This week’s 60 second interview sees CityOut sneak some precious time from the very busy schedule of Alexander Coles; Co-founder, CEO and Senior Broker at Bespoke Yacht Charter. Originally from London, Alexander spent most of his school holidays on the French Riviera before settling into a permanent base here from which he operates his formidable business to fit perfectly with the movements of his many clients. Launched in 2014, Bespoke Yacht Charter works with ultra high net-worth individuals, celebrities, royal families and large corporations, meeting all their requirements on the voyage to creating the perfect event.
Q: How long have you lived on the French Riviera?
I have had property on the Riviera since 2001. I lived in Monaco for five years and currently split my time between my house in London and my apartment in Nice. It’s my favourite region in the world and a place I have been passionate about since I was a child. I was lucky enough to spend every summer here with my family from a very early age.
Q: What three traits define you?
Honesty, determination and patience. Though some close to me may on occasion question my patience!
Q: Who are your heroes?
Steve Jobs comes immediately to mind. Through pure passion, he created one of the greatest companies on earth, ignoring all the critics and naysayers along the way. I also love the British writers A.A. Gill and Christopher Hitchens. Two superb writers that brought a unique sense of humour to almost any subject. Sadly all three are no longer with us.
Q: What has been the highlight of your career so far?
A few summers ago, I organised a charter on an 80m yacht for a businessman, his friends and family. On the last day of the charter, they anchored off Monaco and I chartered helicopters for the guests to fly over Monaco and the yacht before they left to return home after a highly successful charter. From my balcony in Monaco, I got to watch the yacht at anchor with all the toys in the water whilst the four helicopters circled above. That was a proud moment! That client has now booked three charters with me as well as referring friends who have also booked yachts with me.
Q: What has been the greatest challenge of your career so far?
I organised a two-week charter on a 100m yacht for a Middle Eastern Royal Family. The principal charterer had a very ambitious itinerary and insisted that the yacht spent almost no time in ports. This meant that all provisions had to be tendered to the yacht and we even had to have water delivered and tanks emptied whilst the yacht was at sea. The guests often had rather eccentric last minute requests that of course we did everything to accommodate. One of these involved getting McDonalds for 40 people delivered to the yacht, at 2am! The closest restaurant open at that time of day was 45km away, so I had a driver go and collect the food which he brought to a nearby port where he was met by the yacht’s crew in a tender! I imagine the food was cold by the time it arrived, but the clients got what they asked for! The crew did an incredible job on this charter and I would stress that they are the single most important factor in a successful charter by a country mile. Good yacht crew are incredible and they do an even better job when supported by a good charter broker in the lead-up and during a charter.
Q: Where is your favourite place to eat or drink in Monaco?
There are so many great places to eat and drink in Monaco. Standouts for me would the American Bar at the Hotel de Paris, excellent Italian food at Flavio Briatore’s Cipriani and for a simple place to relax, I like Gerhard’s Cafe on the port in Fontvieille. It’s a great place to sit and watch the world go by. I love the views over the port and up to Le Rocher and the Oceanographic Museum.
Q: What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?
I would likely work in the world of digital marketing and SEO. I am passionate about great content and love the idea of building a brand from scratch. I am very involved with everything my company does in that regard and enjoy working on new ideas almost as much as I enjoy arranging yacht charters.
Q: How do you define success?
Identifying something you love to do, doing it exceedingly well and getting paid for your hard work! In my humble opinion, money should never be one’s goal but instead the byproduct of doing something well!
Q: What is your favourite book?
I prefer biographies and autobiographies to fiction as I find people’s lives so fascinating, and it is even better if they tell their own story. Two standouts would be Life by Keith Richards and Mr Nice by Howard Marks but there are so many fantastic books, it’s hard to name a favourite.
Q: Tell us something that might surprise us about you.
I work in a world of luxury and ostentation, but actually find the greatest satisfaction in the simple things! In my free time, I am far more likely to be found at a scruffy beach club in Sainte Maxime than I am at Nikki Beach or Bagatelle! I organise holidays on the world’s finest yachts but am at my happiest on a 7m RIB or a kayak floating around somewhere.
Q: What do you love about Monaco?
I love the cosmopolitan nature of Monaco with so many different nationalities living there. As a Londoner, I feel happiest when surrounded by as many different languages and cultures as possible. I also like the fact that beneath all the very obvious glitz and glamour of Monaco, the simple things are still there, the rowing club, great little family restaurants etc. I am a big walker and I adore the scenery around Monaco, especially Mont Agel, the Tête du Chien, Roquebrune Village and the Col d’Eze. There is an old fort on the Col d’Eze called La Revere and the walks up there are truly stunning with amazing views of La Turbie, Cap Ferrat and back over the Alps.
Q: If you could have one wish, what would it be?
I probably sound like a Miss World contestant, but world peace would be rather nice!
Q: Chartering a yacht is not cheap, tell us why it’s worth the money!
Good question and one I get asked rather often! A yacht charter provides a combination of exceptional service, variety and customisation that can’t be matched by any other type of holiday. Accommodation standards, service and cuisine match or exceed what you will find in the world’s finest hotels and villa rentals but with two big advantages. The first and most obvious is that a yacht moves! On a weeks yacht charter, one can visit Sardinia, Corsica, Italy and all the hotspots of the French Riviera, without having to pack one’s bags every morning and move from one five star hotel to the next. Itineraries can be very flexible and one can decide on any given day whether to seek out that quiet anchorage for a spot of swimming, or whether to berth in St Tropez and hit the clubs. This level of flexibility can’t be beaten. The second point I would like make is that no other type of holiday offers such a level of customisation. A good charter broker gets to know their client’s needs and desires and then briefs the crew so that what is delivered onboard is exactly what the client wants, from menus designed completely for them, their favourite wines, music and so much more. People that could be doing anything are often the hardest to please, but also the easiest if you get it right. It’s all in the details. In addition to offering a very high level of privacy, a yacht takes a great deal of stress out of travel. Say for example, one wants to go from Monaco to Cannes on a busy summer’s day, one could perhaps take a helicopter or get stuck in a two hour traffic jam. On a yacht, one can simply relax on a sun-bed after a morning swim in Monaco, cocktail in hand as the Captain motors to Cannes where lunch is served! It’s a unique experience and actually relatively good value. Add up the cost of four suites for a week at a top hotel in the south of France, restaurant bills, beach clubs etc. and one reaches a total cost very similar to chartering a 35m yacht with five cabins for a week’s holiday. If looked at on a per cabin basis, the majority of yacht charters are comparable to very high-end hotels and property rentals.