Opinion: brokers vs. captains

Written by Gemma Fottles

It’s no secret that captains and brokers can often have a tough relationship when it comes to the sale of a yacht - something we first looked at this in issue 8 of the SuperYacht Times. Last year, we asked captains their views: is the strained relationship and rising tensions between broker and captain the fault of the broker, exuding a distinct lack of respect for the role the captain and the crew have to play in selling a yacht to her new owner? Or does the fault lie with the captains, stubbornly refusing to be dictated to in any way in regards to the vessel he or she commands?

Now that we’ve heard the captain's side, this issue we’ve posed the same questions to four yacht brokers: Mark Elliott of IYC, Richard Callender of Bluewater, Kevin Merrigan of Northrop & Johnson, and Matthew Ruane of Cecil Wright, who give us their take with one factor underlying all of their insights: communication and teamwork is the absolute key.

In what way can the Captain contribute to the successful sale of a yacht?

ME: The captain is an integral part of any sale and can make or break a deal. From the first showing to the last sea trial, the captain needs to work hand in hand with the broker. A good communication process is essential. I like to make sure that the captain and I are on the same page, saying the same thing and working towards the same end, the sale of the yacht. A good clean vessel, with good logs and documentation, all safety gear in order, and captain and crew in good spirits defiantly helps the sale.

RC: At the introductory phase of the process, depending on the ownership experience of the buyer, the captain can really help to ‘paint the picture’ with regards to what is achievable during one’s ownership of a particular yacht. A few stories of where the yacht has cruised under their guardianship, particularly if the yacht is capable of long distance passages, always seems to go down well!

The professionalism that shines through, when detailing the above at a moment’s notice will also reassure the seller that his or her captain’s interests lie in reaching a successful sale for them, and for everyone involved in the process.

KM: The Captain plays an important role in the sale of a yacht, including condition of the yacht, professionalism of the crew, quality of the service, and overall presentation of the yacht. Remember that we are selling an experience, not a piece of metal. If the broker & captain are not coordinating the overall presentation properly, the odds of selling the yacht are greatly reduced.

Is it the Captain's responsibility to ensure the presentation of the vessel is up to scratch or the brokers?

MR: Contractually, presentation of the vessel at all times is the captain’s responsibility. However, the broker must help by agreeing the format for viewings, communicating well and having a complete understanding of the yacht so as to be accurate to his client about what “scratch” may be for any given yacht (what work has been done/needs to be done etc.)

RC: Providing everyone is on the same page with regards to the intended end result, it is ultimately a team effort; more often than not, the captain will have more personnel to help with the presentation of the yacht, however I see it as a case of working together - ‘all hands on deck’, and the interior, and the engine room, and the galley, and so on… Sometimes of course it is hard to have the yacht ‘charter ready’ if she is lying in a shipyard for example, but it is also the broker’s job to manage expectations.

KM: Absolutely both! Selling a yacht is a team effort. Brokers are looking to present the yacht in her best light. Nobody knows the boat better than the captain. The owner is paying the captain to ensure that his wishes are carried out, including efforts to properly present the yacht to the buyer. Most brokers take care to ensure the listing and photography are accurate, but we just don't have the in-depth knowledge of the yacht the captain does. The captain will know the strengths and weaknesses of the yacht to be able to help the broker emphasise the positives.

Do brokers and Captains have a difficult relationship throughout the sale process? How can brokers and Captain’s work better together?

ME: My job as a broker is to sell the yacht. The only time it becomes difficult is if the captain is concerned about his current job and his future employment. If the owner says sell the yacht, then it's the captain's responsibility to follow his instructions and help the broker as much as possible. Sometimes during the survey, the captain can be blamed for some of the deficiencies and with all situations there are many parts to the story. Sometimes the captain is limited on what he can do by the owner's budget and has to live with that. As a former captain, I try to make the process as painless as possible and know both sides of the process. Good communication is the key!

KM: Brokers have only one mandate from the owner: to sell the yacht. The captain is otherwise responsible for ongoing operation and use of the boat as the sale effort continues. Often these efforts can conflict, and occasionally a captain will even be reluctant to facilitate the sale of "his/her" yacht. It is important that all parties prioritise that the team is working in the best interest of the owner.

A captain can most readily incorporate the sales effort into their operational responsibilities by treating brokers and buyers as clients, just as they would treat the owner or a charter guest. This insures the best possible product to everyone who interacts with the yacht. Brokers can further help the captain understand the process through our and the buyer's eyes: how best to stage the boat, the contract process, the survey, sea trial and closing process. It is very important to remember that each captain and his/her crew are interviewing every time a buyer inspects the yacht. A crew is under the microscope during the purchase process by the owner, the buyer and the broker. Hard work, good communication, and adequate preparation on all sides are important to being successful.

RC: In my experience, the only difficulty I have had is a language barrier, as fundamentally we have a common interest: the two of us are working for the Seller or the Buyer, or both. As a listing Broker, it is helpful when the Captain (who often has more regular contact with the owner and arguably a closer relationship) reassures the owner that he/she is in good hands when inevitable obstacles are reached during the sales process. As with many successful dealings in life, communication is the key.

MR: Captain/Broker friction in this process has been commented on a lot. However, there really should not be any disconnect here, in fact quite the opposite as a well-integrated broker/ captain team is a positive in any viewing or sale situation. If the broker is diligently and proactively going about the job of delivering under the terms of a central agency agreement, while a captain is doing the same under the terms of a captain’s contract, all that should be required is excellent communication, common courtesy and a shared commercial awareness of their owners stated objective.

The broker must have a clear understanding of what the yacht’s maintenance and shipyard needs are, what is realistic to expect in terms of viewing, equally the captain needs to feel confident that prospective clients viewing have been well qualified by the broker, fit within an agreed framework and where an extra push is required to make a viewing or sale happen, that is it well understood and appreciated.

What’s your opinion on the relationship between brokers and captain’s relationships during the sales process? Let us know at [email protected].

This article was published in the latest edition of the SuperYacht Times newspaper. Subscribe now to receive your copy straight to your door and never miss another issue.



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