Looking to the future of yachting, YATCO interviews several fresh faces in the industry to discover how they got their start, their career highlights so far, and what they predict for the future of the yacht market.
Featuring Ben Ritchie, Yacht Broker of Y.CO
How did your career in yachting begin?
I decided to follow my passion for travel and take a job working on board a yacht. My first role was on a classic 30m Feadship based in the South of France. I moved to a 52m Amels, where I crossed the Atlantic and continued my deck crew journey in Florida, the Bahamas and Caribbean, working on board during multiple yacht shows and eventually during the yacht’s sale. After moving up to Bosun and spending a season back in the Mediterranean on a charter yacht, I felt it was time to move to a land-based role.
Shortly after working for another brokerage firm in London, I met Charlie Birkett, Y.CO Co-Founder and CEO at a YPY event. The Y.CO approach to client relationships and business management was enlightening and both Gary Wright, Y.CO Co-Founder and Chairman and Charlie provided invaluable opportunities to support my growth as a yacht broker.
As a younger professional in yachting, what trends have you noticed so far and what do you predict for the coming years?
We have seen a growing demand for more explorer style, capable yachts, with better integration of outside living spaces and space on board for lots of toys and equipment. This fits with how our clients are choosing to travel, as they are swapping crowded anchorages for exploration itineraries as they wish to discover smaller, far-flung bays and islands.
Our clients are swapping crowded anchorages for exploration itineraries as they wish to discover smaller, far-flung bays and islands.
The demand for more responsible yachting solutions has always been strong, and now more than ever, our clients are showing awareness of their environmental footprint and an eagerness to mitigate it. It is exciting to see that technology is now able to cater to this and sustainable solutions are becoming increasingly commonplace on new yacht designs. I can see this trend becoming even more prominent in the coming years as clients are now heavily focusing on technology efficiency. We’re lucky to be working with some of the most forward-thinking owners and the best shipyards in the industry. I’m excited to see yachting heading towards a more sustainable future.
What kinds of challenges have you faced in yachting and how have you overcome them?
At first, it was daunting to establish myself in an industry of experienced brokers. There have been times when my knowledge and experience have been questioned due to my age, which was certainly challenging. However, I think that the industry is adapting as a new generation of younger UHNWIs (Ultra High Net Worth Individuals) enter the market, with more opportunities coming up for young, dynamic and forward-thinking people with innovative ideas. Gary and Charlie of Y.CO are strong advocates of bringing young blood with fresh ideas into the industry and it has been an incredible opportunity to work alongside them.
There have been times when my knowledge and experience have been questioned due to my age, which was certainly challenging.
Do you have any career highlights so far?
I have been extremely fortunate to work on some significant yacht acquisitions and sales in recent years, including the 73m Feadship HASNA and the 72m Damen GAME CHANGER.
However, my proudest moment so far is representing the owner of 50m Benetti JO during the sales process. The family who previously owned JO were extremely close to me. I had spent a significant amount of time on board during their ownership, so to be able to conclude a successful transaction on their behalf was extremely memorable. The yacht had been under their ownership since construction, and it was not an easy decision to part ways but to see the owner happy even after the sale had gone through was a very prominent moment for me.
What are your aspirations for the future?
There is an exciting new generation of forward-thinking clients coming through, moving away from the generic white yacht and instead putting their focus into new technology, and in particular, sustainability. These clients are harnessing the latest industry developments to push their yachting experience further, creating memorable adventures in the furthest corners of the planet yet minimizing their environmental impact. Working with these clients is a huge aspiration of mine and I hope to be able to guide them through the construction of yachts that will shape the future of yachting, whether that is through the pioneering onboard technology used, scientific research or humanitarian aid.
I hope to be able to guide clients through the construction of yachts that will shape the future of yachting, whether that is through the pioneering onboard technology used, scientific research or humanitarian aid.