Luca, you grew up on yachts didn’t you? Tell me about your experiences as a child.
Well, William, I think I have been really lucky and I have spent a nice childhood. As you already know, my father was a yacht captain and so since my rst years the sea and yachting have always been a very important part of my life. I have wonderful memories of those years. Together with my family we used to join my father all over the Mediterranean as soon as he had some spare time, living on board with him and totally enjoining the ship and her lifestyle. I don’ t feel so old, but I can tell you that we are talking about another era. I am talking about 40 years ago and you can easily imagine what yachting was at that time. I mean owners, destinations and lifestyle. Life was easier and yachting was really an exclusive world. Noblesse, royals, important entrepreneurs, these were the owners at that time.There were no STCW, no management companies, IMO certi cates, ENG1, few brokers, everything was much more adventurous and romantic. A yacht Captain was really an important character and a trustful person for the Owner, almost a member of his family.
My father has been a captain on 2 Benetti; a 33 meters in the 70’s (a ship at that time) and a 47 meters in the 80’s. The president of the Banco Central de España owned the rst one and a Turkish Pacha owned the second one. I started to spend long periods on board with him during the summer holidays since I was 10. And this happened also with the Owner and his Guests on board who were not disappointed at all about my presence.
Destinations were the same as today, St Tropez and Cote d’Azur, Sardinia, Spain and Balearics, Marbella, but you can easily imagine how they were exclusive and fascinating in those days. Another world, another era.
Did you always want to be a yacht captain? Why?
Well, as everybody say, to be a captain is always better than working! By the way, living in a seaside town and having a father Captain, my choice has been almost natural. I have to say that my job and the yachting environment have always been very charming to me and that I have been lucky as well to know many people in the industry who has supported me all over the years. Moreover driving and manoeuvring a ship is something that I have always liked and that even today gives me happiness and satisfaction. When I enter in a marina, when I am engaged in a crossing, when I arrive to a new destination and I still surprise myself how beautiful she is, all this always gives me so much happiness and satisfaction. Sailing is still the part of my job that I like more and during all these years I have had the opportunity to see places and meet people that really gave a sense to my job and that did me understand how lucky I have been. To be a Captain has given me the opportunity to visit places as Patagonia, Galapagos Islands, British Columbia, atolls in the Paci c Ocean, all places I couldn’t have seen probably if I had chosen another job, and I have to say that rounding Cape Horn or enter in a Tuamotu atoll in French Polynesia are things that, even if really demanding, gave me extraordinary satisfactions, energy and pleasure.
I am really happy about my choice and I am even expecting more and more from my job.
As a youngster, did the fact you were aboard a Benetti yacht resonate with you?
Benetti has always been a brand of incredible and terrific appeal.
If we look at the boats produced by Benetti at that time we cannot notice how graceful and fascinating they were. There were not more beautiful boats around. If we look at the particulars they are still amazing nowadays. I have never seen bows, sterns and such a beautiful style. I have a catalogue of Benetti with me of that era. You can have a look if you want. A Benetti was a status symbol and a must in yachting, a point of arrival. In Via Coppino the best of the jet set and international entrepreneurship has passed through. Obviously for me living that period and in that period gave me an imprinting that is still part of myself.
What was it like working for your father as a deckhand?
I have had the opportunity to work with him for more than 7 years, at the end of his career. We have been together on a 47 meters Benetti, previously named Ilham and then Gulnev, now Hum Urair. This yacht was built in 1970, now she is in Dubai, still sailing and few years ago she has cruised Baltic Sea. Starting my career in my 20’s on a big yacht as she was, helped me so much and has been very important for my training. The crew was composed by old sea wolves, most of them from Viareggio, very strict and serious. At that time there was no GPS, no satellites, no plotters, no mobile phones (not to mention stewardesses on board!). So, a lot of practice and experience.
A funny think that I remember is that I was in charge of buying telephone coins for all the Crew when we arrived to new destinations, Greece, Spain, Turkey, France. They were all different! It was a great school. We cruised from Spain to Istanbul, so Corinto channel, the Dardanelles, the Bosporus, pilots on board, all new for me.
I learnt a lot. The greatest satisfaction and joy was when my father left me the throttles to let me do my rst manoeuvre. 47 meters looked me like 200! You know, the old Benetti throttles with the steel cables, where nding the neutral position was a nightmare.
Nights on watch with my father, the time spent together, watching him working, talking with people and how he was acting in the industry, all this has been very useful and important to me. It has always been very nice to be together and spend and share so many things and time. Enjoying him for some years.
When you took charge of your own Benetti, (Reangel) how did it compare to your previous experiences?
Well, you can easily understand that it has been a great satisfaction to me to be back on work on a Benetti as a Captain. We are talking about 2 boats built one 30 years after the other and so totally different, I mean about design and technology.
Everything was changed in this timeframe and the industry was already how she is now. Even the property of the shipyard was changed meanwhile. I have been few time on that boat but that period allowed me to understand the lay out of the new models and the changes during the time and even to familiarise with the management of a super yacht with a quite large Crew.
What is unique about captaining a Benetti yacht?
I think that to be a Captain on a Benetti means a lot, mostly for an Italian Captain. Apart from the family and sentimental value that links me to the brand, being a Captain on a Benetti means working on a boat that be- longs to the history of the yachting, to the history of my country, because Benetti is a symbol and an excellence of Italy. Style, design, tradition, innovation, inventive- ness and talent.
I have a gold medal here with me which was given to my father as a gift from the shipyard to celebrate his cen- tenary, in 1970. It is here on the desk. You can have a look, if you want. So, Benetti is still an important reality, much more important nowadays and it always maintains its untouchable charm, since 145 years.
When you enter in a harbour with a Benetti or when you go around the world with her you have the responsibility to go around on a piece of history of your country and of the yachting industry.
You have also overseen a new build project at the yard. Can you tell us about that?
I haven’t yet had the opportunity to be involved in a new construction with Benetti, and this is something I hope that can happens one day.
What are the challenges of maintaining an active super yacht? And how has Benetti helped with the provision its after-sales services?
We all know how much demanding is to be a captain on a super yacht. Every day new problems are arising, both from the management than from the operational side ISM, Planned Maintenance, human resources management, all activities that require time and a steady commitment. Having the support of a reliable after sales service and assistance is a great asset and even more and more important. I have to say that in Benetti I have always found a reliable partner, always ready to assist me when needed. I have to say as well that this service has been improved in the last years.
I have experienced that even after many years from the delivery of a boat with warranties clearly expired they have been ready to be present and to give their precious support in a really short time.
You have completed an MCA course on business and law. How important do you think it is for today’s captains to be au fait with business and management practices?
Business and law is a training course that every foreign Captain has to attend to have its certi cate of competency endorsed by MCA and I am quite sure that the 90% of my colleagues here have attended and successfully passed this course. But I wanna focus on training, because training is something that a captain has to live with for his entire career and is a very important side of our job. The world is continuously in movement and development, technology, laws and rules change every day and our interest and duty is to be always updated. We must be conscious that we have to invest time and money in ourselves to be always at the top of the professionalism. We cannot pretend to have important positions and great salaries if we are not able to keep ourselves in the market and at its top level. Management is a more and more important skill required for our job. We can’t count only on the external support of our management companies but we have to be able to train ourselves to properly manage the human and operational resources of our boat. We are in the 3rd millennium and Owners require to Captains to be able to manage small companies, because a super yacht has to be considered a company, with a budget of millions a year.
What I would like to say to my youngest colleagues is to feel never successful and perfect captains, but to have always an open mind and to be able to learn something new every day. We all have our experiences but I think that even our junior deckhand could teach us something. Always be curious, always be inclined to learn something new from everybody; this for me is a winning mentality. The day that you arrive to think that you already know everything, you are a loser. On every yacht I have been and from every crew member I have had on board with me I have learnt something that has improved my acknowledgement and professionalism.
What place does the Azimut Benetti Group hold in your career?
Azimut Benetti group is a family, and events like the Azimut Benetti Yacht master are a clear proof of this. As I have already said, it’s an honour for me to be Captain on a Benetti and I’m really proud of it. I spent 12 of my 30 years in the yachting industry on yachts of the Azimut Benetti group, so you can easily understand what Benetti means for me. Benetti has been part of my life for more than 40 years, a piece of my history and myself. So, this means that I’m a veteran experienced Captain or an old Captain? Uh, I don’t like it so much. I would prefer to be a rookie… Anyway, thank you to everybody for your time and patience and thank you Will!