On watch with Mark Upton

Published 10/09/2020

UKSA Alumni Mark Upton, Master 3000gt, moved ashore in 2007 after a successful career in the Superyacht Industry. A serial entrepreneur, Mark has set up and is successfully running MGMT – an agency that manages Superyacht visits to the UK, Modern Classics Car Club – a car rental company offering cool and iconic cars from the 80’s, 90’s and early 00’s to crew, as well as CrewFO – a one stop shop for all things financial for superyacht crew.

We talk to Mark about his training at UKSA, his time in the industry, the background to CrewFO and his top financial tips for crew in or about to join the superyacht industry.

When did you train at UKSA and which course did you do?

I trained at UKSA in 1996. I did the PCST (Professional Crew and Skipper Training) course which took me from nothing to having my Yachtmaster offshore in 16 weeks

Tell us about your journey to Master 3000gt

I was very lucky during the first few years of my career in so far as working on private yachts that travelled a LOT. I gained a lot of sea time and bridge experience in a relatively short period of time. There were no intermediate exams back then and so it was a matter of sea time and modules. I came back to UKSA in September 2001 to do my Nav and Radar, followed by Oral prep and my Master’s Oral in December 2001. I would like to say it was a breeze, but it was one of the most difficult exams of my life with the MCA Chief Examiner of all people.

What is your most memorable moment of your time in the superyacht industry?

Apart from the day I met my (then) future wife there have been a lot of great memories for lots of different reasons.

Stern to the Monaco Grand Prix for 2 years in a row with no guests on board was very cool.

Rod Stewart’s wedding was also really good fun, especially being in “Hello” magazine.

I remember some particularly nasty experiences Mid Atlantic which were very grounding (not literally thankfully). It is times like these, when you have watertight doors closed due to water ingress, nobody is allowed on deck at all, and you have full Green Water on the Bridge deck that you understand what your training is all for. Lots of people can spend their whole career without anything bad happening, which is great, but having your skill and experience called upon in a nasty situation brings home the reason we do drills, spend so much time training and have STCW in the first place.

After moving ashore, one of your first big projects with MGMT was marketing London and the UK to the Superyacht industry ahead of the 2012 Olympics, and then managing the yachts when they visited. That must have kept you busy?

This was one of the busiest times of our lives. Myself and my brother Nigel (Superyacht Tenders) put this together with no help. We put a plan together and did the best we could. Luckily for us the Olympics were very marketable regardless of yachts, but add a few superyachts to the equation and the world press got very interested. The yachts and their guests/ owners definitely kept us busy for 3 weeks and everyone had a great time. However, it was the planning and logistics for the 18 months beforehand that were the tough part. Right up until May 2012, after over 12 months work we still didn’t know if any yachts would turn up!

What is the story behind CrewFO, why did you create it?

That’s a simple one. I’m the guy who came back from a career on yachts with no mortgage, property, savings, investments or much of anything to show for it. I have some great memories and loved every minute. However, given the chance to do it all again I would save more, invest wisely and remind myself that the yacht isn’t mine every now and again!

CREWFO was set up simply because Crew, despite technology and huge advancements in communications still need educating in this area. If all crew, when they start their career know what I know now, they would be retired by 40!

This is what we aim to do, educate crew so they can fulfil their obligations, invest and save wisely and still have a great time.

What are your top five financial tips for all Superyacht Crew?

  1. File a tax return each year and understand your tax position.
  2. Get a decent bank account. Offshore banking is close to dead and a waste of your time and money.
  3. Use a decent Foreign exchange company, not the bank. This will save you a fortune
  4. Invest, invest, invest. If you don’t know how or where get advice. This is what we do. The more you do this the better your life after yachting will be.
  5. Take advice from professionals. Your friends, forums and other crew all mean well but often haven’t got a clue about the rules or your personal circumstances. Also beware of random strangers on the dock trying to sell you things. You wouldn’t buy an ISA from a guy in the pub at home so why would you do it in Antibes!

I have recently written a blog on this, which you can find here:

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