Max Cumming, captain of the superyacht Athena, says the owner of the seven-year-old schooner had a simple instruction when he told him what he wanted: “Make her look new again.”
But finding a place to fit the 90m megayacht Athena to give her a makeover is not that easy.
Nine months later and with the luxury yacht Athena repainted, he is thrilled that he was able to get the refit completed at Orams Marine Village.
“Being Kiwi – and at a guess I reckon about a quarter of the world superyachts are skippered by Kiwis – it is fantastic to be able to show off the world class tradesmen and their ingenuity when it comes to solving problems.”
The refit turned out to be a real life changer for one 18-year-old Kiwi. He was helping in his Dad’s business with some of the cover work on the boat and earned himself a fulltime job on the Athena yacht. When she sails for the Caribbean through Tahiti soon, he will be starting a career Max himself stumbled over just over 23 years ago.
A Bay of Islands/Cook Islands boy, Max started life as a commercial fisherman before joining the R Tucker Thompson Sailing Training Trust. When he left for overseas he had no idea about superyachts and was amazed to learn from some new friends he met that he could get paid for sailing.
“It is a great business for New Zealand,” he says. “I am sure there is a lot of foreign exchange that comes back to the country from people buying houses or land, or helping support family. And Kiwi crews and our sailing successes certainly help bring some big projects back here.”
Max says one huge advantage Auckland has is the proximity of the marine sector to the centre of the city. It saves in travel costs for the crew – and keeps them happy.
“Cost is a big factor. While the superyachts might look opulent, their owners insist on value for money. I run a tight budget for Athena. While the value of the NZ dollar is higher than it has been historically, the marine sector here has to look for every way it can to remain cost competitive.”