Savouring the journey on a sailing yacht
For Richard Hadida, nothing beats an adventure at sea with his family.
It was over 20 years ago that Richard Hadida got the yachting bug – and it was all because of a wedding. “My sister was getting married to a Greek guy in Lesbos and for whatever reason, I thought ‘wouldn’t it be fun to sail there?’” Decision made, he got his day skipper qualification, rented a 42-foot yacht and set off on his way. “My sister thought I was the coolest brother in the world,” he recalls. “And for me, that was it; I fell in love with the peace and tranquillity of sailing.”
Fast-forward to today and Hadida is the new owner of UK-based Oyster Yachts, having bought the company when it went into administration in February of last year. “If you’d asked me this time last year whether I would ever buy a yacht company, I’d have said absolutely not,” says Hadida, who made his fortune in the gaming industry. But, after years of travelling on board Oyster Yachts with his family, the company had a special place in his heart and he couldn’t resist.
It didn’t go straight from that spontaneous Greek sailing trip to Oyster ownership though. “I had kids and my wife wanted to wait until the youngest one could swim unaided, so we had seven years off,” explains Hadida. When the children were finally old enough, the family experimented on a few charter yachts before finally taking the plunge. Attracted by their British craftsmanship and rich DNA, they bought an Oyster, then gradually went up in size, ending with their current sailing yacht, Lush.
“For the kids, Lush is another home,” says Hadida. “They are 12 and 14 now and we do so much travel with them. We try to use the boat as much as possible.” Last year, the family sailed to the Aeolian Islands, a volcanic arc north of Sicily. One night, they anchored off Stromboli, an island otherwise known as the ‘lighthouse of the Mediterranean’ thanks to its active volcano. “We had dinner watching it with all this lava melting down – how cool is that?” says Hadida. “It was like a natural fireworks display.”
And, of course, the family has returned to Greece since that first trip back in the day. “Last time we were there, we parked up in this secluded bay and noticed this strange tinkling sound,” recalls Hadida. “Suddenly, hundreds of goats appeared, all wearing different bells, so the whole bay echoed with this weird music. It was like a goat orchestra.” Another family favourite is the Caribbean – where they sail to every year. “It’s in the kids’ blood now,” says Hadida. In fact, they have plans to head there again in a couple of weeks for the Oyster Regatta, an annual sailing event in Antigua.
Hadida also has more remote destinations on his bucket list, including the Poles, inspired by another Oyster yacht. “The sister boat to mine – Firebird – goes up to the Arctic Circle and acts like a mobile ski chalet,” he says. “They go skiing where no human beings have ever been – they are literally exploring the unknown world. I want to do more of that, especially as my kids get older and can be more adventurous.”
That said, it seems that there is plenty of adventure happening on and off board already. Beyond the destinations themselves, Hadida keeps an enviable stash of toys on the yacht to keep things interesting. “We’ve got these four electric mountain bikes so we can go off exploring in every place we go to,” he says, by way of example. There are also ocean kayaks, a high-speed inflatable sailing boat otherwise known as a Tiwal – and Hadida’s favourite – a Seabob. “The Seabob turns me into a dolphin,” he says. “I can cover huge distances with it – swimming alongside turtles and becoming their wingman.”
For Hadida – much of the enjoyment comes from the journey – whether that’s cruising along with the turtles, watching the sunrise from his bed or eating simple, homemade food on board with his family. “Enjoying the journey sounds like a cliché, but for me, it is true,” says Hadida. “I am not in a hurry. I saw four whales last time I went from Corsica to Monaco – why would I want to hurry through that?” It’s a reasonable question.
There are plenty more memorable moments in the same vein. “We have all these purple lights under the boat which light up the water at night, so all these fish are attracted to it,” says Hadida. “Some of them are bigger than my kids, but they’ll happily dive off into these great big fishy swirls giggling and laughing.” It certainly sounds like an idyllic family holiday – and Hadida is as sold on yachting today as he was all those years ago.
“This whole thing about the two best days of owning a yacht being the day you buy and the day you sell is total rubbish. I’ve had the best times of my life on my boat, over and over again.”