Photography by Alex Binks
09 December 2022
The 13th annual Sydney Superyacht Captains’ Long Lunch at Squire’s Landing, Circular Quay, hosted by Rivergate Marina & Shipyard, Major Yacht Services and Sydney Superyacht Marina, welcomed 40 guests, including captains, Jonathan Beckett, Chief Executive of Burgess, Peter Mahony, General Manager of Benetti Asia, the CEO and COO from Tourism Fiji, Brent Hill and Leigh Howard, Natalie Godward Cruise Development Manager at the Port Authority of NSW, representatives from AIMEX-Superyacht Australia, and Hillary Buckman, Publisher at Ocean Media.
“This event is totally centred on captains,” explained Rivergate’s Steve Fisher. “It’s unstructured, no speeches, no agenda, just our recognition of their expertise and a moment to pause and enjoy each other’s company.
“Captains rarely get that opportunity throughout the year, working around the globe or even if they’re in the same region, they barely do more than flash their nav lights at each other!”
“Several of our regulars couldn’t attend this year because they’re still on charter or with their owners’ vessels in the Whitsundays, but they sent their regards and were sorry to miss it,” he said, adding, “it’s really like a family reunion. It’s become the must-attend fixture on the calendar.”
Clemens Overdijk, Marina Manager Sydney Superyacht Marina said the long lunch comes around quicker each year!
“There’s always a great spirit and this year, there was a real optimism after some difficult years. We heard about very active owners who are wanting to explore further afield, which is fantastic for Australia and the South Pacific.
“Charter enquiries are increasing and they are attracting new markets, a younger demographic which means the charter yachts have to adapt and provide more kid-friendly and adventurous charters.”
Jonathan Beckett, Chief Executive at Burgess Yachts was in good form, fielding questions and recounting colourful yarns gleaned from his four decades in the industry.
He said, “The Captains’ Lunch was a really great opportunity for us to meet old friends and make new acquaintances. Chatting about the industry, discussing the market, talking about problems, and learning more about the superyacht industry in Australia.
“I travel the world almost every week; short distances and far-away places. Why, you might ask? The answer: there’s no substitute for face-to-face meetings and gatherings. So, whenever I am asked to attend a meeting or an industry event, I always do my absolute best to attend.
“We really enjoyed the unique atmosphere of a relaxing and sociable ‘working’ lunch. It was great!”
David Clark, ex-Captain of 73-metre Delta motor yacht, Laurel, and currently, Founder and Director of software company, Superyacht Operating Systems said it had been a while since he had last attended a Sydney Superyacht Captains’ Long Lunch, and it was well overdue.
“From the perspective of a former captain and now a business owner, it’s such an important event. It’s not networking. Business is not the focus – it barely comes into the equation. It’s just great to be with people who have so much in common, yet our paths rarely cross. The conversation was free-flowing and genuine in an informal setting.
“When you’re with like-minded people and share stories, bonds are formed. We’re all speaking the same language,” he continued.
“Inevitably, we exchange intelligence. A lot of the discussion this time focused on emerging cruising areas such as Fiji, Tonga, and PNG. There’s an appetite with owners and charter guests for experiences beyond the Med and Caribbean.
“It was amazing to be able to ask other captains about their experiences, how hard or easy it is to get vessels there, the best anchorages, dive sites, suppliers.”
Other topics to arise included chartering on Sydney Harbour, ASMA certification and how owners and crew navigated lockdowns during the pandemic.
“Another important facet of our business is insurance, and it was fantastic to meet the team from Pantaenius. Pantaenius really have their fingers on the pulse, internationally. It was great to be able to ask them questions face-to-face.”
“Even though it’s hard to drag ourselves away from work sometimes – we’re all time-poor – it’s an investment. It makes connections and helps us reflect on some of the issues we all face.
David Good, CEO AIMEX-Superyacht Australia said the annual get-together is an opportunity for Captains to meet various industry proponents who are working to advance the superyacht and charter industries.
“This year, we were lucky to have representatives from Tourism Fiji so we could understand more about Fiji as a destination. We are collaborating to position our region as the ultimate destination.