A proud Mancunian with an interesting path to yachting, we spoke to West Nautical’s Client Manager Claire Sinclair to get the low down on her favourite charter destinations. A keen sailor who loves the freedom and spirit of life at sea, Claire shares some personal highlights and recommendations for charter clients cruising in the Med this year.
What were you doing before you discovered yachting?
My family were in the leisure industry in Manchester at the height of the ‘Madchester’ scene – it was best introduction to hospitality and I had a deliciously misspent youth.
When the club scene dissipated in the late 90’s we diversified into property development. There was huge investment in the regeneration of Manchester and those who owned the old night life buildings were at the forefront of this development. It was a great time; a moment in history that has gone from strength to strength and made Manchester the capital of the north.
I’m very proud of my hometown and the people who make it.
How did you get into the yachting industry?
I was first introduced to the yachting industry by friends who kindly invited me on vacation and to involve me in the sailing regattas they participated in.
We went sailing in Turkey and took part in a regatta on a friend’s yacht, which began a theme of being in the right place at the right time! I went on to participate in the Heineken regatta in St Martin, The Bucket in St Barts, The Perini Cup in Sardinia and numerous regattas in Palma including the classic regatta.
It came just as I wanted to adjust my work-life balance having worked in hospitality and raised three wonderful children.
I took a year out to travel and after that I worked as chief stewardess on a motor yacht which is when I discovered a passion for the lifestyle and the yachting community. I’ve since worked on a range of yachts including SY Artemis, SY Victoria A, MY Club M, MY Orinokia and MY Fusion.
Eventually, I moved ashore and started working as a broker which allowed me to combine my business skills with my love of yachting.
Which do you prefer, sail or motor yachts?
That’s a difficult question…you love them for different reasons! Sailing is a sport and has a romanticism about it, there is something inherently beautiful about being at sail and being at one with nature; it is also less costly and generally kinder to the environment. However, I also appreciate the exquisite luxury, decadence and convenience of a motor yacht, nothing else compares when it comes to a luxurious and relaxing break.
You’re based in Palma – what are some of the cruising hotpsots in the Balearics?
For sailing there are too many to mention. Mallorca is a very diverse island. Almost a pocket continent with majestic mountains along the west coast and salt flats in the southeast. There are so many beaches - almost as many as there are days in the year.
Some of my favourite spots include Sa colobra, Es Trenc, St Thelm (Dragonera Island), Soller and Antraxt.
Further afield, what are your favourite cruising grounds in the West and East Mediterranean?
Sicily and the Aeolian Islands are my favourite in the Western Med, it’s mother nature at her best with all of the volcanic islands and of course the Sicilian people are what make it, with lots of areas off the beaten track to explore. In the Eastern Med it has to be Turkey, I really love it there but it is often overlooked. The coastline is absolutely stunning, full of beautiful hidden coves, the sailing conditions are great and the hospitality from the locals is outstanding. I’d highly recommend Fetiyhe, Ölüdeniz with its stunning blue lagoon, Gocek and Bodrum for its rich history and castles.
If you were booking a charter this summer, where would you go and why?
Although I do love Turkey, I’d go to Croatia this summer. I still have much to explore with over a thousand islands, many of which are uninhabited, and Croatia is not as commercialised as other areas of the Western Med, so it feels like stepping back in time to a slower pace of life with beautifully preserved medieval cities to meander around. It’s kinder on the wallet in terms of tax and the cost of living.
Which restaurant are you most likely to recommend to charter guests?
It has to be Raya in Panarea, one of the Aeolian Islands - the food is fantastic, but it’s all about the view which is out of this world. There are no vehicles on the island so it’s wonderfully tranquil. You can relax over a sunset dinner watching the lava flow of Stromboli illuminating the sky across the sea in a place best described as ‘where the jet set go to escape the jet set’.
What is your favourite water toy?
I’d say water skis and wakeboards. Foil boards are all the rage at the moment, I also love diving, especially wreck diving and remote locations, chartering to chase the surf. I have clients booking specifically for surf in The Maldives and the British Virgin Islands.
What are some of the highlights you’ve experienced on a yacht charter?
I have so many: being in the Bahamas and swimming with sharks, pigs and iguanas all in the same day. Climbing volcanos such as Stromboli, exploring the ancient temples of Greece, hiking alongside water falls in Bali and Lombok in Indonesia. Diving and snorkelling on coral reefs in Thailand or the Red Sea - every day on board a yacht is an adventure!
The moments that truly speak to my soul are my memories of sailing at night with star-filled skies overhead. Whether it was through the Caribbean, Thailand Hat Nopparat Thara National Park, or Ao Phang Nga National Park, it’s what you would call a spiritual experience. With the engines switched off there is a beautiful silence, everything is still and the stars are so vivid that you could almost reach out and pluck them from the sky. You can’t really describe the feeling you are filled with; you feel at one with the universe, you never feel smaller and yet part of something great at the same time.
Post pandemic, what trends are you seeing in terms of the type of experience clients are looking for?
The trend for off the beaten track continues, compounded by the pandemic. Clients are interested in locations such as Greenland, Norway and the South Pacific to name a few.
Lots of clients are also keen on eco-friendly charters - conscious travel with a low impact on the environment. This also creates more opportunities to observe marine life in its natural state. However, the popular playgrounds of the Mediterranean and the Caribbean are not in any danger of losing their appeal – they are still firm favourites as luxury cruising destinations!