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SUPERYACHT #517
May 2005

Article selected from our quarterly magazine dedicated to the largest and most luxurious boats with information, interviews, technical articles, images and yachting news


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Interview by
Franca Urbani


ANDRÉ BUHAGIAR
A latest-generation captain

I meet Captain André Buhagiar at the Benetti Shipyard in Viareggio, where he, as surveyor, is overseeing the construction of a new 45-m boat. This is an auspicious period in the captain's professional life.

First of all, your surname. Where does it come from?

It is Maltese. My family emigrated to France, to Cannes, a city which had become an international yachting centre because of its port, the first port developed with private capital.

Where did you study to become a captain?

My sea training began because of my love for the sea, back when I was ten years old, with a summer season spent on sailboats. Gradually, I moved on to larger and larger boats, on which I worked as an engineer, especially in the Caribbean and on the American coast between Miami and Newport. At a certain point, I understood that I had enough experience to return to school and so I first acquired a basic skipper's license, in France, and then the "3000-ton Master" license, English classification. Adventure has now gone out of the world of yachting, we have entered the world of superyachts, of total security.

After 11 September, International Ship Port Security (ISPS) was introduced, with a new technology known as the Ship Security Alert System (SSAS). The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) now requires that all boats be equipped with the SSAS, a system which, when activated, informs port authorities when a boat is threatened. Therefore, as of 1 July 2004, boats which, after a first radio check, are found in breach of IMO regulations, may be denied entrance to American ports by the Coast Guard.

Would you tell us about your latest boat, the Baglietto "Idylwild"?

She is a tremendous boat, easy to manage, perfect for the Mediterranean and fast. Her defect, if she has one, is a certain lack of space, which is why the owner has decided to have a 45-m Benetti built, for more comfort.

Which do you prefer, the role of commander or the role of surveyor?

Both are very interesting. Here in Viareggio, my work varies from choosing the personnel with the management office to training personnel before sailing. I have to find lodging for the crewmembers and supply them with means of transport. I also have to supervise construction of the boat, dealing with the shipyard and keeping the owner informed about the progress of the work.

Could you give us another example of what you consider to be indispensable to a captain's training?

Fire-fighting training. Then, there is medical training for first aid. As well, a captain has to know how to manage the pharmacy, which is divided into three levels: for coastal navigation, for cruises lasting up to 48 hours and for long journeys.

And technology?

I would like to underline the importance of new software and of the Internet when it comes to communication. On large boats, you need the same convenience as on land, such as high-speed Internet connection. The Benetti Shipyard works with the University of Pisa to deal with the various technical problems which arise from time to time.

What can you tell us about the new software?

Well, there is IDEA, which allows us to manage in a database all of the mechanical parts for the motor and for the appliances. These data are processed for solutions such as a maintenance program.

How do technological developments affect the owner/captain relationship?

I believe that it puts distance between them. The captain must co- ordinate, to the minute, all of the work done by all of those on board so that the owner need not be concerned. Naturally, he is in charge of the cruise, makes proposals to the owner, and listens to the owner's requirements, but he is the one who has to make it all work, adapting to the conditions encountered once underway. Another of the captain's tasks, increasingly difficult, is to reserve anchorage, which is often insufficient.

CAPTAIN OF IDYLLWILD

Surname: Buhagiar
Age: 46
Nationality: French
Training: electromechanical technical institute
Previous command experience: 33-m Baglietto ("Idylwild")
Current command: 45-m Benetti Vision ("Idylwild")
Flag: BVI
Main characteristics of the boat: Construction - Azimut Benetti Shipyard, Viareggio, Italy; Composite material; LOA - 44.20 m; Beam - 9.26 m; Maximum speed - 15 knots; Cruising speed - 14 knots; Range at 12 knots - approx. 4000 nautical miles; sleeps 10 guests and 9 crew members
Interior architecture: modern style in cherry wood; interior design: François Zuretti
Preferred marina: in the Mediterranean - Capri; in the Caribbean - Nelson Harbour, Antigua
Preferred route: Croatia, from Dubrovnik to Venice
The worst adventure: When I broke the mast of my sailboat in a 40-knot wind.
The most beautiful memory in his career as a captain: There are so many, but I especially remember all of the interesting people I have met.