When American brokerage firm Denison Yachting announced its plans to open an office in Monaco as part of a larger European expansion back in 2021, it piqued a lot of interest among professionals in the superyacht industry. Having spent 15 years honing her skills with Camper & Nicholsons, there was no-one more suited for the role of Charter Specialist in Europe than Molly Playfair, who joined the company in 2022 and now spends her days matching clients expertly with their perfect yachts and destinations.
Here Molly discusses her extensive experience chartering across both sail and motor yachts up to 70m, her favourite charter shows, the art of designing the perfect charter itinerary, and how she predicts the industry will evolve in the years to come.
Where did you grow up and how did you first discover yachting?
I grew up in Somerset, England, quite a long way from the coast! My father is a keen sailor and we spent many a happy childhood holiday with family on the south coast of Cornwall, but it wasn’t until I joined the industry that I fell in love with the world of yachting.
What was your first job in the yachting industry and how did it come about?
I fell into yachting completely by accident, almost 17 years ago now. I was looking for an admin role in London’s West End and applied for the job of charter assistant to a team of busy charter brokers at Camper & Nicholsons. I got the job and joined a few days before my 21st birthday. I loved it instantly: the boats, the buzz, the travel, the no-two-days-the-same.
After 15 years working for Camper & Nicholsons you joined Denison Yachting as a Charter Specialist in Europe – what attracted you to this role?
As Denison has recently launched into Europe, I’m excited to be part of the growth in continent from the ground up. It felt like the next step in my career to join a small but growing team and be part of the story.
How would you describe the culture at Denison Yachting and what do they do really well?
Denison still feels, despite its size in America, like a family business. Bob Denison has cultivated an excellent company culture and thanks to his passionate and dynamic leadership style, it’s an invigorating place to work. The company is constantly looking to the future and trying new things. And number one, they look after and listen to their people.
How do you find clients and what’s the secret to building and maintaining your relationships?
I wouldn’t want to give away my secrets! But over the years I’ve built up trust with a network of clients all over the globe, and the best testimonial you can get is when they refer you to their friends. The relationship between broker and client can be fragile, and I always say it needs to be carefully nurtured.
Which of the spring charter shows did you attend this year and what was your experience?
I attended the MYBA Charter Show in Barcelona and MEDYS in Nafplio. Both were great shows, and it had been a few years since I’d attended either. I had a little girl in 2019 and then when I returned to work Covid hit, and after that I changed companies. A busy few years! It was great to be back on the dock seeing charter boats.
What trends are you seeing in terms of the water toys that charter clients want – what’s hot and what’s not?
The usual suspects remain popular: SeaBobs, slides, eFoils and the like. But I have also noticed more clients asking for good old-fashioned sailing dinghies – it used to happen sometimes, but these days it is on the increase.
How do you go about designing charter itineraries and how do you source your information?
We have an excellent platform we use to create lovely looking itineraries for our clients. That said, the actual knowledge necessary - the understanding of suitable and doable charter routes (what can be done within a certain time frame, and what can’t both distance and weather-wise) - is stored in my head after years in this job. And that’s not even mentioning how important it is to have an understanding of cruising restrictions and regulations – this all just comes with experience.
What sorts of conversations are you having with colleagues and peers around sustainability in yachting?
In terms of conversations being had, so much of the push towards sustainability in charter comes from the crew themselves, and my hats off to them. Of course this will only grow as we all continue to approach our lives in a less wasteful way, but there is still so much to be done.
What changes do you foresee in the charter market over the next 10 years?
The growth of the adventure charter over the last 8-10 years has been huge, and I think this will continue to grow. A lot of younger clients want to visiy far flung destinations for an experience, not ‘just’ a yacht charter. I think this sector of our industry will only grow from here on out.
What’s your favourite yacht and what do you love about it?
There are too many to choose from! But I’m a bit of an old soul, so probably it would be a classic motor yacht built in the 20s or 30s, refitted of course, but still retaining its original charm. There are a few like this on the market every now and then, and every time I see one, I fall in love. If I chartered one, I would sit in a deckchair reading PG Wodehouse and sipping a Champagne cocktail and I would be very happy indeed!
If you were booking a charter this summer, where would you go and why?
Actually, I am going to the Aeolian Islands this month and so I would have to say there. There is a calm elegance about them - they still feel untouched by mass tourism, but there are plenty of wonderful places to eat and drink as well as wonderful swimming and gorgeous scenery. And let’s not forget nature’s fireworks display in the form of Stromboli at night, a unique sight for sure.
What’s a lesser known fact about yourself that would surprise your colleagues?
I’m a big Springsteen fan. I’m seeing him live twice this summer and I cannot wait. The last time he played in Europe was in 2016 - he truly is the Boss!