I’m a yacht charter broker for the 1% – This is what my job looks like
- Alex Coles, 43, is a London-based bespoke yacht charter broker.
- He organizes private yacht tours for UHNW clients that can cost upwards of $100,000 for seven days.
- That’s what her job is like, as writer Chrissie McClatchie put it.
This narrated essay is based on a conversation with Alex Coles, a yacht broker from London, about his work. It has been edited for length and clarity.
Preparation is the key to planning a yachting vacation for the 1%. When charter arrangements are well planned, many potential problems can be avoided. In my experience, when things go wrong, it’s usually a technical problem with the yacht, which is unfortunately out of everyone’s control.
But when something goes wrong, I have learned to satisfy my customers by offering solutions. I will never forget the time I organized a charter for 40 people along the Tuscan coast. Three days into the voyage, the yacht’s air conditioning broke down and was going to take three days to repair. So I chartered helicopters to fly the party from Forte dei Marmi to Monaco, where I booked 20 suites at the Hotel de Paris Monte-Carlo to stay until repairs were made, as well only day boats so they can still be on the water. When the air conditioning system was working again, the yacht came to Monaco to pick them up.
I have been in the industry for over 20 years now and founded Bespoke Yacht Charter with my wife Rachel in 2014. Since then we split our time between London, Nice and the French Riviera hinterland . Rachel works on the events side of the business with companies looking to book yachts at events like the Cannes Film Festival, as well as corporate functions and weddings. Yacht vacations are my expertise.
A yacht charter broker’s job is to find the perfect yacht for each client’s needs and demands.
If, for example, the customer is passionate about Japanese cuisine, I will look for yachts with chefs who specialize in this cuisine. After confirming the charter with the yacht’s representative, called central agent, I then make sure that the yacht is fully prepared for my client’s arrival and that once on board, everything runs smoothly during his vacation.
The most popular charter our clients book is for seven days on a 115ft motor yacht
On average, this type of vacation would cost around $110,000. The charter price always includes the crew, but food, wine and fuel are extra. Customers pay an APA, or Advanced Provisioning Allowance, upfront to cover these additional expenses. Gratuity for the crew is also not included and is left to the customer’s discretion.
Smaller yachts are of course more affordable – for example, $23,000 will get you seven days on a 60ft catamaran in Croatia, with everything included in that price.
Our goal is to rent motor yachts between 100 and 200 feet. It is less common for customers to request sailboats. The largest yacht I charter regularly is a 230ft vessel that can accommodate 30 guests in 15 cabins. It has a 2,700 square foot sun terrace, gymnasium, beauty salon, spa and sauna and a 12-person spa pool.
Many of my clients have booked at least six charters with me and some far more than that, so I get to know their individual preferences and what works and doesn’t work for them. I always pass this information on to the crew when I meet them on board before each charter.
We are as active as clients want us to be at the start of their charter
Some clients want us to be there on departure, so I will meet them with a driver at the airport, escort them to the yacht, introduce them to the crew and show them around the boat.
Other customers are extremely busy people and their holidays are very precious to them, so they just want to leave the port with a drink in their hand as quickly as possible.
Throughout the charter I am on the phone 24/7 with the crew handling all nightclub and restaurant reservations and any other inquiries that may arise
The most common request is for gym and exercise equipment. I have delivered so many Pinarello bikes to yachts that I now have an account with the company. I’ve even arranged for pro riders to ride with customers who want to train with the best in the business.
Customers are often intrigued by the range of water toys they can use on board. The most popular at the moment are e-foils (electric hydrofoil surfboards), paddle boards and water bikes. Jet skis are always in style too.
The summer months from June to September are the busiest of the year. July is my busiest month – sometimes I have up to 14 charters scheduled at once.
I’ve had clients spend tens of thousands of dollars on wine and champagne for a week-long rental
Nowadays guests are less inclined to eat in restaurants and prefer to eat on board, which makes sense as many yacht chefs are Michelin trained. Guests generally prefer the health-conscious foods on the charter, although occasionally people do have fast food cravings, which is a little tricky if the nearest McDonald’s or KFC is 30 miles away.
More than once I found myself delivering buckets of fast food chicken wings to the chef on the yacht, who then had to reheat everything. But those unique requests are exactly what I love about my job – making sure every moment of those seven or 14 days is exactly what my clients want.
I have a lot of American clients, so it’s not uncommon for me to work on the phone at 3 in the morning.
Often I have clients who have pre-selected three or four yachts for their charter, so I group the tours together and browse the yachts on FaceTime. I work with what the day throws at me – some days I have four hours of work to do, others 14.
Although last year was a good season for us, after two years of the pandemic, we hope that this summer will mark a return to normal, especially for the events side of the charter business. The signs are very promising, so fingers crossed!