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5 Questions with… Captain Paul Brackley from Central Yacht - Asia’s Superyacht Specialist

Business
Written by
Laura Nicholls

The superyacht industry may be small to some, but it is filled with a range of experts and professionals from around the world. In this series, we shine a light on some of the specialists working within the different segments of the industry to learn more about what they do for the sector. As a build-captain, yacht designer and project manager, Captain Paul Brackley has gained extensive industry experience over the last 30 years. All of which he has invested into the success of Central Yacht in Hong Kong, a company that for eight years has been offering everything potential yacht owners need to buy, build and operate a yacht. SuperYacht Times speaks to Captain Brackley to learn more about his career and Central Yacht’s quality services. Captain Paul BrackleyPhoto: BenettiYou have a wealth of experience and have held numerous job titles over the years - how did your career in yachting begin?
Although I qualified as MCA Master 3000 nearly 20 years ago, ever since I started my career in yachting I wanted to learn everything - even the basics such as polishing brass, painting bilges, arranging flowers, presenting a cheese board and making beds! I believed, even back then, that it is only with a complete understanding of the full operation of such a complex and compact unit like a yacht that you can start to be successful.  

Of course, I am not an expert in flower arranging or blanket folding, but I can tell who is a true professional, engage with them or hire them! Being technically competent in Italian, fluent in French and able to speak basic Mandarin really gives me an advantage in negotiating and discussing with shipyards, clients and also craftsmen and shipyard workers.

Central Yacht provides expert advice on buying, building and operation, as well as managing yacht design and construction. Was it always CY's intention to offer such a range of services? How do you manage such a broad business? 
The ten year Lloyds Class Special Survey we just managed for the Azipod yacht Ambrosia in Taiwan shows the depth of skill available at Central Yacht, especially as this was the first time anywhere in the world the compact Azipod size 3 had been disassembled.

Ambrosia

The management of any sized operation requires someone with a good grasp of all aspects to ensure an economical and swift result. There is so much overlap between the different roles that management isn’t as complicated as it seems. I benefit from having a very unusual professional experience having been Chief Engineer, Captain, deckhand and having worked in research in my previous career before becoming a professional yachtsman.

Because of this, our first complete project the 56-metre Benetti Lady Candy, which we were involved in the designing, selling, supervising and operation, was delivered before the scheduled delivery date and with a negative budget for change orders. The shipyard actually had to pay the owner for the savings we made on our revisions to the technical specification!

Lady Candy exterior profilePhoto: Jeff BrownTalk us through the design process at Central Yacht
Central Yacht is involved in two of the three major areas of yacht design: aesthetic/space arrangement and systems design, but not hydrodynamics. In planning aesthetics and space arrangement we have two challenges: the idea, and the presentation of the idea. To sell a multi-million dollar project it is necessary to show the buyer some very pretty pictures. But, often too much emphasis is given to the presentation of the idea, which leads to a disappointing final result. 

Therefore, we create simple, inexpensive 3D images and videos - even basic renderings - at a very early stage to give clients a realistic impression before we go too far down the design development route. 

However, a good presentation is not going to make a bad concept into a good practical design. If anything, the presentation will deliberately hide failings and drawbacks. The experience gained from working onboard really gives those at Central Yacht an advantage in creating a yacht that works efficiently for both the owner and the crew. Maximising space, however, is a talent you either have or don’t.

For systems design, it is very useful that I have a very practical nature. I have owned a few old British and American sports cars and most weekends are spent under the bonnet. I just did a cylinder head replacement on my 2001 Ford Mustang and having been an engineer for many years on large automated sailing yachts. I am always polishing my skills and my knowledge of practical engineering really helps with verifying the technical design. I also emphasise this fact in our technical specifications for new projects. I really dislike installing systems that require specialist knowledge or training to maintain or repair. This drives the Central Yacht’s philosophy to simplify new build specifications which saves costs not just during the build, but more importantly reduces maintenance costs and improves reliability in service.

Tell us about Central Yacht’s involvement with Ambrosia III

Ambrosia was the first project we did as the team that coalesced into Central Yacht. Ambrosia III is still a state-of-the-art diesel-electric Azipod yacht that has been upgraded continually under our supervision throughout her life - including during her 10 year Lloyd’s special survey. One of the upgrades we made was to the smooth generator loading by changing the motor management protocol from speed to power control. We also proposed an autopilot logic we called “asymmetric steering” that actuates only one side of the steering motor at a time.

It came as a surprise last year reading in the local press that Central Yacht had three designs in the top 40 Asian yachts! With the successful sale earlier in the year of 54-metre Admiral yacht Sea Force One to an Asian customer, it became clear that we are actually a major player in an increasingly important market.

What is next for both you and Central Yacht?
The future looks very interesting in Asia, especially for medium-sized premium quality yachts. We are therefore expanding the brokerage services and new-build side of the business with Greg Dagge becoming director and shareholder in September this year. Greg brings with him a wealth of experience in power and sail and has built brands in both Asia and Australia. 

We are also designing new yachts based on our extensive knowledge of the region and the particular client demands. One very interesting project is for a 100-foot, full beam fast yacht with exceptional accommodation and a very practical layout for service. 

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