Held at the sublimely located a’Mare Restaurant at Barangaroo, the 2023 Sydney Superyacht Captains’ Long Lunch welcomed 42 Captains and luminaries from the superyacht industry for a much-anticipated get-together to celebrate the end of a successful year.
Sponsored by Rivergate Marina & Shipyard, Major Yacht Services and Sydney Superyacht Marina, the event was the opportunity for Captains, representatives from industry bodies and suppliers to meet in a social setting to catch up on issues and renew personal connections.
a’Mare, meaning ‘by the sea’ in Italian, is located in Crown Casino Sydney and enjoys incredible Harbour views from every angle. Highly awarded Chef and Restaurateur, Alessandro Pavoni, designed an exquisite menu for the occasion: opening with share plates of home-made Focaccia, Buffalo mozzarella and Veal tenderloin, followed by mains of Pasta al Pesto and Vitello alla Milanese, with delicious sides of rocket and balsamic salad, and roast potatoes with rosemary. For dessert, the house specialty, just like Alessandro’s mother used to make, the famous a’Mare Tiramisu.
Along with local and visiting Captains, guests included representatives from Superyacht Australia, Ocean Media, Burgess Yachts and Benetti’s Peter Mahoney, who arrived from Hong Kong, and said he never misses a Rivergate event if he can help it!
This year, there was a strong contingent of women, including Captain Charlie Kinder, Hillary Buckman, Editor in Chief at Ocean Media, Maddie Spencer from Superyacht Australia, Stephanie Bell, Manager Major Yacht Services Brisbane and Christina Prince, Manager at Major Yacht Services, who flew in from Cairns.
This was Christina’s second such event and she commented on the change of venue, saying “The location was spectacular, and the private dining room was most suitable for networking and socialising in between courses.”
Prior to working for Major Yacht Services, Christina worked in yachting for over a decade and attended events in Monaco and other superyacht destinations.
“The new venue suited the image we want to present in the industry. It’s a glamour industry and a’Mare’s food, service and ambience were superb.”
Topics of discussion relevant to Christina included “boat movements, crew and Captain changeovers, charters for the coming season, moving from Sydney and heading north”.
“We discussed the pros and cons of refit and maintenance in Cairns, Brisbane and Sydney,” she continued. “I always push Rivergate for the quality, skills and accessibility.”
On a social note, she said it was refreshing to meet Captains and hear about their experiences.
“Speaking in a social setting like that is how we find out things we have in common, the seasons we’ve worked in various locations around the world, the people we know and places we’ve been to. It was a unique bonding experience.”
First-time attendee, Brandon Hoy, Rivergate Shipyard Manager, was equally impressed with the food and the venue, and said it was a valuable experience to meet in person Captains he had spoken with or exchanged emails with over the years, or had met during previous yard periods.
“Probably a dozen of them I’d had brief discussions with at Rivergate, so to finally have the opportunity to speak about other things, beyond work, like travel, family, plans for the holidays, was amazing.”
Topics of note included discussions about future refit work at Rivergate, and several industry issues impacting everyone.
“We spoke about berthing issues around Australia, as some of the bigger vessels are finding it hard to get suitable berths,” said Brandon. “And then there’s the impact of the skills shortage in specialised trades. Many of them are having a hard time finalising projects because there’s a lot of work and not enough people in some areas.”
Captain Charlie Kinder at the helm of 37-metre Heesen, MY Lumir, was also a first-time guest at a Rivergate/Major/Sydney Superyacht Marina luncheon, and she said she was very grateful for the opportunity to “relax in such a beautiful environment, see some familiar faces and meet some new people in the industry”.
“It was great to meet the Rivergate team and enjoy everybody’s company. In this industry Captains often operated in a high stress environment, so it was a welcome opportunity to socialise among colleagues.”
Charlie started on board MY Lumir as the Deck Stewardess and once she gained her qualifications, took on the position of skipper, where she’s been for the past 13 months.
“I never imagined becoming a Captain,” she explained. “My dad is in the marine industry, instructing classes for MED engineering, Master 24 and Master 45. I did a few classes with my dad, then I got a job, loved it, and it snowballed from there.”
Charlie is now just one week away from completing her Master 45 certificate, after which she’ll fly to the Gold Coast where MY Lumir is berthed, and bring the boat back to Sydney for the summer season.
“I love the boat and we have great owners,” said Charlie, adding that MY Lumir has recently entered the charter market. “The owners spend quite a bit of time on Sydney Harbour, then they’ll head to Pittwater to enjoy the jetskis and Fliteboards.”
Speaking of the change from private to charter, Charlie observed there were challenges with hiring crew. “There is quite a crew shortage at the moment, which we discussed at length over lunch. There are so many more boats and more jobs, and just not enough people to fill them.”.
Steve Fisher, Rivergate’s long-time Director of International Business, viewed the lunch as “a welcome break from the hectic pace of work-life routine”.
“There was a lot of talk about charters in the Whitsundays and coming into the busy Christmas-New Year period in Sydney,” Steve said. “Superyacht owners and charter vessels are venturing out to the Pacific again, Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia.”
Other domestic topics that arose included sharing information about reliable suppliers, crew shortages, new anchorages, and the rising numbers of visiting superyachts heading ‘down under’.
“Especially in the lead up to the 2032 Brisbane Olympic Games, there was concern that infrastructure needs to keep pace with demand. On a positive note, the new ‘local knowledge’ approval process on superyachts coming into Sydney Harbour seems to be working very well.”
David Good, CEO of AIMEX-Superyacht Australia explained the concept: “To move around inside the Port Limits of Sydney Harbour, Captains have previously been required to utilise a pilot. There are limited Pilots, and they just can’t dedicate this resource every time a vessel wants to move anchorage whenever the wind changes.
“So, an alternative arrangement was devised between the Harbour Master and Superyacht Australia for vessels between 30 and 80-metres. Captains are able to complete a 50-question online questionnaire before they arrive, and then on initial arrival a Pilot will board their vessel and check it over, ensuring Captain and crew competence. The Pilot signs off their application and can add value to the visiting vessel during the initial pilotage by pointing out anchorages, the fact that the Manly Ferry has right of way over everything – basically, provide local knowledge.”
Captains can secure Temporary Local Knowledge permits for set period. Vessels under 30-metres do not require it, and those over 80-metres require a Pilot for all movements or may hire somebody with a full Certificate of Local Knowledge and qualifications to master the size vessel in question.
“Superyacht Australia on behalf of industry and the Harbour Master, Myron Fernandes, developed this pragmatic solution that gives oversight for the regulator and freedom for the vessel once qualified,” added David.
Kokomo II Co-Captain, Toby Gitsham was thrilled to be invited to the Sydney Captains’ Long Lunch 2023. “I haven’t been for a while, and I felt like I was returning to the fold,” he commented.
“It was a fantastic afternoon, Steve, Alex and Brandon did a great job hosting, listening to our feedback, and it was very enjoyable to spend time with them socially.”
One thing that stood out to Toby compared with previous events was the increase in the number of female guests. “I really enjoyed their company. It made for a nice balance and a different perspective, plus we men were on our best behaviour,” he quipped.
A topic of great interest and urgency for Toby is the difficulty finding crew, specifically engineers, which is a symptom of the nationwide skills shortage.
38-metre, private motor yacht, Kokomo II spends approximately four months of every year in Fiji and the rest of the time is based at Woolloomooloo in Sydney.
“We have a Storage container at Rivergate and regularly schedule stopovers for works and maintenance on our way to Fiji or on the return,” said Toby. “They are always reliable for top quality work, service and a friendly welcome.”
For about 25 of the party, festivities continued at the Sussex Hotel where spirits were high and tales were no doubt embellished!
“There’s really nothing like this annual event for cementing personal and professional relationships,” said David Good. “It’s always a quality event, and definitely leads to stronger ties among industry, as well as a better understanding of other people’s roles and how we’re all interlinked.”