Chief Officer Nick Ward
At the young age of 9, Nick Ward embarked on his seafaring journey and has since become a seasoned sailor. In 2012, he entered the world of yachting, and over a decade later, he generously shares his wealth of knowledge, personal experiences, and future aspirations with us.
Nick, you’ve had a long yachting career thus far, could you tell us what enticed you into a life at sea?
At age 9, I joined a local sailing club and learned to sail on Friday nights and Saturday mornings. I was completely hooked at the first lesson. I remember not being able to sleep through excitement for the following day and being amazed at the concept of how boats float and how the wind and sails work in unison. I admired the sailing instructors immensely and after 3 years I became a sailing instructor myself. I taught kids on Friday nights and Saturday mornings as well as adults on Saturday afternoons.
At primary school, I recall going onto the Sunseeker website and requesting a brochure. I spent days and days looking through the pages with my friend in absolute awe – ‘one day’.
I was headhunted at age 12 to start racing dinghies. I raced Mirrors and represented Team GBR around Europe. I was paired with my sailing partner, Tom, and we had a very successful racing career. Eventually, outgrowing Mirrors and moved to 405’s and 29ers.
Tom and I were European Champions in the 405 class and trained with the current 49er Olympic gold medallists. Racing began to absorb my life and I was lucky enough to be at a college where they supported me through this time, leaving school early on a Friday to get to Weymouth Sailing Academy and coming in on a Monday absolutely exhausted.
How early in your career did you start planning to climb the ranks?
I climbed the ranks quite quickly – I progressed from Relief Bosun on an 89m to Second Officer on a 76m. I created a ‘3-year plan’ in my iPhone notes of the courses I wanted to complete in years 1,2,3 including my OOW exam and I stuck to them – it is such a great feeling to be able to tick them off one by one. I am lucky to have worked with incredible Captains and Officers during my time as Deckhand. They supported me through all of my courses and I was able to take this time off to complete them.
Can you remember your very first year in Leadership? And from that time, how do you feel your Leadership skills have changed?
When I had my first Officers job I was 25 and on a 75m private yacht – it was quite overwhelming. The HELM course helped me a lot – it is an incredibly important course and a favourite to date. It is crucial to be approachable and listen to your team. I very much stick with the ethos of firm but fair. I support and respect all of my team through their learning and progression.
My leadership skills haven’t changed a lot over the years. Through working as Second Officer on a 75m I am now Chief Officer on a 92m so the main difference is an increase of crew.
What’s been the most rewarding part of yachting for you?
The most rewarding part of my job is to stand back and watch the deck team work their magic boss on. I work very hard with the current Second Officers on training the team to work efficiently and effectively – through launching tenders, driving tenders, anchoring and general seamanship.
Have you noticed any significant changes in the yachting industry over the years?
I have. It is very apparent that rotation is a new thing for Junior crew which I completely agree with. It is important to have a work/life balance. Yes, initially it is more expensive for the Owner to agree to this, however, you will keep crew longer, reducing recruitment fees and they will be much happier and work harder – the Owner and guests see everything, be attitude or general vibe. In the long run, it is cheaper for the Owner and they will have a better experience on board.
What’s important to you when it comes to working in a yachting environment?
Arguably, the hardest part of working on yachts is to work and live with your colleagues. It is very important to respect fellow colleagues’ space and don’t forget to be patient outside of work.
What advice would you give a green Deckie who’s looking to follow in your footsteps?
Work hard, always be 10 minutes early and look presentable – everything is noticed. Ask questions if you are not sure. Do not forget those skills that will help you. I look for a crew who has those extra skills – drone flying, video editing, PT, medical, and tender driving. Unfortunately, ‘just having the qualifications’ isn’t enough.
And finally, what’s on the horizon for you?
My goal is to be a fleet captain working closely with the owner and management company. My priority is to manage the owners’ expectations whilst delivering unmatchable service.
Nick, your journey has been truly remarkable, especially considering your young age. It’s always inspiring to hear stories of early success, as it reinforces the notion that with dedication and determination, anything can be accomplished. We wish you all the best in your future endeavours and have every confidence that you will achieve every one of your goals!