Working as a Chief Officer onboard a yacht is a job involving lots of responsibility with administrative and safety duties, along with deck maintenance and navigation. But undoubtedly, one of the biggest parts of being a Chief Officer also involves crew management and making sure that the team works cohesively and best to their abilities.
While some Officers may rely heavily on their authority to achieve this, Chief Officer Angharad has spent her time perfecting her management style based on crew empowerment and empathetic leadership. This kind of management involves making an effort to understand each crew member - what makes them tick, what inspires them, in order to have a great insight as to where the team is at and what it needs in order to achieve the goals they have set. This has allowed her to earn respect of her peers and mentor and empower quite a few yacht crew members.
Angharad has always loved being on the water so, ever since she was little, her playground was the sea and its borders the Cornish coastline. She says she was very lucky to have had boats while growing up to give her the sense of freedom and advance her skills, ultimately setting her off for a career in yachting.
To find out more about her career and thoughts on the industry, we have sat down with her and asked her our 10 questions.
1. How long have you been in the industry and what is your background in a gist?
I grew up on the Cornish coast and I was fortunate to be involved with water sports from a young age. I sailed competitively in my teens, and later worked as a sailing instructor in the summer and did yacht deliveries during the winter for about five years. When I turned 24, I came to Antibes and got my first job on a Superyacht. That was 11 years ago now! Time flies...
2. What aspects of being a Chief Officer do you enjoy the most?
I have always enjoyed the human aspect of my job more than anything. I really enjoy interacting with other crew members to find solutions to problems – whether they're operational or more personal. What I also love is when the team works cohesively – it's really satisfying when the whole operation is just smooth. Obviously, we see some wonderful places and I think it's important to stop sometimes, look around and appreciate that privilege.
3. How would you describe your management style?
It took me some time to be comfortable with my management style, for fear of being perceived too "soft". I have been fortunate to spend the last three years working with a supportive Captain who encouraged me and gave me the autonomy to lead as I felt was right, and I have since discovered that it's actually a strength. I believe in empowering and empathetic leadership.
We've all heard the phrase "welcome to yachting" in response to feelings of fatigue or stress, but has that ever helped anyone? I believe that a yacht only works as well as each individual crew member, and I believe that it is my job as Head of Department to motivate and help crew through good times and difficult times alike, to empower them to be at their most efficacious.
4. What are 3 things you look for when hiring crew for your team?
Firstly, I want to be sure that they are level headed, calm in nature and capable of managing any negative behaviours. Every time I interview someone, I always ask the question, "what makes you angry? ", which is always met with looks of confusion! I find it helps me get a picture of how well they might handle pressures such as working with others, hierarchy and long hours.
Secondly, I look for strengths in others which I consider to be my weaknesses. For example, I am not particularly mechanically minded, so I make sure I have at least one person in my deck team who is.
Thirdly, I look for someone who is driven and who genuinely wants to be a part of an operationally great team/yacht. I want my crew to feel that they have a responsibility to make sure that the yacht runs smoothly, safely, to a high standard, and to feel a sense of accountability.
5. What are the top 3 qualities a Chief Officer should have?
This is tricky because I don't think it's a "one size fits all" thing. I'm sure other people might totally disagree with my views here - we all look for different qualities in our managers.
It goes without saying that we should have the knowledge to do the job to a high standard; from safety training, to navigation, to tender driving, to deck knowledge, to painting and varnishing, to people skills and leadership.
That said, I think we should be able to admit that we don't know everything. If there is an issue on board, we should be willing to say, "am I the best person to deal with this? " and if not, "what can I do to enable the crew member who is - and learn from them? ", no matter their position.
I think it's important that a Chief Officer should be willing and able to teach. It's vital to give junior crew opportunities to develop where they can, in a safe way of course. Teach them to test the smoke detectors, to do chart corrections, to do tender runs, to call distances into a berth etc. The more they can do, the more motivated they will be and the better the team will run.
6. How do you see the role of Deck crew in regards to overall guest satisfaction?
I strongly discourage the "my department is more important than yours" rivalry that I often hear on board. As I stated above, each individual member of the team contributes to a well-run and safe charter. The deck crew are instrumental in on board safety and in getting the vessel from one place to the next.
I think on face value the deck department is the "fun" one, as we spend a lot of time with guests doing watersports, tender trips, jumping off the bridge deck aft into the water etc, and a lot of these interactions can be quite informal at times. Of course, this is more important to some guests than others, as not every charter guest or owner likes 6am wakeboarding, snorkelling trips or jetskiing.
Overall, I think it's essential for deck crew to remember that all guests, at all times of day, expect excellent service and cleanliness from the interior; and fully functioning plumbing systems and perfectly running AV/IT systems from engineering. Therefore, I think part of the deck crew role should be lending a supportive hand (or ear) to other departments during our down times to ensure maximum guest satisfaction.
7. Private or charter and why?
I have spent a fair amount of time working on both and I have always preferred charter. What I've found is that, because the guests are only onboard for a certain amount of time, they are really focussed on having a wonderful time and making the most of the yacht. I also prefer the structure and I find the energy level is higher.
8. What is your favourite area to cruise in and why?
Croatia has been my favourite cruising area since 2009 when I first worked there. I love how passionate the Croatian people are about keeping their sea clean and maintained.
The great thing about cruising there is that there are so many islands, so close together. This offers several benefits. Firstly, they're all so different, meaning you don't have to travel far to find a beautiful anchorage or town, which is completely unlike where you might have been that morning.
This Islands provide shelter from the sea, which means the water is generally much calmer and therefore much more comfortable for the clients. The varied coastline also provides a lot of safe havens in bad weather from any direction. I could easily spend an entire summer just exploring the Dalmatian coast.
9. Some of your favourite anchorages?
So many to choose from! And so many in Croatia – since we were just talking about it; the Bay just to the west of Otok Olipa is great for going stern to the rocks, Polace on the stunning Island of Mljet, Lastovo is a must-see for nature lovers and stargazers, Badija for wild deer, crystal blue water and its proximity to Korcula town. There are so many options!
Outside of Croatia I have always loved Ponza in Italy, Roccapina in Corsica, and picturesque Aeolian Islands.
10. What has been a scary situation that you've found yourself in and how have you dealt with it?
I am extremely fortunate to say, that besides a bit of nasty weather, I have not experienced anything frightening in my yachting career (touch wood! ). However, when I was 13 years old and out on my family's small boat, I was run over by a large speed boat. I sustained very bad structural damage to my shoulder and lower back – which still affects me now, 22 years later – as well as some bad lacerations to my skull.
I was very lucky to survive that incident, and when I tell people, the general consensus is that I must be bonkers to pursue the career I have. It has forced me to be very aware of potential dangers, and I feel like I often see the worst possible outcome, especially in tender/jet ski operations. I suppose the benefit of my experience is that I am constantly vigilant to ensure nothing like that ever happens again.
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