Historically, a sailing school has been viewed as an elitist hobby-maker’s paradise. With Meridian Sail Academy, that image will no doubt start to crack. This fully-sponsored cadetship gives young people from around the world the chance to pursue their passion and launches them into an exciting and dynamic career in the yachting industry.
Many children dream of growing up and sailing on adventures across the seven seas – but the prohibitive costs of learning to sail often cut those dreams short. Another structural barrier into entering the yachting industry is knowledge of luxury hospitality. Private guests who charter fully-crewed sailing yachts expect a premium service, but young people often lack the skills necessary to provide that sort of experience and so struggle to find and keep employment in this highly competitive industry. Meridian Sail Academy is an all-paid for 21-month programme – no, not just a sailing school – for young people the world over, which prides itself in rearing the future masters of the seas, while taking care of the captains of industry of today. After graduating the programme, cadets are likely to find work anywhere in the industry; many stay on as permanent staff for Meridian Adventure, taking their guests to wild, unspoilt pockets of the ocean.
Unsurprisingly, given that it is a fully-sponsored programme which catapults its graduates into lucrative positions in the yachting industry, Meridian Adventure Sail Academy is an incredibly competitive programme. Prospective cadets are recruited from all over the world in a demanding six-step selection process. They are chosen on the basis of their eagerness to grow, intelligence, leadership potential, adaptability, motivation and last but not least, their passion for the ocean. As Captain Sean Galleymore, Meridian Adventure’s CEO, says: “By enlisting, you will grow and develop not only the theoretical and practical knowledge of your chosen profession, you will also grow as a person. You will understand your strengths, your weaknesses, and your limitations, as well as find within yourself the skills to lead. It is an opportunity to find in oneself self-discipline and accountability, whilst enjoying the adventure of a career at sea.” The goal is to pick out only the very best – and to train them to be even better.
All selected cadets undergo 3 months of introductory and safety training in Siğacik, Turkey. This sheltered, coastal district just south of Izmir (also known as the “pearl of the Aegean”) is the perfect place to become acquainted with what a career at sea entails. It is a picturesque locale, with warm, calm waters and temperate weather. The course itself, however, is challenging. The goal is not only to explain the basics of safety and equipment but to have each cadet value the importance of ‘the drill’. In Turkey, the cadets learn that everything on board a luxury yacht is done as a set drill to ensure professionalism, efficiency and safety. They learn that no short cuts are possible on board a luxury yacht and that following the drill is always the most efficient way to complete any given task. At the end of the three months, only six of the cadets are selected to study further, for the onboard cadetship training.
Those six who do qualify to this next phase are flown to Raja Ampat on Indonesia’s Pacific Coast, and embark on their 18-month on-board cadetship programme. The cadets were treated kindly by the oceanic conditions of Turkey, but they are still always blown away by the magnificence of Raja Ampat. This unspoilt nook of the planet is most certainly a paradise on earth. It boasts the best waters and most abundant marine life in the region and has been nicknamed “The Four Kings” by locals and tourists alike. Described by marine biologists as a biological hotspot and called the most beautiful island chain in all of South East Asia, Raja Ampat makes an everlasting impression on the cadets.
At graduation, each cadet would have obtained four highly recognised external qualifications (the VHF basic radio license certificate, Master of Yachts 200gt Limited (Sail) certificate, Master of Yachts 200gt Unlimited certificate and PADI Open Water Diver Certificate) and six certifications designed in-house, which test additional competencies. These in-house certifications test vital soft skills like housekeeping and guest services, as well as hard know-hows such as engineering and rigging. Cadets also go on to receive Adventure Activity Accreditation, ensuring the safety of all of their future guests. The combination of certifications has become well-regarded throughout the industry, in that the Academy’s graduates are exceptionally well-prepared for permanent employment.
The candidates selected for the on-board cadetship are the brightest and the best of the people who have applied; young men and women whose deep love for sailing is unparalleled and whose people skills are fine-tuned. They are intelligent, disciplined, helpful and above all, passionate about their chosen profession. Each one has been hand-picked and identified as a future industry leader. Even so, each intake of the Academy’s cadets has had candidates drop out prior to graduation. This cadetship, most especially the on-board training section, is a gruelling one. The Academy does not “do mediocre” – its cadets are expected to continuously give the best of themselves, and to grow and learn constantly. They are expected to leave the programme ready to take care of equipment, and to take care of – nay, spoil – their exceptional guests. They are also expected to show a commitment to sustainability and a desire to look after the wonders of the ocean world.
The reason the programme is as challenging and competitive as it is, is simple: the industry these young people are applying to be a part of is a challenging and competitive one! Contrary to the romanticised image folks have built in their heads, the hull of a yacht offers one of the most intense and demanding workplace environments. Not only is each crew member working and living in close confines with all of their colleagues, which requires of each one of them a high level of teamwork and respect, but a genuine love and appreciation for the ocean are vital in order to succeed.
In 2017, Meridian Adventure founded the Academy after Galleymore noted that they themselves struggled to find permanent staff of requisite calibre. There simply were not sufficiently well-trained candidates on offer, which promised to present an even greater problem for the future. Meridian Adventure SAIL has always and will always offer impeccable hospitality and service on board; their luxury yachts allow premium guests to feel spoiled while exploring the unspoilt pockets of the world. Such a feeling is only possible when the staff on board is thoroughly committed and knows exactly how to achieve to that standard. Rather than sit idly by or accept the sub-par status quo, Meridian Adventure launched its Academy – which quickly became a resounding success. Firstly, it gave Meridian Adventure a pool of qualified candidates to choose from – and allowed the company to ensure impeccable and consistent service on their expeditions going forward in decades to come.
Of the first six candidates to go through the programme, three are currently employed in the company and continue to grow from strength to strength. Renaldo Brand, who started on the programme in March 2017, immediately proved to be a crew member of utmost distinction. He quickly surpassed the understanding and skillsets of those who have been in the industry for years. On graduation, he was immediately employed by Meridian Adventure SAIL, and will no doubt find himself running a successful Mega Yacht one day. Another member of this cohort, Bradley Nelson, became the youngest cadet ever employed by Meridian Adventure SAIL. He had entered the Academy right out of high school, yet unlike most teenagers brought with him an unparalleled determination to not only succeed, but to surpass all expectations. He will no doubt rise through the ranks of the industry and will become a key figure in the industry.
The second intake of cadets was an even greater success for Meridian Adventure’s HR department, with every single graduate finding permanent employment internally. Amongst these new hires was the programme’s first female cadet, Marli Haasbroek, who excelled throughout her time on board and continues to hone her leadership skills on board Meridian SAIL’s luxury yachts.
In short, the programme has successfully filled Meridian Adventure’s internal needs – but it has also worked towards changing the industry and creating meaningful, sustainable change.
As much as the Academy was born out of a need, it also stemmed from Meridian Adventure’s constant desire for positive change. That is why the Academy is not just a sailing school, nor simply an at-sea hospitality programme. It is rigorous and intense because it has been designed to forge industry leaders who are passionate about every aspect of the ocean. Meridian Adventure wants to ensure that tomorrow’s masters of the sea know that a yachting career means taking care of the vessels, taking care of people on board and, finally, taking care of the environment.
The graduates of the Academy appreciate the importance of tidal streams, nature and the delicate balance of the ocean environment. They seek to limit any damage that reckless tourism may cause, and prioritise sustainability at all times. That is the kind of attitude that is necessary in order to explore untouched corners of the world, like Raja Ampat. A place as serene, as beautiful and as thoroughly unblemished by civilisation as Raja Ampat needs to be looked after. Meridian Adventure’s staff does just that – and its cohorts of cadets commit to those same standards.
Going on a trip with Meridian Adventure is about the journey, not about the destination. It is about exploring the unexplored and undoing the harm that people’s thoughtless pollution has caused the oceanic habitats. It is about finding beauty in corals, marine animals, and nature at large. And Meridian Adventure Academy’s exceptionally trained cadets are at a massive advantage when it comes to delivering on all of the above. They are committed to making the yachting industry a better, greater and more impactful one. They are committed to conservation, to luxury, to service. They are the future masters of the seven seas. So, when will you be joining them on board?