From its foundation in 1986, the American Yacht Charter Association has been educating our membership about maritime laws, safety requirements and regional taxation requirements. The AYCA has succeeded in our mission to assure our charter clients of a safe, legal cruise holiday arranged by a professional on the appropriate yacht for the charter location.
The Roots of AYCA
The history of the AYCA originated with a very specific event in late 1985-1986 when a handful of professional, independent charter brokers in New England, New York and New Jersey needed to make unique arrangements for the celebrated Tall Ships Parade of 1986.
These established brokers were booking clients to charter a variety of yachts to view the parade in New York Harbor and then continue with extended cruising. The group, led by Missy Harvey (of Yacht Charters Unlimited) and her assistant, Hope Frank, included well known northeastern brokers Jody Lexow, Linda Felner, Carolyn Cox-Titus, Judy Green Papos, Joyce Bryck and Evelyn Gresser.
They held several meetings, and checked all available dockage and mooring facilities. Besides finding adequate anchoring, these brokers also verified that the chartered vessels complied with US legalities and that proper contracts were issued.
During these meetings, other charter issues arose. It became clear to this small group that there would be a great benefit for an American charter association for professional, independent brokers. Thus, the Tall Ships Parade group invited two additional brokers (Ann-Wallis White of Annapolis and Lynn Jachney of Marblehead, MA) to a meeting at the New York Yacht Club to investigate the value of creating a new charter organization.
At the time there existed CYBA (the Charter Yacht Broker Association) operating out of Charlotte Amalie, US Virgin Islands whose focus was primarily on charter operations in the VI and the intricacies of that location. Many American brokers already were members of CYBA, however this New England group were more focused on legalities in charter regions around the globe, not just the Caribbean.
Chartering worldwide required knowledge about the varying requirements of each region (regarding contracts, taxes and cabotage limitations) as well as the impact on charter in New England, the US East and West Coasts, Canada, Alaska, Mexico, the Mediterranean and South Pacific.
And so the American Yacht Charter Association was formed with Missy Harvey serving as president from 1985-1993. As president, Missy led with all the initial organizational work and invited other well-respected and highly ethical independent brokers. The AYCA formed a board and met regularly to tackle the arduous business of professionalizing an industry that was growing with few laws and very loose interpretations of those laws. During Evelyn Gresser's presidency, the group established their By-Laws.
With the By-Laws set in place, an increasing membership of the AYCA was underway. In the early 1990s, the AYCA also began to accept qualified charter brokers who work with large yacht management and yacht brokerage firms.
Setting Professional Standards
The goals of the AYCA have been to achieve uniform standards in the yacht charter industry.
We developed a closer tie to the Mediterranean Yacht Brokers Association (MYBA) in Europe so that both sides could work together to establish and maintain similar business terms in our contracts, even though Europe and America have different admiralty laws.
The AYCA also works diligently with the yacht management agencies to maintain uniformly consistent ways of doing business. The acceptance of escrow accounts for deposits and disbursements is an important example of how our organization lobbied for the protection of owners and clients.
Influencing and Monitoring Maritime Legislation
In the 1990s, the AYCA took a strong stand with the US government with legislation drafted from 1993 to 1996.
Without our intervention, proposed federal laws would have had a negative impact on yacht charter in the US by changing the classification for large yachts (over 100 gross tons or generally over 90') rendering them legally "uncharterable" in US waters.
Missy Johnston and Bruce Brackenhoff led an AYCA delegation to Washington DC for consultation with the committee overseeing maritime affairs for the House of Representatives as well as the National Marine Manufacturers Association.
By filing repeated impact statements with the US Coast Guard and the Federal Registrar for public comment on proposed regulation changes, and hosting the US Coast Guard in Newport, RI on board industry charter yachts, the AYCA was instrumental in gaining a yacht charter classification that presently exists for US or foreign flag yachts in US waters or yachts chartering internationally under US flag for those yachts of at 100+ gross tons.
This new classification allows these yachts of 100+ gross tons to charter for 0-12 passengers in keeping with maritime laws in other countries.
Standardization of Charter Contracts
The yacht charter contract is the single most significant document in a yacht charter transaction. It identifies all responsibilities and business terms for the establishment and duration of the charter, supplying protection for both yacht owner and the vacationing charterer.
Starting in 2000, the AYCA created a series of standardized yacht charter contracts working with MYBA for standardized business terms. These contracts are applicable to inspected or uninspected vessels so that the AYCA would have appropriate contracts for American flag vessels operating on a worldwide basis and all flag vessels in American waters.
In addition to roundtable discussions of current business concerns, the AYCA has kept its membership up to date on the major governing bodies of the maritime arena including:
- US Coast Guard
- International Maritime Organization (IMO)
- International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
- International Convention for Safety of Life At Sea (SOLAS)
- Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA)
The named organizations regulate changes in admiralty laws in the US and/or in other countries which affect AYCA charter practices. By remaining abreast of issues that are under discussion and on the table for legislative change, our team can revise our contracts to remain in compliance and ensure that our clients are protected during their charter holiday.
Annual International Yacht Meeting
Early in the 1980s, Sylvie Romain of International Yacht Charters, then of Camper and Nicholson, arranged a small, invitation-only charter show for charter brokers at the Old Port in Cannes, France and for the following two years the show grew and included the new port in Cannes.
Only the best charter brokers and the most appropriate yachts were invited. Andreas Liveras, a well-known charter yacht owner was most encouraging at the Cannes show. He offered his yacht for meetings and subsequently annually gave delightful cocktail and dinner parties on his yachts at shows in the Mediterranean and in Antigua.
Arranging such a show alone took too much of Sylvie's time and she decided not to continue. However in 1986, AYCA's president Missy Harvey was aboard the Fair Lady with Captain Patrick Burke and clients embarking on their charter when they cruised into Porto Sole Marina in Sanremo Italy. Missy quickly struck up a lasting friendship with the harbormaster and head of the Capitanaire, Pierfranco Gaveling.
Missy Harvey's motto was "the best of the best" and that applied to invited brokers and yachts.
The criteria for the Saneremo meeting was strict: any yacht which applied for entrance had to be examined by two board members to evaluate the condition of the yacht, its equipment and the crew aptitude.
The board was a collaboration of AYCA and MYBA members.
Missy was immediately aware that Sanremo was a perfect location for hosting a Mediterranean yacht charter show: on the Ligurian coast, accessible to the Nice airport and with ample dockage for a fleet of yachts. Within short order she, Hope Frank and Commandant Gavagnin formed a board of European and American brokers to develop such a show, which was launched in 1987: The International Yacht Meeting.
The show was an enormous success for 12 years in Sanremo and Pierfranco Gavagnin, who cared deeply about the Mediterranean, the health of its waters and wildlife gave much of his time and interest into making this show the "best of the best."
At about the same time other shows developed in Greece and Marmaris, Turkey. In addition, brokers frequently attended shows in Antigua, probably the oldest of all charter shows, having started in the late 1960s, the Virgin Islands, the Newport show, originally sponsored by Whittemore and Williams in September, but moved to June yearly (and where the AYCA has one of its two meetings per year) and the Fort Lauderdale show in October. The AYCA has its Annual General Meeting each year during the Antigua show.
The AYCA's largest involvement in the International Yacht Meeting in Italy was in Sanremo especially as the board arrived early, worked hard to prepare for the show and critiqued it on the last day so that each year it improved. With Pierfranco Gavagnin and shortly thereafter Missy Harvey's death, the show was moved to Genoa where it has been held ever since at the Porto Antico.
For approximately 14 years AYCA and MYBA continued to work together to find excellent yachts for the show yearly and to vet the background of every broker who aspires to attend. Within the last few years MYBA has taken over full responsibility of the show. This is the only charter show run by the industry for the industry and includes educational seminars.
Reports on this show, the Antigua show the Greek and Marmaris show and Fort Lauderdale are given at AYCA meetings.
And so the AYCA continues as strong as ever and constanty vigilant to changes in the maritime community that affect the enterprise of yacht chartering.