IWM:WOMEN AT THE HELM
Yachting has historically been a male environment but more and more women are coming to the forefront, with their influence in business and the industry felt in every sector of superyachting. We talk with five passionate women about their experiences in yachting.
As the wife of Riza Tansu, yacht and yard owner of Tansu Yachts, it was logical that Yaima Ortiz, former Olympian volleyball player and now designer, quickly became deeply involved in the world of yachts. “Because Riza’s personal and professional life is so integrated with the other it was only natural for me to be interested in the beautiful creations he was making so passionately,” she says. “I think when you do something passionately the energy around you and what you are doing becomes highly vibrant, and this was easy for me to pick up because as an Olympian volleyball player I know what it feels like to put your heart and soul into something.”
“Shipbuilding has always been part of my life,” says Rose Damen, Commercial Director of Yachting for Dutch shipbuilders Amels and Damen. “I grew up around my family’s shipyards. As a family we love sailing and I learned a lot about different places and cultures in the world, so that attracted me to the yachting side of Damen’s business.”
On joining the Damen Shipyards Group (DSG), her background included time in finance and past experience as a non-executive board member of the DSG. “I think I brought a new perspective and skill set to the company when I joined the day-to-day management in 2014.”
Damen believes that “even though it’s still a male-dominated market, things are changing – from owners down to crews and management firms”, and that this change will be encouraged by altering the way we present the industry. “Traditionally, yachting is portrayed as a very male landscape and although things are changing, with lots of passionate female owners, there is still work to be done.” Portraying yachting as the ultimate way for people to spend time together is key. “When clients join us on board one of our yachts, both men and women, they discover that the reality of luxury yachting is that it’s just a wonderful way to spend time together,” she says. "There’s luxury, it’s social, but it’s on your terms. As a family, we also enjoy spending time on our sailing yacht when we get the chance and it’s one of the few times we are all together.” With the rise of prominent female figures in the yachting industry, Damen is hopeful that the number of women in yachting will only grow. “I hope we can encourage younger women to take a look at technical career possibilities in yachting,” she says. “It’s fascinating and rewarding on many levels. I love it!”
As Vice President of Blue Sky and Water, which owns M/Y Bacchus, Michelle Wesley is heavily involved in the day-to-day management of the yacht alongside the Fraser team and the yacht’s Captain.
“I had the pleasure of meeting some people in yachting who took an interest in my interest and thanks to the help of my family and a career change, here I am today!” she says.
“A personal best memory of mine would have to be cruising the Exumas… I know, it’s ‘just’ the Bahamas but the clear blue warm water, tiny island bars, national parks, natural lazy rivers, swimming pigs and the overall feeling of seclusion mean it’s truly a one-of-a-kind experience and something that you can only do right by boat.”
Wesley quickly fell in love with yachting, both as a yacht user and from a business perspective. “There is constant evolution in the yachting industry, which is one of the things that attracts me most about it,” she says. “It’s continually growing and changing and so are the people and the places.”
As one of many women making waves in yachting, Wesley believes that we are now seeing people being chosen for merit in roles, regardless of gender. “Even though I am often introduced to and speak with many men in this industry, I just as much feel surrounded by many amazing women… our charter manager, accountant, first stew, deck hand, website designer and many other women I have had the pleasure of interacting with at Fraser,” she says. “The more women see other women in various positions, the more women will be attracted to and interested in what is going on over here in yachting… it’s just the beginning.”
Long-term charter client Laura Dunn was quickly won over by the ease of chartering as an exceptional experience. “Our first charter turned out to be one of the best family vacations we had ever taken,” she says. “It all starts with the first charter and after experiencing life on a superyacht it's hard to ever go back to vacationing on land.”
Dunn has countless memories of her time in yachting. “Some of the most memorable moments of my life have been on yachts, from some of the most magnificent meals to the simple pleasures of being on jet-skis with my children exploring some incredible bays in the Exumas,” she says.
Working with strong, knowledgeable women of the industry has only added to the experience. “Since the yachting industry is a male-dominated industry, being able to work with Liz Howard at Fraser has been a dream come true as she was able to guide me from a woman's point of view,” she says. “From my first call with Liz I was hooked on the ease of chartering, and finding the right yacht for my family became a really enjoyable experience.” Dunn believes that more and more women are entering and enjoying the superyacht world, which is an encouraging development. “I hope this article will help to bring more awareness to women who are interested in chartering or owning but have felt that it was a man’s world,” she says. “The more time I spend at sea the more I am seeing female owners, charterers and more female crews. Several of my close girlfriends have chartered in the past few years and they absolutely loved it.”
As a professional coach and the wife of Fraser broker David Legrand, Alessandra Legrand has a unique perspective on the yachting industry. “I first became involved in the yachting industry over 20 years ago when David began to work for Fraser. Over the years I have also been involved and watched him in his work, and every day is a surprise,” she says. “I work as a human resource, self-esteem, management and human behaviour trainer so I find the role of the broker, and all the many qualities they require to do their job very interesting, including the ways they engage with clients.”
Legrand has many observations on the up and coming generation of yacht buyers and how to best cater to what they need. “To be a good broker these days you need the capacity to listen before speaking and an ability to understand the emotional side of buying a yacht,” says Legrand. “I see that this new generation of buyers are very emotional and sensitive so they are not interested in buying a boat just for the ‘show off’ factor, but rather they also need a real sense and motivation, such as environmental factors, art, pleasure and friendship. In brief, human relations are now more important to buyers than big boats for showing off!”
As for how to attract more women to the industry Legrand believes there are many tactics to be taken. “My advice to encourage women into ownership or charter is to exercise listening, a human approach, sensitivity and ensure we are proposing the same high comfort as at home, including big spaces on board and a good team ambience,” she says. And for those within the industry, “I believe the secret to being a successful woman in this industry is not to compare yourself to men.”
This article originally appeared in issue XIV of FRASER Yachting Magazine – the intelligent magazine for living, loving and luxury yachts.