We recently spoke to Lucy Jones, founder of Performance Yacht Charter, about how she got involved in the industry and started the company, what it entails, and also about her latest venture, Fast40+ Race Charter.
Mark Jardine: How did you first start Performance Yacht Charters?
Lucy Jones: It all started in 2008 when I bought Northern Child (a Swan 51). I ran her for two or three years and found my feet in yacht charter. Then in 2013 I bought Southern Child (a Beneteau First 40) and set up Performance Yacht Charter. The focus was always on racing and delivering high quality racing yachts for charter so if you brought a good team along, you had the ability to get on the podium.
Mark: Which were the main events that the two yachts were competing in during your charters?
Lucy: Both boats had quite an extensive charter season. They started in the Caribbean – the first event of the year being the RORC Caribbean 600 – and then they’d island-hop through the Caribbean to St. Martin, the BVIs, back to St. Barts and then the end of the Caribbean season would be Antigua Sailing Week. The boats then came back to the UK.
With Southern Child, I started doing a lot of all-female racing and race development and this is something that is close to my heart. I love seeing people grow and develop as sailors and I am always trying to help someone grow, so if they ask ‘how do I do this?’ or keep checking for reassurance “is the jib trim correct?”, I want to show and explain to them what to do so the next time they don’t have to ask and they have the confidence to do it themselves.
Occasionally the boats would go down to the Med and do events like the Rolex Middle Sea Race and the Rolex Swan Cup. It was the 50th anniversary of the Swan in September 2016; and is hard to beat racing in Porto Cervo.
Mark: So this isn’t really just a yacht charter business. This is something where you are not just handing over the keys and saying ‘go race the boat’. It sounds like you are providing a bespoke service for people who want to go yacht racing.
Lucy: Yes, so I try to tailor packages to what people require. So depending on people’s level and experience, I can either just be there to help them get the most out of the boat or I can be more involved. With more novice crews I just make sure it is fun and hope they get the bug for sailing and want to come back again.
Mark: What types of yacht can you charter from Performance Yacht Charter?
Lucy: My focus is on racing yachts. I currently have a great variety of yacht available from the FAST40+ yachts in the Solent,to a Marten 72 in the Caribbean and a DK46 in the Mediterranean.
Mark: This brings me on to the Fast40+. The circuit has grown from nothing to being easily the premier yacht circuit in the UK. Yacht charter in such a high-tech boat must be a minefield; how and why do you want to get involved in that?
Lucy: I think it is a really fantastic class. It is really interesting and it is great example of what I love, which is performance racing. To be able to offer the ability for teams to go racing on these boats is fantastic. Yes it has its challenges because they are very tweaky, well set up boats, and things can go wrong.
Mark: I presume Fast40+ charter isn’t for everyone. It’s for the people who are already seasoned racers and are looking for a real challenge. What do you have to provide for a charter so that they can compete and sail those boats safely?
Lucy: You are correct: it is for race teams who have raced together before. I am getting enquiries from teams in Australia that have their own GP42 and want to race a boat in the Solent. The boat would come race ready, so if the owner is racing on it one weekend, it will have the same sails, the same setup, the next weekend when it is on charter so that they can go and race competitively. There will always be at least one owner’s rep on board the boat so, depending on the experience of the team, there will be at least person who knows the boats, is familiar with the systems and can help the team get the most out of the boat. Depending on the teams requirements, we can provide extras crew that know the boat.
Mark: The Fast40+ circuit now has the best part of 15 boats racing in it. With your charters, do you see this as a perfect stepping stone for people who might be looking to purchase a Fast40+ and want to try before they buy?
Lucy: For sure, we have several teams – that are doing exactly that. They can’t get a boat in time for the 2017 season, so they are considering chartering instead to see what it’s like, and then potentially buy a boat for the 2018 season. So it’s definitely a stepping stone to try the class.
Mark: With charter, when owners or people are looking to do events such as in the Caribbean, how would they go about contacting you and arranging the charter and what are the lead times on your yachts?
Lucy: Well, email me, call me. I always think that telephone calls are the best because no one group’s requirements are the same as another group’s requirements and I don’t like to put someone in a box and go, “Here is the package.” I like to try and tailor an event to the team.
Teams tend to book anywhere from 3 months to a year in advance if you have to get yourself and ten crew all to the Caribbean, it takes some time to plan. But, they call me or email me and then we discuss what event they want to do and then we can pick out the right boat for their level of experience, what they are trying to achieve. I can then help them arrange the logistics from entering the regatta t finding accommodation. From the moment they book to the moment they step off the boat, I want them to have an enjoyable experience and not have to worry so they can just enjoy the sailing.
Mark: Where are your customers normally from; are they UK-based or worldwide?
Lucy: Worldwide, we get people from the UK but also from all over Europe, Russia, America – we have had clients from all over the place.
Mark: It’s great to hear about the workings of Performance Yacht Charters, many thanks for your time.
Lucy: Thank you.