Warsash Superyacht Academy


How HELM and leadership training can aid crew resilience and retention

For young people looking to see the world and make their maritime careers, there’s a glamour attached to the superyacht industry that’s easy to understand. Cruising around the Mediterranean or the bays of south-east Asia, seeking the sun and new experiences and basking in the reflected glamour and lifestyles of the owners, it’s work with a perk or two.

But the glamour that draws in the young, who make up the majority of superyacht crew and officers, poses some challenges for operators and the wider industry. Crew work is hard work, whether you’re serving on a container ship or a luxury yacht. Aboard a superyacht, however, the disconnect between appearance and reality – between the effortless glamour of the owner lifestyle and the hard graft behind the scenes – can be particularly stark.

For officers, particularly, the unpredictable needs of owners and their guests can create a high-pressure environment that demands flexibility, resilience, leadership and a broad understanding of all aspects of superyacht life, from hospitality to maritime law to more traditional officers’ roles. Owners’ high expectations can create a stressful working environment – leading officers to feel they need to be ‘always on’, not to mention capable to deal with any and all situations, even those outside their training or skillset.

So how can yacht operators and independent owners address the resulting challenges with retaining high-quality crew and officers – ensuring owners receive the world-class service they expect?

Warsash Superyacht Academy One solution lies in better training – but training focused on softer skills such as leadership, empathy, good management and communication, and creating an inclusive environment that welcomes culturally diverse crew, to complement more technical or maritime-specific skills.

Management-level Human Element, Leadership and Management (HELM) training such as offered at Warsash provides officers and crew with a better understanding of their own strengths as a leader, and can improve their effectiveness both as an individual and as part of a team.

Effective HELM (M) training allows officers to do more than control the operation of the vessel, but to provide effective and compassionate management of everyone on board, from deck crew to hospitality to engineering. They can learn to critically assess the situation and adapt their approach according to the needs of the moment and the individuals involved – whether that’s the owners or a member of crew. It can also help officers create an environment on board which encourages and supports crew, allowing them to identify and resolve potential issues before they become a problem. This kind of effective leadership can also increase loyalty and resilience among crew, improving retention and enabling them to better adapt to changes outside their control – everything from negative interactions with guests or owners to logistical complications arising from changes to itinerary or equipment breakdown.

Good HELM (M) training will enable better teamwork and communication, as well as imparting an understanding of the factors underlying senior decision making – enabling a more informed and effective crew who understand why, and not just what, they’re being asked to do. Crew who have taken their HELM (M) training to heart are the backbone of a working yacht, proving their worth many times over.

Warsash Superyacht Academy


For more details on the courses at Warsash Superyacht Academy,

visit maritime.solent. ac.uk/courses/leadership-and-management