Question from Rob, 22: "I’m trying to decide whether to fly to Antibes or Palma to start my job search. I’ve got friends who work on yachts but they are completely divided on which place is better. I’m not ruling out motoryachts but I think I want to work on sailboats and I’ve heard Palma is better for that? Some people seem to think the big sailboats are all around the French Riviera - who should I listen to?"
A: The Crew Coach:
Ah, the old Antibes vs Palma debate. It’s been going on for decades, but there are benefits to both, depending on what you’re looking for, your budget, and your personal preferences.
Antibes: Pros and Cons
Antibes is concentrated. As one of the world’s biggest superyacht hubs, it’s a small town that lives and breathes yachting in the spring, when literally hundreds of people arrive to look for jobs. There are crew agents, training schools, uniform shops and English bars everywhere you look, and masses of crew walking around in polo shirts. You could not escape yachting in Antibes at this time if you tried. As a newcomer this can feel wonderful, you’re right in the middle of it all, but it can also feel a bit intense and competitive. Antibes is also expensive.
With an international quay for very large yachts, the port of Antibes does attract more motoryachts than sailboats. However, Antibes is also surrounded by other marinas along the coast, with every type and size of yacht you can imagine. You can literally jump on the train and dockwalk the French coast from St Raphael, past Monaco and across the Italian border to Imperia and Genoa. In this respect Antibes has a definite advantage over Palma. The season also starts a little earlier in Antibes as many job-hunters arrive in March.
Palma: Pros and Cons
Palma feels a bit more diverse, where yachting is important but not all-consuming. The docks are huge, stretching all along the palm-lined Paseo, with plenty of small to medium sailboats and motoryachts, as well as large motoryachts berthed at Club de Mar. You’ll find the crew agencies, training schools, uniform shops etc that you will in Antibes, but they’re more spread out. Palma also has a different feel to Antibes, with a vibrant dining and nightlife scene but, remember this is Spain, so everything starts much later. It’s certainly a fun place with plenty to do, with the usual yachting bars to network and meet other crew, but they're not all in the same neighbourhood.
As a wild generalisation, sailors do tend to prefer Palma and there are several reasons for this. Many sailboats head to Palma for their yard periods over winter, and then crew up there in the spring. Palma also tends to have a more casual sailing vibe, with fewer large motoryachts. Having said that, you’re only a short hop away from Barcelona where there are shipyards and large marinas with larger sail and motoryachts. Palma is also less expensive than Antibes in terms of accommodation, taxis, food and drinks. When you’re job hunting, you should be bringing enough money to last a minimum of 6-8 weeks, so if cash is an issue for you, then Palma could be the better choice. Some people have also found that it's easier to find accommodation in Palma, whereas Antibes tends to get booked up very quickly.
Which Has More Jobs?
Tough call. I’d say Antibes is a better bet for motoryachts, simply because there are more large motoryachts with bigger crews, and more large crew agencies that field jobs all over the world. However, if you’re leaning towards sailboats, you’re probably less interested in the megayachts with loads of crew, and Palma may have more to offer.
Something else to consider is that interesting things are happening in the Balearics at the moment. The Spanish yachting industry is in excellent health since a prohibitive charter tax was dropped for foreign vessels and it has also resulted in more jobs for those based in the Balearics. The Palma Yacht Show is also a great event, growing by the year, while the rise of Barcelona as a major yachting hub is attracting more and more yachts to the region.
Many yachting companies operate in both Antibes and Palma and further afield, including myself. I can just as easily coach crew in Palma as in Antibes, and I come to Palma frequently to meet with crew and attend events such as the Palma Boat Show in May where I'm delivering a seminar hosted by ACREW.
Industry predictions indicate a great charter season lies ahead, meaning your chances of success are pretty good this year, wherever you start from!
*Image credits: Antibes - ASAP; Palma Wikimedia Commons