#humansofyachting – Derek Munro
Derek Munro on his colourful journey from yacht captain to yacht manager and superyacht charity founder.
“I grew up in Malaysia and the Solomon Islands and my mum was the accountant for the local yacht club, hence I spent every evening after school sitting around there. When I was seven, I built my first canoe; I dug it out of a log with the help of our gardener. I think it was about three metres long. I painted it red and then spent my childhood paddling around the Pacific. It was awesome.
Later on, I went to boarding school in New Zealand and started sailing quite a lot around Auckland. After university, I did some racing in Fremantle during the America’s Cup and then decided to hitchhike to Israel. When I got there, I was working as a cocktail barman in a nightclub when I bumped into one of the guys who I used to race with in Fremantle. He was getting off a yacht and said that they needed a watch leader, so I got on and worked for six months with no pay – ending up in Puerto Banus. There, the owner stepped on board and wrote me a cheque for six month’s work. It was at that point that I realised I could get paid for doing something I really enjoyed.
I sailed around the world for about 18 years as a captain, then went back to New Zealand with my wife; we had our first child during the America’s Cup in 2000. I decided that if I was going to spend more time with my family I needed to move to shore and work more on the management side.
After New Zealand lost the America’s Cup, we decided to come back to the UK where we had our second child. Since then, I’ve been involved in 13 or 14 new build projects including Black Pearl. For the first five years of the build, I couldn’t talk about it, even my wife didn’t know! It was a lot of hard work, 7 days a week – but it was interesting working for a client who had such a vision that he really wanted to follow. The fact that nobody had built a yacht like that before really wasn’t a problem. The client and Oceanco worked together to achieve a phenomenal yacht.
I’m from an older generation of yachties – back then, we had no idea what damage we were doing with plastics and things. I’ve noticed that a lot of younger crew are really into improving the environment; they are posting about it on social media and they go and do beach clean-ups. All of that rubs off onto other people. If you look around the industry now, there are lots of motor boats putting in battery banks and a lot of sail boats looking at regeneration that hadn’t ever thought about it before. Solar and hydrogen power has huge potential – it’s good for the industry and it’s good for the world. As long as we keep seeing owners who are able to make the initial investment in return for long-term gain, it bodes well for everyone.
Six years ago, a group of people, including me, sat in a life raft overnight in Southampton raising money for Sail4Cancer. We raised £28,000. About six weeks later, we were sitting in a pub and realised there was nothing social happening in the industry for a while, so we decided to organise a party. We thought between the three of us we might get 150 people, but we actually got 350 guests. It was just a normal event back then but we did raise some more money. I woke up the next day and thought how awesome it was and that as an industry we could do so much more. I went out and purchased superyactcharities.com and put together a business plan. Over the next year we created a board of trustees and made it official. We’ve raised over £400,000 for charities globally since then. There’s definitely more philanthropic work going on across the whole industry. There are initiatives like Cogs for Cancer, and the London to Monaco bike ride – it’s a very positive thing.
I think yachting in the next five to ten years will see people going further afield and doing more extreme destinations like Alaska, Papua New Guinea and Palau. I haven’t been to the colder climes yet and I’d love to do that.”