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Credit: Adam Kingman

On board Preference 19 with owner Douglas Rastello

9 September 2022 • Written by Sophia Wilson

After a lifetime of competitive sailing, it’s something of a surprise that it was a motor yacht that lured this owner into superyacht ownership. He tells Sophia Wilson why 36 metre Preference 19 was the best impulse purchase he has ever made

“The whole experience was a great adventure, I had no intention whatsoever of buying a boat,” says American Doug Rastello from on board 36.4 metre Preference 19. A last-minute “fun” trip to the Cannes Yachting Festival, following taking part in the Marathon du Médoc, led to him falling for the distinctively pared-back Tansu-built yacht. “We were walking the docks and seeing the same kind of style boat and there was Preference 19, which was totally different,” he recalls. “The interior wasn’t heavy marble and fancy, it was a modern look with teak floors, teak ceilings, white walls and black doors. Exactly what we like. We were completely intrigued by her and somehow, we ended up buying her.”

The Rastellos were taken by Preference 19’s pared-back appearance and modern interior
Credit: Adam Kingman

A highly competitive sailor who has been involved in three America’s Cups and currently runs a successful J/70 programme, Rastello is no stranger to boats. He previously owned a Moody54 sailing yacht, which he cruised the Mediterranean and Caribbean on, but Preference 19 was “quite a step up”. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic taking hold soon after the purchase had been finalised, he didn’t waste any time getting to know her. “It really didn’t slow us down,” he says. “The boat was locked up for a while but as soon as she got let out of Covid jail she went straight to Croatia, and we used her quite a bit. The hardest part was getting flights out of the United States, but if you got on a plane, it was all good.”

Preference 19 is offered for charter with YPI
Credit: Adam Kingman

The other challenge that Rastello faced after purchase was changing Preference 19 from private use to a commercial vessel for charter. “We’ve learned things about superyachts,” he says. “When I was buying her, she was sold to us as ‘going commercial is not that big a deal, it’s not that  hard’. Well, it is that hard, and it is a big deal.” To help with Preference 19’s transition into a charter yacht, Rastello put together a new crew, led by captain James Box, and made changes throughout. “We were starting from scratch,” Rastello says. “It wasn’t that the quality of what the previous owner had was bad, it just wasn’t up to the standard of a proper charter business. We had to get silverware, plates, linen, towels and uniforms and new tenders and water toys. Just all those things you take for granted we had to change out.”

With Preference 19 now kitted out, the yacht’s “floating beach club” offering is proving popular with charter clients. The new challenge is getting the balance right between charter use and spending time on board. “We are not planning on being in a positive cash flow, but we figured we need a certain number of charters just to make it kind of affordable,” Rastello explains. “For us, in July and August we are not going to be using the boat so that is perfect for charter. Where we get into conflict is the last two weeks of June and the first two weeks of September. That is where we have to manoeuvre.”

As well as getting to grips with being a superyacht owner Rastello, who splits his time on land between properties in Lake Tahoe and Newport Beach, has been building his reputation in the J/70 World Championship. “We have a full programme, we got a boat in the United States, and we have one in Europe,” he explains.  “Two years ago, I didn’t know what a J/70 looked like, but now I do. We failed a lot but we have come a long way. It’s kind of exciting in a way, because we started low, and now we are a top team.” Rastello’s focus is now on the J/70 World Championships in Monaco this October, which if all goes to plan, he intends to attend with Preference 19.

Preference 19 comes with a wealth of toys, including Seabobs and Waverunners
Credit: Adam Kingman

Rastello first got into sailing as a child in Long Beach, California, when his father’s partner suggested it. “My dad bought us a boat,” he says. “There were three brothers and one boat. I just liked sailing, so I stuck at it. From 12 onwards that was my sport and I have been at it ever since.” This has included being part of three America’s Cups teams – Eagle Challenge in Perth, Australia in 1987, Dennis Connor’s Stars & Stripes in 2002/3 in Auckland and BMW Oracle in 2006/7 in Spain.

Rastello was in his mid fifties during his final Cup appearance, and he has witnessed the sport move on again since he last participated. “I try not to look at it from an old-school standpoint but it’s hard not to,” he says. “I was on boats, where we had 11 people and every manoeuvre was just a monumental struggle. You had to practise for years to be able to do the manoeuvre. The sails were huge and it was a physical contest. It’s just such a different game now.” Despite only liking “parts” of the modern development of the America’s Cup, Rastello is excited to see it return to Spanish waters in 2024. “I was in Spain the last time and every day there were 800 spectator yachts going to the starting line. For the actual match there were probably 200,000 people in the harbour. It was just incredible,” he recalls.

Preference 19 has three double cabins, two twin cabins and can accommodate 10 guests in comfort
Credit: Adam Kingman

Away from his sailing exploits, Rastello has been focused on building his property business. “I have been in real estate for a long time,” he says. “I bought my first apartment complex in 1990. We really ramped up after the 2008 financial crisis as it was a good time to buy. We’ve grown to be a nice-sized company.” The business now includes a portfolio of apartment complexes across Southwest America and Rastello has handed over the reins to his children. “My son started working for me in 2013 and it has been a natural transition over that period,” he says. Rastello’s son James is now in charge of running and expanding the business, while his daughter Natalie oversees the Western division. “I am fortunate that I have smart, squared-away kids and I’m proud of them because they have stepped up and they are doing a great job,” he says.  “I’m the beneficiary because I get to do the J/70 programme, hang out on the boat and answer phone calls when I need to, but not have the burden of the day-to-day operations.”

One of Rastello’s greatest surprises of yacht ownership has been how much his wife and him have enjoyed their time on the boat. “A couple of times now we have been on the boat for a month, and I have been thinking ‘That’s going to be way too much time for me,’ but it wasn’t. It is just fun being on board, it’s a fun life.” Part of Rastello’s enjoyment of being on board is keeping active with lots of water sports and working out under the watchful eye of Grant, his deckhand and personal trainer. “Every couple of days we have a full fitness circuit,” he says. “One of the benefits of having a big backyard is that we can have workout stations and music. Everyone participates and it’s kind of fun.”

Credit: Adam Kingman

This autumn, Preference 19 will head over to the Caribbean for Rastello’s first winter season on board, and afterwards their plans remain open.  “I have looked at doing a big trip, leaving the Med and heading out to Asia. I would love to do something like that, but we haven’t quite got there yet. It takes a lot of planning,” he says. “Right now, I don’t have a plan other than to enjoy the Caribbean. When it’s snowing in Lake Tahoe I can go to warm up, which sounds pretty good to me.”

No matter where Preference 19 ends up cruising, Rastello has no regrets about his impulse purchase. “It has been totally worthwhile,” he says. “I would say it is one of the better things I’ve ever done. I’m totally happy.”

Preference 19 is available for charter with Yachting Partners International from €105,000 per week.

First published in the September 2022 issue of BOAT International. Get this magazine sent straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issue

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