If ever it could be said that someone has the sea coursing through their blood, Graeme Lord would fit that description.
The founder and CEO of Fairport Yacht Support, which is affiliated to IGY and an integral part of the marina company’s ambitious and exclusive new Trident membership program, has an impressive sea-faring history dating back generations. Indeed, it has shaped the DNA and very identity of Fairport and everything it offers.
Following a highly successful launch of the IGY Trident program in Miami last month - a taster of the curated lifestyle events members can attend around the globe – we sat down to talk about the attraction of partnering with the IGY brand and why yacht owners need to seriously consider membership programs as part of their strategy for berthing in the future.
An exclusive owners’ network
“We’ve been told by a lot of our clients that they would like to meet other owners in a safe social setting as a boat show can be a shark pit for them,” says Graeme, who is based in Fort Lauderdale. “I know from previous experience with owners who have referenced referrals from other clients that during that process, they have become friends and business partners.”
Controlling the environment is a key part of IGY Trident’s strategy in offering superyacht owners a heightened experience among their peer group and one of 2023’s flagship events will be the Cannes Film Festival, with the hub of activity based at Vieux-Port de Cannes, IGY’s latest addition to the brand.
“We have control of the marina and have a large office space there which we will leave unrented to use precisely for this purpose so that we can control everything from the street onwards,” adds Graeme.
“Holding events in the marina is a great idea – it’s one thing having to dress up and make your way across town, but it’s another if you only need to walk from your yacht to a nearby venue. That is far more attractive from a planning and logistics point of view.”
An illustrious sea-faring history
If anyone understands the needs and desires of the world’s top echelons of superyacht owners, it’s Graeme. Born and brought up in Zimbabwe, his illustrious sea-faring connections date back to his great-grandfather commanding the majestic Fairport vessel around treacherous Cape Horn as he sailed the seven seas delivering goods from port to port. Graeme’s grandmother and great-aunt were raised on board.
“I come from a sea-faring family, it’s always been in our blood,” he recalls. “The stories about Fairport were a big part of our family heritage. All the men in my family served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War and they were offered an opportunity to move to Africa after the effort. Zimbabwe is a beautiful country with the kindest, sweetest people.”
Fairport’s origins and principles
A marine engineer with huge technical experience, Graeme started Fairport 11 years ago after a stint working in yacht management as part of a brokerage business. “Most of our clients came from brokerage deals but often, the yachts were not the right platform for that client,” he says.
“So you’re trying to manage a yacht that isn’t the right fit from the beginning and you are on your back foot in a part of the industry where it’s difficult to stay ahead of problems. As a result, I decided to start Fairport with no connection to brokerage or charter whatsoever so we could be completely neutral, and that turned out to be a very wise decision.
“We are completely transparent and honest with clients - we have no conflict of interest. If I lose a client because I’m honest, that is an acceptable day for me.”
Fairport’s client demographic encompasses 40-90 metre vessels with mainly American owners who enjoy a direct one to one connection with the team. “We communicate directly with the owner and not through various layers, which is important to us, and the busier charter yachts seem to do well with our style of management,” he says.
“The majority of my staff are former crew and they can express to owners what a crew job looks like and what the reality is, how hard the crew work and how dedicated they are. There’s a misconception that crew are always partying when they’re not on board. We try to rectify that.”
Through Fairport’s sister crew company in the Cayman Islands, Graeme’s team concentrates on creating real benefits in the form of family medical insurance plans that are transferable from yacht to yacht, pension plans, unemployment plans, and an overall sense of security in an industry where that isn’t always a given.
“We want them to have career opportunities whereby changing yachts doesn’t mean the end of the world and they can buy homes and get medical insurance even if the owners come and go,” he explains.
A merger with clients in mind
With the scarcity of slips worldwide increasingly proving a problem, Graeme looked to IGY Marinas and their collective of 23 superyacht destinations across the US, Latin America, Europe and the Caribbean as a solution.
“Our conversation with IGY started about a year ago,” he says. “My concern was that there are more yachts than there are docks, which is a very real issue and needs to be aired to the industry. It became extremely apparent during Covid when all the yachts were in marinas and they couldn’t all be accommodated.
“We wanted to establish a deal whereby our clients could always have access to an IGY marina and that evolved into a merger between the two companies, giving us an exclusive deal that is not available to any other management company in the world.”
IGY Trident berths guaranteed at any time
Graeme believes the IGY Trident program is a game-changer for owners looking for the security of a berth wherever and whenever they require it, and a turning point in owner experience.
“The scarcity of what we are beginning to experience creates a feeling of exclusivity and IGY Trident is an exclusive club, by invitation only,” he says. “IGY has worked hard to train all their staff to be service orientated, just like you would find at The Four Seasons.
“They’ve always tried to accommodate everybody until around 18 months ago when they realised they were at capacity and couldn’t do it. Changing the message to the industry means a change in mindset – as we turn yachts away this reality is setting in, with captains surprised that they can’t get in.
“Getting into the right marina might make the difference between the crew getting a great tip or not. The crew get penalised if there’s no space but that’s not fair. IGY Trident will take away that headache.
“A yacht will have guaranteed access, even if the marina is oversold, along with the understanding that IGY needs reasonable notice. For example, IGY Trident members can enjoy the very best slip at Vieux-Port de Cannes during the film festival safe in the knowledge that they will have use of that for years to come, along with a VIP service on the red carpet.”
Partnering with the best
Working with a selection of best in class partners, IGY Trident assures excellence at every level, covering every aspect of the owner and guest experience through to crew satisfaction.
“Most of our clients want to make just one phone call rather than 15, so having a single point of contact is important,” says Graeme. “Our service providers are the very best at what they do. It took a long time to work out who our partners were going to be and which elements to introduce.
“In today’s market, the price of fuel is a big deal and it’s inconvenient for large yachts to have to leave the marina to fuel up because that’s a two or three day commitment. Providing fuel in situ below market price means the owner saves money and the captain and crew don’t have to move the yacht.
“Adding crew training by Forbes Travel Guide is exciting too – it offers training on the psychology of service and what high end service is, rather than showing someone how to pour wine. It also covers crew burnout, fatigue and harassment, giving crew access to professionals in a confidential setting.
“When I started Fairport, I wanted it to be unique and we achieved that. This is the next step because we have access to more marinas by far than any other competitor. No one else can provide what IGY has and this gives us a unique advantage that is impossible to copy, putting us in great shape for the future.”