The Sustainable Option for Luxury Yacht Charter

Classic charters

Why is chartering a classic yacht the best option for the environment? Dominic Meredith Hardy, Director of Classic Charters, explains

Tell us a little bit about the One Ocean Initiative and why chartering a luxury classic yacht is the more sustainable option?

This is still in its early stages, but largely stems from my younger days as an oceanographer, which firmly embedded in me a deep love for the ocean, and then more recently working with social enterprises combining profit and purpose, which showed me it is possible to run a for-profit business and still have a positive impact on the world.

I feel it is essential we all do what we can to help preserve our planet, communities, and natural resources and as such we weave this into the fibre of how we operate. Chartering a ‘classic’ yacht is almost by definition the most sustainable yacht charter option available. Many are built of wood or steel which is a much more environmentally friendly (and renewable in the case of wood) resource in comparison to more modern yachts that will tend to utilise a lot more plastic-based composites in the construction of their superstructure.

Many of the yachts we work with were built 50-60 years ago and some over 120 years ago, so their ‘lifecycle’ dwarfs that of their modern sisters which may be scrapped after ten or twenty years or so. A classic yacht that exudes timeless style from a bygone era will continue to be relevant and desirable for many years to come. At Classic Charters we also work hard to help the owners of these yacht stay relevant with interior refits, new water toys and other added extras which help these beautiful classics to charter very successfully in a very competitive market.

We also promote sustainability in little and often ways such as encouraging the yachts and clients we work with to consider sustainable alternatives such as discouraging plastic bottled water in favour of filtered or flavoured water created by the crew whilst on charter. This also goes deeper into a general ethos of simply acting with integrity and consideration for people and environments we influence in all we do.

The schooner Columbia under sail

Going forward we are also really excited to be working on a plan to offer an option for citizen science participation for guests whilst on charter, this can simply be in the form of the yacht sharing their depth data with researchers whilst on charter, or droning for ocean plastic samples, or as far as inviting teams of scientists to join guests on board for part or all of your charter to facilitate research from coral sampling to shark tagging throughout the duration of your charter.

This sort of thing is fantastic for families who want to get involved and learn live from real-life scientists in action who will also be glad to share photos and give presentations whilst onboard and all round get a much richer more engaged experience and lasting memories for charterers and their guests.

As we build our team I would like to build on supporting more ocean research, communities, and clean up initiatives. Our social media presence has grown a lot recently and another thing on my immediate to do list is to start leveraging that reach and exposure to help promote smaller ocean initiatives. This probably stems a little from my social enterprise days.

How bespoke can a charter experience with Classic Charters be?

A charter can be as bespoke as a client’s imagination can be varied. We work with all sorts of yachts and all sorts of clients all over the world and the owners we work with will always do everything they can to accommodate special requests. Guests can choose the yacht they charter, where they charter, how long for and when and where they start and finish. Chefs are often a key part of this equation and there are many in the yacht industry that surpass the finest restaurants in London, Paris or Mexico – from modern European, fusion sushi, to vegan and keto. We work with some yachts that will gladly bring in different chefs for special meals and events – all tastes can be catered for.

Classic charters
Experiencing the Northern Lights on an Arctic charter

We can’t yet make a yacht fly but where they sail when on charter is always fully bespoke according to what our clients want to see, do, and experience, whether it’s secluded bays, glamorous nightlife, or a high-end event, or heli-skiing in the Arctic followed by a submarine dive before a champagne dinner on the frozen ice sheet. So much is possible if you have the time and the budget. A luxury yacht charter should be exactly what you want it to be and the sky really isn’t the limit.

What would you say are the main reasons why Classic Charters is considered one of the leading classic yacht and luxury charter companies?

I think that really we are one of the few yacht brokers that truly specialise in this niche. For many of the larger brokers these stunning classics are sometimes over looked in favour of larger more modern yachts. Don’t get me wrong – we charter large modern super-yachts for our clients too but our focus has always been on the classics. Classics also represent a much more sustainable option when it comes to a luxury yacht charter. Many of them are sailing yachts which by definition (wind powered) is more planet friendly, but some of the yachts we work with were built over 100 years ago. There aren’t many things in our world these days that we can say are built to last as long as that.

One thing I am truly passionate about is keeping these wonderful yachts commercially viable and relevant in today’s market so they continue to be well maintained and survive for many more years. One way are doing that is exploring new exciting destinations – such as Iceland, Greenland and the Arctic regions.

Another key factor in our success I think is simply our unwavering diligence and desire to provide the best service to charterers that we possibly can. We take a very honest approach to figure out what our clients need and create experiences that exceed their expectations and quite simply strive deliver the best version of our service that we can at all times. A lot of our success therefore is down to happy repeat clients.

What advantages do you think having over 45 years of experience gives you when offering services to your clients?

I think the key here is not just the duration of the experience we have on the classic charters team but also the variation. My father has worked with classic yachts in different forms since before I was born, from his teenage years (with my mother) holidaying with friends at his aunt’s villa in Cap d’Ail and often using their classic Riva (what a golden era this was in Monaco, from the family albums). My father later went on to help an owner renovate and charter their classic Camper and Nicholson motor yacht Golden Era in Turkey for a number of seasons when my brother and I were young which made for some amazing adventures for us as young boys. We have very fond memories of this time but my father certainly faced some challenges operating in Turkey in the late 80s/early 90s.

My father then went on to found a travel business and then 15 years ago officially founded Classic Charters. So naturally he brings with him a wealth of knowledge from the practical running side of classic yachts as well as a straightforward can-do attitude of making things happen.

Classic charters
Lunch at anchor on the Spirit of MK

I myself had 12 years experience in the commercial ship broking sector, a career which I loved but always wasn’t for me forever. My now wife and I decided to leave London for a year back in 2016/17 and spend a year travelling from Alaska to Argentina interviewing social enterprise entrepreneurs in every city we stopped along the way. We then returned to the UK and worked in start up/social enterprise consulting for a couple of years before I decided to join the family business as its next custodian and carry it into the future.

From this I believe strongly that I bring an excellent work ethic from my ship broking days which makes me highly efficient but also great exposure to different destinations and cultures which I think positions us perfectly to offer a much richer service to our clients. I like to think we offer our clients slightly more ‘outside the box’ thinking when it comes to planning their charters in more exciting destinations which are increasingly diverse and often more off the beaten track these days.

We also have three fantastic additions to our team, the wonderful Sophie who has raced on classic yachts all over the world, including some of our favourites such as Puritan, Columbia and Eros (seen top of page), Jamie who has worked as a captain on charter yachts so has great practical and client side experience, and Stephanie who comes from high-end interior design and has such a great knowledge of yacht interior designers which certainly surpasses my own and just enriches our offering for clients even further.

Do you have a particular yacht that has proven to be more popular than others over the past year?

This is a really great question. We would always say that it takes a few years to build a yacht’s reputation in the charter market and we have worked with some wonderful owners and superb yachts.

A couple of years ago we expanded more into the US New England and Caribbean market with two fantastic classic schooners Columbia and Eros. When we started working with both yachts they were not doing many charters but they are now consistently enjoying busy seasons and absolutely fantastic rave reviews. Both yachts are beautiful and have great crews so I love knowing that guests will always be beautifully looked after and have a fantastic time. We have since taken on more yachts in the US and US charter clients now account for about 50% of our client base.

We have also recently taken on some fantastic new additions such as Spirit of MK which debut on the charter market in Ibiza this summer. She is a lovely yacht that sleeps up to 12 guests in 5 cabins. She has been very nicely refit in 2021/2022 and is now in immaculate condition. Her owners are fantastic and so passionate about providing her guests with the best possible experience so also offer guests the use of their own Land Rover Defender on Ibiza chauffeured by the crew whilst on charter. I am sure she will be a great option for our clients in 2023.

Classic charters
Shenandoah of Sark – ‘the pinnacle’ – photo credit: Andrea Micheli

Another yacht I am very passionate about is the beautiful Shenandoah of Sark, an absolutely stunning 54m three masted schooner built in 1902. She is a sight to behold in port, let alone under sail, with some of the most beautiful lines. She is also extremely comfortable for charter guests with luxurious on deck seating and dining and accommodation for up to 11 guests in for cabins. I was lucky enough to meet her wonderful captain and crew recently and sample an exquisite lunch prepared by their truly world class chef. For me she is the pinnacle.

We are also excited to be working with some exquisite yachts that will be new to the charter market in 2023 and 2024 but for now we can’t say much more about that!

With so many stunning cruising destinations would you say there was one particular spot that is more popular with your clients?

The med has always been our bread and butter and a popular destination for our clients, whether this is the Cote d’Azur, Monaco Grand Prix or remote Greek Islands. Since working with Eros and Columbia we are also seeing some wonderful places to explore in New England from Newport and Martha’s Vineyard up to the wilder more dramatic Maine Coast.

The ice-class vessel YERSIN

More recently we have been seeing a lot more interest in exploration charters and have a great new exploration ship BALTO whose owners have a huge wealth of experience with research charters for the likes of NASA in East Greenland. So we are now working with them to offer our clients exploration charters with the option of skiing, bear watching, whale sightings and experiencing local Inuit culture in Greenland. We are seeing more interest in ecological charters too and can arrange scientists to come onboard for guest lectures or so charterers can help with research whilst on charter. YERSIN is also a fantastic modern yacht we are working with at the moment. She has fantastic eco-credentials. She is an ice-class vessel which means she can ‘go anywhere’ but she is also one of the world’s few yachts with Cleanship status, which means she can explore far with minimal consumption and environmental impact. This makes her perfect for exploring delicate ecosystems whilst leaving next to no footprint.

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