- Alex Coles, 43, is a bespoke yacht charter broker based in London.
- He organizes private yacht trips for UHNW clients that can cost over $100,000 for seven days.
- This is what his job is like, as told to writer Chrissie McClatchie.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Alex Coles, a yacht broker from London, about his job. It has been edited for length and clarity.
Preparation is the key to organizing yachting vacations for the 1%. When charter arrangements are well-planned, a lot of potential problems can be avoided. In my experience when things do go wrong, it's usually a technical issue with the yacht, which unfortunately is out of everyone's control.
But when something does go wrong, I've learned to keep my clients happy by offering solutions. I'll never forget the time I organized a 40-person charter along the Tuscany coast. Three days into the trip, the yacht's air conditioning broke down and was going to take three days to get fixed. So I chartered helicopters to fly the party from Forte dei Marmi to Monaco, where I booked 20 suites at the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo for them to stay in until the repairs were done, as well as day charter boats so they could still be out on the water. When the AC system was working again, the yacht came to Monaco to pick them up.
I've been in the industry for over 20 years now and founded Bespoke Yacht Charter with my wife Rachel in 2014. Ever since then we've split our time between London, Nice, and the hinterland of the Côte d'Azur. Rachel works on the event side of the business with companies looking to book yachts during events like the Cannes Film Festival, as well as corporate functions and weddings. Yachting vacations are my expertise.
The job of a yacht charter broker is to find the perfect yacht for the needs and demands of each client
If, for example, the client is passionate about Japanese cuisine, I will hunt for yachts with chefs who specialize in that cuisine. After confirming the charter with the yacht's representative, called a central agent, I then make sure the yacht is completely prepared for my client's arrival and that, once onboard, everything runs smoothly during their vacation.
The most popular charter our clients book is seven days on a 115-foot motor yacht
On average, this type of vacation would cost around $110,000. The charter price always includes crew but food, wine, and fuel are extra. Clients pay an APA, or Advanced Provisioning Allowance, in advance to cover these additional expenses. The crew's tip isn't included either, and is given at the discretion of the client.
Smaller yachts are of course more affordable — for example, $23,000 will get you seven days on a 60-foot catamaran in Croatia, with everything included in that price.
Our focus is on chartering motor yachts between 100- and 200-feet. It's less common for clients to ask for sailing yachts. The largest yacht I regularly charter is a 230-foot vessel that can sleep 30 guests in 15 cabins. It has a 2,700-square-foot sun deck, gymnasium, beauty salon, spa and sauna, and a 12-person spa pool.
A large chunk of my clients have booked at least six charters with me and some much more than that, so I get to know their individual preferences and what does and doesn't work for them. I always pass that information on to the crew when I meet them on board before each charter.
We are as hands-on as the guests want us to be when their charter begins
Some clients want us to be there at cast-off, so I'll meet them with a driver at the airport, accompany them to the yacht, introduce them to the crew, and show them around the boat.
Other clients are extremely busy people and their holidays are seriously valuable to them, so they just want to be cruising out of the port with a drink in their hand as quickly as possible.
Throughout the charter, I'm on the phone 24/7 with the crew, handling all the nightclub and restaurant reservations and any other requests that may come up
The most common request is for gym and exercise equipment. I've delivered so many Pinarello bikes to yachts that I now have an account with the company. I've even arranged for professional cyclists to ride with clients who want to train with the best in the business.
Clients are often intrigued by the array of water toys that they can use while onboard. The most popular right now are e-foils (electric hydrofoil surfboards), paddle boards, and water bikes. Jet-skis are always in fashion, too.
The summer months from June to September are the most hectic 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 charter
Guests are less inclined to eat in restaurants nowadays and prefer to eat onboard, which makes sense as many yacht chefs have Michelin backgrounds. Clients typically prefer health-conscious food on the charter, although from time to time people do have fast food cravings which is a bit tricky if the closest McDonald's or KFC is 30 miles away.
More than once I've found myself delivering buckets of fast-food chicken wings to the yacht's chef, who then has to heat everything up. But those unique requests are exactly what I love about the job — making sure that every single moment of those seven or 14 days is just the way my clients want it to be.
I have a lot of American clients, so it's not unusual for me to be on the phone working at 3 a.m.
Often I have clients who have shortlisted three or four yachts for their charter, so I'll group together viewings and walk through the yachts on FaceTime. I go 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 pandemic years we're hoping this summer marks a return to normal, especially for the events side of the charter business. The signs are very promising, so we're crossing our fingers!