It is good to be back out and about this year, and what a tremendous success the 2021 Monaco Yacht Show has been so far. We have caught up with old friends and met new ones, and this year with great thanks to West Nautical, we landed an interview with Russ Strang, the Superyacht Captain of M/Y Lady M.
In this interview, we talk about the successful Med season he and his crew have had this year and the difficulties COVID-19 has thrown at them. We find out his favourite destination and even touch on what he thinks about the influx of new crew into the industry because of the Below Deck craze.
Monaco marks the Med season coming to a close. Can you tell us how this year’s season has been for Lady M?
Has it been a busy season?
It has been a very successful season this year. We covered a lot of distance and visited plenty of new countries, which has been a nice change with the owner. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage any charters this year as the owners wanted to enjoy the yacht themselves. without strangers coming on board between visits. It has been a good season. We visited plenty of areas, some of which the crew hadn’t been to before.
Can you tell us where you have explored?
We got to Turkey, Greece, Albania, Croatia, Sicily and up the coast of Italy, so we have mixed things up this year, which has been a good change.
How does the 2021 summer compare with 2020?
2020 was much more restricted. We couldn’t have any of the owner’s friends or distant family onboard because of COVID-19, so the trips were a little quieter with just direct family. It was nice to have the larger groups and plenty of the owner’s friend’s back this year.
What was the stand out destination this year for you?
I have always been a fan of Croatia just because of the variety on offer. There and the short distances between them. I was also very impressed with Turkey. I haven’t spent a great deal of time there, so it was nice to see what it offered and even the beauty of the place.
How have you managed crew travel/holidays this year with the different travel restrictions around the world?
It was, of course, logistically challenging, but with a bit of planning, anything is possible. All crew travel with their Seaman’s book and on a Seafarers ticket, which will get you out of/into most quarantines around the world. Most of the crew are now vaccinated or partially vaccinated, so travel has been a little easier.
Most of the crew are Europe based, so travel has been a little easier for them. We have had a couple of South African crew that have faced a few challenges but again, with a bit of forward planning and picking the correct flight path, we got them back on board with little issue.
Have there been any logistical challenges with moving the vessel around the Med?
It has been a lot more straightforward than I thought it would be, definitely a lot easier than last year. This is down to the help of the local agents, a bit of forethought and plenty of planning. It hasn’t affected any of our plans, to be honest.
What is Lady M’s Plan for the winter?
We have a winter birth in San Remo, which we will head straight over to after the Yacht Show. We will spend the winter maintaining and doing any necessary repairs and improvements on the yacht and, of course, giving the crew some well-deserved Rest to prepare for the next Med Season.
Have you received any charter bookings for the 2022 season yet?
There have been interested parties but nothing set in stone yet. I would be surprised if we had a repeat of this year. I am expecting a few to come through soon.
What does the perfect 7-day charter consist of?
We hate to say it, but the weather plays a big part, not too hot or cold; no rain and little wind is ideal for us.
For the perfect charter, the stars would all align, and you would have great weather, you’d have a positive and motivated crew, friendly guests, great food and a great itinerary. Of course, any good charter needs to be action-packed with plenty of activities, excellent restaurants, and fantastic meals on board.
Any stand out areas of the Med for that perfect 7-day charter?
Again, I would have to say Croatia. There is such a variety on offer there. We usually operate out of Split; it’s a great location to base yourselves. There are beautiful waterfalls within easy reach. Hvar, the party capital, is close by and has plenty of excellent restaurants on offer and historical Dubrovnik is only a short trip away. Croatia offers such a variety in such a small space. It is perfect for a guest trip.
We have been speaking with crew training facilities that have experienced a high influx of junior crew influenced into the industry by shows like Below Deck. Does this raise any concerns for you as a captain?
(Giggles) I am actually pleased you asked this question because it really has become quite a driver for people joining the industry. It is, of course, a concern for me as it gives the junior crew a preconceived idea and specific expectations of the superyacht industry. If they are influenced into the industry by Below Deck or because of what they have seen on social media, it is essentially setting them up for failure. They often think it is all party, party and beautiful destinations and they quickly realise it’s a lot of hard work.
There is an element of having a good time in yachting, but it is probably 95% hard work that shows like Below Deck do not accurately demonstrate.
Would you say that they often come in not understanding what an owner or charter trip is like?
Yes, I guess so. From the very little I have seen of Below Deck, the crew often drank champagne with the guests in the jacuzzi. This is just so far removed from the truth of super yachting.
Last year the Dutch firm Sinot Yacht unveiled Aqua, the world’s first hydrogen-powered superyacht. Where do you see the future of the superyacht industry in terms of sustainability? And is there anything you do onboard to reduce Lady M’s environmental impact?
It’s great to see that the industry is moving in this direction. With so many superyachts around now, it is good to see people doing things about their environmental impact on the world. I think Hydrogen and battery-powered yachts will be a lot more common in the future.
Of course, we aren’t working miracles with what we are doing on board, but every little helps. Recently, we installed a water filtration system, so we all drinking filtered water rather than using plastic bottles. We also make an immense effort to recycle and dispose of our waste correctly where we can. We all have to do our bit even if it is only small.
What does Lady M do to stand out in the charter market?
Nothing special really, there are no gimics. She is just a good solid yacht set up perfectly for charter guests. The crew go along for the guests. For a yacht charter, it reasonably priced us for what we have on offer. We have Michelin trained chefs and a highly experienced crew with solid hospitality and yachting backgrounds. We are very excited to be welcoming back charter guests soon.