Q&A with Benjamin Demarchelier, Club Manager Gustavia Yacht Club
ML: St Barts was unfortunately not spared the wrath of hurricane Irma. What was that like for you to be in Monaco preparing for the Yacht Show at the time, knowing the island so well and what your friends were facing?
BD: It was very hard to watch the hurricane batter the island I love. Stelios and I often met to watch the hurricanes approach and attempt do damage assessment as well as obtain any bits of news we could that ensured the safety of family and friends. Being away from the devastation in St Barts was not nearly as hard, I can imagine, as actually being there, but the desire to help was strong.
And Stelios acted quickly, taking advantage of the resources in Monaco, in order to immediately start a relief fund for victims of hurricane Irma. The fund has raised over €150,000 and has already allotted €20,000 on desperately needed items like generators and tarps, tools and supplies. We are continuing to raise money and working with other funds and people on the island in order to maximize effectiveness of the effort to protect and rebuild for the inhabitants of St Barts.
ML: It’s been nearly a year since Gustavia Yacht Club had a stand at the Monaco Yacht Show, with the official club opening following two months later. Tell us how the club has evolved.
BD: The Club started as an idea when, talking with friends, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou said that St Barts was missing something, and a proper yacht club like the one in Monaco would fit in very well.
From that initial conversation, Stelios began putting the ball in motion. He was able to secure a booth at the Monaco Yacht Show where his staff collected 100 memberships, both during and immediately following that event. As the word spread, membership fast approached the 200 mark before the end of 2016. Meanwhile Clubhouse facilities were taken care of by Stelios’ assistants and by the end of January, with membership around 220, I was hired as club manager as they were needed to help with his philanthropic association. Soon after, a boutique manager was brought on to help with the Club’s growing boutique business, which included embroidered polos, caps, plaques and various other items that members could purchase.
Various brands – in no particular order, Veuve Cliquot/Segeco, IYC, Chateau d’Esclans (producer of Whispering Angel), Jamis bicycles, Boutsen Design, and Sibarth – came on board to sponsor the club’s exclusive niche market. On the island of St Barts, various businesses wanted to offer rates exclusively to members, which members do use on a regular basis, ranging from deals with restaurants, hotels, masseuses, and artists who donate back to the club when members buy paintings.
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