On board St David Super Yacht
by Kay Hare
My first superyacht experience was last year on board St David. When the opportunity arose to interview a Captain, St David was the obvious choice. I have, like many others fallen for her.
Captain Jean-Marc invited me on board for the second visit to find out a little more. Tip toeing around the boat on plush creamy carpets I felt like a cat purring. My colleague Tamara Cyrillovich, was also in her element, drifting into typical libra dream mode and grinning like a Cheshire Cat. The boat was first named ‘Xanadu’. The story behind this boat is mysterious and drip fed to me as we explored the 60m superyacht which is endowed with six rooms, including a master suite and one VIP stateroom. The original owner was Welsh, like me probably explains his eccentric outlook. He built St David in 2008 for an ambitious voyage to seek the treasure of Gengis Khan in North East China, calling the boat ‘Xanadu’. The dictionary terms Xanadu as ‘an idealized place of great or idyllic magnificence and beauty’. In the heart of St David is a spiral staircase, like a story unfolding down to a huge globe set in brass that tracks the route of Xanadu. Camouflaged throughout the interior is the letter X. It is not until it is pointed out that you notice this entwined in the brass staircase, engraved in the windows and no doubt other secret places. Xanadu or St David is like a love affair that holds secrets to the treasure of Gengis Khan, as time goes on I will learn more and more.
Built by Benetti, styled by Andrew Winch and recently repainted by Rosa Filippo based in the Mariana di Carrara in Italy (of course), St David is looking superb. As I find out it is not just the money spent on this boat but the experience and skills of the Captain Jean-Marc Bitouzet and his team that make it flourish. With my green tea, pen and paper I found out more:
When did you first realise you wanted to sail?
I was really young, at the age of five my Father encouraged and allowed me to drive the boats he built. I think it was at about the age of eleven that I realised the sea would be my calling.
What is the magic formula to finding a boat like St David to be a Captain of?
There is no magic formula, it came at the right time for my experience in working with Charters. I had worked with Charters for a long time and I felt it was the natural step to take next.
How long have you been a Captain on St David?
I have been on St David almost two years.
Where do you sail in typical summer?
The Mediterranean is large enough and provides a good variety to sail around most of the summer without having to go to the same place twice. There are always new places to discover and explore. I prefer finding exotic and quiet spots, away from the crowds but close enough to go on shore for evening meals or to find the party beaches if the guests desire.
Do you ever get home sick?
Yes I do, but I am a Sailor and sailing is a way of life and the sea is my Mistress.
Did or do you ever get sea sick?
No, that never happened. I am the lucky one who has the bones in the ear slightly out of alignment, this allows me not to have any transport sickness.
Are there any challenges you still face as a Captain or is your life pretty routine and easy sailing?
There are always challenges. If you get into a routine you get bored and boredom is the worst thing that can happen to a human being.
Is St David your dream boat or do you still have ambitions to be Captain of something even bigger?
St David is the right vessel for what she is intended for and is great. I am past the rush for bigger. I am looking at the quality and what we can offer, and frankly, St David has this, as well as keeping me on my toes. One day is never the same and new challenges are always arising as well as opportunities. I don’t need to look elsewhere.
Have you sailed across the Atlantic on St David? And, where is your favourite place to sail?
Yes: we were in the Caribbean. There are a lot of really great places to be in the Carribean if you want to get out of the normal sailing ground. I have knowledge of the Caribbean as I spent 10 years there, it is beautiful with many unspoiled areas that are still open. Sadly after the last four hurricanes, it will be another 2 years for the areas to recover which will have a huge effect on the yachting industry. St Barts will take some more time and St- Martin is really hurt, 70 percent of the infrastructure is down. However, Cuba will recover quickly, they have a strong community that will manage the spoilt areas and get going again very soon. Right now, a good place to start a Charter would be Grenada towards St Vincent. Belize is also very safe and has a fantastic barrier reef.
If you had to compare the Caribbean to an area in Europe where would it be and why?
I enjoy sailing around Croatia, there are many unspoilt areas with a mass of secluded bays to swim and the countryside is quiet. The weather is good.
You talk about communities coming together after a natural disaster, what is the importance of a good team on board?
A boat at the end of the day is a piece of metal, it is the people that make it. You have to pay for the right staff, the expression ‘you pay peanuts you get monkeys’. It is a difficult process to find the right staff but once you do find them through researching and management companies. And, like any good business by providing a good working environment that is interested in the individuals expansion, providing opportunities and time off to see their families and of course financial support ensure that the staff stay.
How important is the art on board?
Boats are like homes and the objects in them have to be authentic. I have been on board some yachts where the art is more expensive than the boat itself. The art has to inspire and adds to the atmosphere, and of course I think this is important. We all want to work in harmonious surroundings and good art can bring positive energy on board and amplifies the boats soul.
Do you think the treasure of Ghansis Khan exsists?
Yes. But, the Mongols were very clever at hiding things and information. They had fantastic military and were very intelligent with organisation and foresight. I am not sure where the treasure would be but I enjoy reading the books of Gonn Lggulden who has written six books now with his own ideas and clues to the missing treasures