Peter Wilson And The Secrets Behind The Work of An Owner Representative

MCM is recognized as one of the world’s leading groups of marine industry experts. MCM was founded in 1988 by Peter Wilson and Nigel Ingram to represent Owners throughout the design and construction process of their yachts. Both Peter Wilson and Nigel Ingram have extensive backgrounds in yachting, including yacht construction, inshore and offshore racing, and blue water cruising. Based on the expertise and experience of its co-founders, MCM has been repetitively selected by owners to represent their interests in a wide range of superyacht projects and management, from steel and aluminium motor yachts to high-tech carbon-fiber sailing boats. During the 2022 St Barths Bucket Regatta no fewer than eight sailing yachts in MCM fleet crossed the finish line. An impressive result. We met Peter Wilson, in order to discover together what “lies” behind the work of an owner representative.

Vijonara Peter Wilson MCM owner representative
Vijonara – Credits Stuart Pearce

Recently, eight sailing superyachts from the MCM fleet raced at St. Barths Bucket. A great success almost 35 years after the foundation of MCM. What are the secrets behind this result?

I don’t think there is a secret per se, however, starting the business with the boatbuilding experience we (Nigel and I) had, along with hundreds of thousands of miles at sea, equipped us very well. Furthermore, having been involved with yachts of most types and sizes allows us to apply that body of knowledge consistently to each project. If you look at our website, you will get a good appreciation for the level of diversity that we have been fortunate enough to have been involved with.

How is MCM structured? 

When we start MCM back in 1988, we focused solely on new construction. We discovered quite soon after that the relationship with the yacht, extends well beyond the construction process. When there were questions raised about decisions made through the design/build phase, equipment, suppliers, details etc., the owners or captains would come to us. At that point, we realized that there was a need to support our burgeoning fleet. We, therefore, elected to start our yacht management division which takes care of all the post-construction needs and operational requirements. At the moment, our portfolio of yachts consists of those that we built, and at least half the fleet, those that we did not. So effectively MCM has two divisions, new construction, and yacht management. We do not get involved with brokerage or charter as we leave that to those best suited to that work. 

A conversation with MCM co-founder Peter Wilson

What are the main features of a good owner representative or if you prefer how your role can make the difference during the construction of a boat? 

The main features of a good owner’s representative start with experience, and the ability to bring that to bear on the project. Additionally, a clear understanding of how best to impose fiscal and commercial discipline, at the same time as building a team. Our philosophy is not one of adversaries. So rather than the shipyard being on “one side” and the owner’s team the “other side”, we try and engender a true team spirit whereby we are all working together to develop the very best yacht for the owner. Obviously, managing expectations and dispute resolution play a major role. Being knowledgeable in matters nautical is of course fundamental, but the ability to manage the team is equally as important.

In recent years you have worked with some of the most important designers in the world. Is there a project you are particularly fond of? 

Each project brings its own challenges and rewards. One starts with a blank sheet of paper, and three or four years later, the yacht is launched, the sails are hoisted, the boat heels over, and the sense of accomplishment is profound – and I have to say that feeling is as strong today as it was over three decades ago. So to choose one project that we are more fond of than another is a pretty big ask. I think it’s fair to say that having met or exceeded the owner’s expectations is the true reward.

Wisp Peter Wilson MCM owner representative
Wisp – Credits Cory Silken

Without naming people… what was the most eccentric request you received from an owner?

  1. We were asked to find a Portuguese Water Dog for a client. So, somewhat outside the typical scope of work.
  2. Though not specifically requested by an owner, one of the interior designers ask what that “round thing” was in the middle of the main saloon and whether it could be eliminated as it was seriously impacting the proposed design. I told her that it was a pretty fundamental piece of equipment for a sailing yacht. She said “okay, well if that’s the case, let’s move it to one side”. As it was the main mast, I had to share that such a proposal was inadvisable and may have a significant impact on the vessel’s performance.

Let’s talk about yacht management: how many yachts are there in the MCM fleet today?

We manage approximately 30 yachts ranging in size from 24 meters to about 70 m. The global pandemic brought many unprecedented challenges to the world of yacht management, including trying to get owners on or off their yachts. Trying to get crew on and off – and also finding which ports were open and closed. For yachts that had rotational crew, it meant that some captains/officers did not get to see their families for a year, rather than the more typical 3 on/3 off routine. Difficult times…

pelagic 77 Vinson of Antarctica
Credits Guy Fleury/KMY

Can you tell us something about the next projects now under construction? 

We have some extremely interesting projects on the books, including two sailing yacht projects in the high 60 m range. As we can release information, rest assured, we shall do so. In the meantime, keep an eye on MCM’s Instagram feed.

Last feed. Our classical question: what does sailing mean for you? 

As a young boy, I remember feeling the pull of the tiller for the very first time and the thrill of harnessing the wind and making progress across the bay – I was hooked. I spent many years on the racecourse in dinghies, keelboats, Grand Prix boats, inshore and offshore racing, expeditions in the high latitudes of both the Arctic and Antarctica – and having been involved at the very high echelons of our sport through participating in seven America’s Cup teams in roles ranging from shore manager to technical director. Sailing has been central to the most formative and profound experiences in my life.

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