Interview with Senior Charter Broker Sarah Piggin

Recently Kim Kavin of Charterwave.com interviewed YPI Charter's Sarah Piggin about her position as Senior Charter Broker, here is what Sarah had to say;

KK: How did you become a charter broker? 
SP: It’s in my blood. My parents had their own charter yacht, which they operated out of San Remo, Italy, and Cannes, France. So I grew up on their charter yacht, a sailboat called Milena, a classic 90-foot ketch. Then we moved back to the United Kingdom. After I graduated from university, I thought I would do a summer working on boats. I ended up being ayacht stewardess for about eight years. I started out on a 50-meter Feadship that was owned by Paul Allen, and my last job was on the 70-meter Leander for three and a half years. I worked my way up to chief stewardess there. I was very fortunate to see quite a lot of the world, in addition to remaining well versed about the Mediterranean. I eventually moved to Antibes, where a company asked me to set up a charter division, doing yacht management and retail bookings. Then, in 2005, I joined Yachting Partners International as a retail broker and charter yacht manager. I did two years of working in charter management with Yachting Partners International, and then in late 2007, I became exclusively a retail charter broker. 

KK: What kinds of boats do you typically book? 
Power and sail, only crewed, from 20 meters up worldwide, and generally charters of one week or more. 

KK: What are some of the best charter destinations you’ve visited? 
SP: In the Mediterranean, I love Turkey. It is one of the most beautiful and unspoiled coastlines in the Med. The people are charming and so hospitable, culturally it’s really interesting, and there are lots of sights to visit. The waters are so clean, there are great anchorages, the food is great—it’s just got a little bit of everything that a client could wish for. 
Unless of course you want glitz, in which case nothing beats the South of France. But for me personally, I love places where it’s all about nature, instead of being seen. I love the Aeolians as well, and Corsica, for just that reason. Outside of the Med, the most beautiful place I’ve ever cruised is the Inside Passage up to Alaska. It’s absolutely breathtaking and fabulous. It’s a shame we don’t have more clients who want to do that, and more charter boats up there. For natural beauty, it’s second to none. 

KK: What is the first thing you ask a new charter client? 
 Generally, I need to find out if they’ve chartered before. If they haven’t, then I can explain what’s involved to set us off on the right foot. If they have chartered before, I can get an idea pretty quickly about what their requirements are. 

KK: Do you prefer a certain method of communication? 
 I always try to talk to people on the telephone, even if they e-mailed their inquiry to me. I feel it is so important to get a dialogue going. It’s in their best interest. It’s incredibly hard for me to get a true sense of the client over e-mail. Even if it’s only a 10-minute conversation, it’s just the better way to go. It’s absolutely important for a broker and client to set up a good rapport, and I don’t see how that can be done by e-mail alone. 

KK: Describe your ideal charter client. 
 A person who is ready to take my calls. I’m not a pushy broker. I’m not going to be calling every five minutes, but I do think it’s important to set up a dialogue. Clients I work well with are receptive and accessible, and they communicate what they want. 

KK: Describe your nightmare charter client. 
One who never wants to talk to me, who doesn’t give me feedback on the information I send, who makes me constantly go through a personal assistant. It’s so personalized, what we charter brokers do, that I really need to know with whom I’m dealing. I want that rapport with my clients. I want to be able to communicate directly. 

KK: Describe a booking where you worked “above and beyond." 
SP: One with a bit of a difference is a charter where the client chose to book a particular yacht because he had a view to buying it. The crew only spoke Italian, and this client only spoke English. I happen to speak Italian, and for a week I spent most of my time on the phone translating, the phone being passed between the captain and the client, to translate every request from which port the client wanted to visit to could he have a gin and tonic. It was a great refresher for my Italian! 

KK: What are a few of your favorite charter yachts? 
 My favorite charter yachts are the ones with great crew. It's the crew that makes all the difference. A couple that spring to mind are 46-meter motoryacht Elle, where I just had a client on a fantastic charter. The client stepped off the boat, and he loved the boat and crew so much that he has already booked two more charters onboard. Another crew I really love are on the 168-foot Lazy Z. They are a very professional, "can-do" crew with a terrific captain and chef.

KK: What makes you different from other charter brokers? 
I would say that what makes me different is my history with boating. I come from a yachting family, I’ve worked on boats and traveled extensively, and I’ve worked on both sides of charter brokerage. All of that gives me a rounded perspective of how the entire industry works. I’m also able to work effectively with multilingual clients because I speak Italian fairly well, French fluently, conversational Russian, and of course English. 

KK: What else should CharterWave readers know about you? 
I think if you’re trying to choose a broker, you should look for someone who has been thoroughly trained by a professional company. We at Yachting Partners International are a good, solid, ethical company. I think we’re very honest in our approach to things, and we have the client’s interest at heart. We’re also on solid financial footing—and that has never been as important as it is today. There are clients nowadays who are concerned about where they are sending their money. We were bought in September by BRS Shipping, and though we at Yachting Partners stayed the same with the same leadership, we now have a huge financial cushion to support us. In down economic times, that is very reassuring to our clients. 

You can contact Sarah Piggin in the YPI Charter office in Antibes on phone number +33 (0) 4 93 34 01 00, or by email.