a racing point of view, the more modern type of sailing boat is more my thing. I’m not talking about TP52s or extreme racing or anything like that – they’re absolutely suicidal. I’ve done extreme racing and it’s terrifying.
Regatta racing, though, is invigorating. I love, love, love the racing. Some of the bigger regattas clash with F1 races, but you can’t have it all. I’m able to get all the buzz from regatta racing that I used to get from motor racing, without the massive stress and anxiety of so many people watching over your shoulder.
It’s a magic feeling when you’re on the open sea and it’s just you fighting against a couple of other boats. It’s a great crack and the parties and beers in the evening are just mighty. We won’t talk about the girls – that’s another column.
In fact, that’s a different magazine!
I bought Blush to operate for charter and use her when no one else wants her. There are people out there with unlimited budgets, but that’s not me. The yacht was bought through our family trust, and we say: “Look, we will spend X millions on this boat but we can get some of this back.” But there’s a discussion that needs to be had about charter costs, because prices are going up continually and we’re risking people going off and doing other things. We have a very strict 20 per cent VAT regime in Europe, and when you throw on upwards of 20 per cent for the charter agent, then you’ve got staff and maintenance costs… We just need to be mindful that we don’t kill the goose!