Owner, captain and all-round yachting enthusiast, Dutchman Jan Verkerk’s expertise and involvement in the industry spans beyond what we have typically come to expect of a superyacht owner. Owner of two of the most talked about charter boats in the world of superyachts, the completely-rebuilt 77-metre explorer Legend and the 69.6-metre Sherakhan, Verkerk’s passion for true expeditions at sea is palpable, and as anyone who has seen any of the spectacular photography and film footage from either yachts’ journeys around the world can tell you, the adventures of these boats induce an almost alarming level of wanderlust.
Photo by Quin Bisset
Regardless of the time, energy and money poured into these vessels, however - and with Legend only delivered last year following her extensive rebuild - Verkerk is ready to bid his boats goodbye. With both Legend and Sherakhan recently listed for sale, we sit down with Verkerk to find out more about his journey in the world of superyachts.
“I have been sailing since I was 6 years old,” Verkerk tells us regarding the source of his passion for yachting. “My older brother was a charter captain for sailboats and he was truly my inspiration to go into the yachting industry.” Though passionate about sailing from a young age, the business orientated mindset of Verkerk steered his focus from sailing yachts to motor yachts. “Even if you are very commercially driven, it is very difficult to make any money from sailing charters,” explains Verkerk. “Whilst I have always loved classic boats, from a business perspective there is very little money to be made in comparison to chartering motor yachts.” As such, following a fruitful career in his family’s successful hospitality business, Verkerk made the full transition into the superyacht industry, incorporating the valuable skills he learned in hospitality into his passion and creating, arguably, the perfect charter business.
One of the most unique aspects of Verkerk’s charter operations is the fact that not only is he the owner, heavily involved in the functional running and marketing of the yacht, but he is also captain of the slightly smaller of his two vessels: Sherakhan. Certainly a unique set up, we asked how exactly this works. Can it be a little awkward to have paying guests on your own boat? Do the guests know that you’re the owner? Do you not ever wish that your guests would, perhaps, behave and treat your high-value asset with a bit more respect? “It’s always fine,” he laughs. “None of my guests ever know that I am the owner, and honestly, in 20 years of chartering yachts, I’ve only had to be strict with a group of guests once. We had a stern discussion, and it didn’t matter that I was the owner - it never does - I’m the captain at that point, and in this case the guests were getting rowdy to the point of causing some damage to the boat and danger to themselves. As the captain, I took control of that situation. It really makes no difference that I’m the owner - at my time of life, you don’t need to bother with letting everyone in the world know you own a boat. They’re not there to hear that, it’s their trip.”
When discussing his experience as both an owner, a captain and an engineer, Verkerk’s openness is both rare and refreshing in an industry bound by such privacy and exclusivity. And Verkerk is no stranger to the media, either. Speaking candidly about his decision to be vocal surrounding ownership, he explains, “The only way in any business model to be successful is to communicate. The beginning years of a business are always fairly difficult and therefore when I started talking, nearly 20 years ago, about expedition cruises to Indonesia and Thailand I needed to effectively communicate the product and the possibilities available therefore vocality and transparency was and remains to be an essential part of my business model.”
Never having been one to follow the crowd, the extensive expeditions that Verkerk has captained on board his yachts are a true testament to his passion for genuine adventure - a relative rarity in this day and age. “I want to give my clients an alternative to the Mediterranean,” he proudly states. Indeed, far from your classic cruise in the French Riviera or the bright lights of Monte Carlo, Verkerk is enchanted by destinations further afield - not just from a business perspective, but from a human perspective. “The two locations that amaze me the most are Antarctica and Papua New Guinea. The scenery in Antarctica is just beautiful and absolutely breathtaking, it is like nothing else that you will ever experience. Equally the culture of French Polynesia is incredible, being on board gives you the luxury of visiting unspoilt and exciting destinations that would otherwise be unaccessible. That’s what makes yachting truly special for me.”
Unspoiled and special, indeed, the regions that Legend and Sherekhan cruise aren’t always sunshine and flowers, and fair weather sailing is not always on the cards. “Crossings such as the Drake passage can be very scary,” he tells SYT. “It can be rough and therefore the quality of the boat and the captain are incredibly important.” Though the seas can be challenging, for Verkerk this is what it is all about: “For me it is fantastic. Of course it can be scary, but whether I am at sea for five days or five weeks - I am never bored. I genuinely love it and I find it exciting. I sell adventures and I like the challenge that Antarctica or the Arctic presents me with. The incredible thing about being in Iceland or Greenland is that no matter how bad the weather is, it will always pass quickly and the beauty makes it worthwhile.”
Whilst still very passionate about the industry, after years of tireless devotion Verkerk may have surprised some with his decision to list both Sherakhan and Legend for sale earlier this year. With so much invested in these boats, I asked him: Why? “I’m in my 50s now, and I can’t do this forever. Now’s the time to sell and do something else. Of course Legend and Sherakhan have played a big part in my life in many ways, so I’ll definitely miss the boats when they’re gone - but I am not the type of guy who will sit and wait around. I’ll certainly purchase another boat - smaller with less expenses which I will charter, but not as intensely. There’s lots I want to do that I haven’t had the time for yet, and I’m very excited to enjoy the next stage of my life.”
Both Sherakhan and Legend are currently listed for sale and charter, with Legend scheduled to be on display at this year’s Monaco Yacht Show with Fraser. This article was featured in the latest edition of the SuperYacht Times newspaper. Subscribe now to receive your copy straight to your door, and never miss another issue.