Recently our Managing Director Adam Hunkin caught up with Superyacht Content to discuss his background in the industry and why he decided to pursue a career in the superyacht industry and ultimately launch Polaris Yacht Supply.
Adam has spent the majority of his life on the water, learning to sail in dinghies aged 2, followed by dinghy and marathon kayak racing as a teenager and then yacht racing. Adam took the plunge and began his career in the superyacht industry after finishing his A Levels.
Tell us your journey as a yachtie?
I worked onboard superyachts for 5 years on private yachts from 40m to 110m both sailing and motor yachts as a deckhand/ chase boat captain. The last yacht I worked on was MY Bystander (JK7 Fleet), the support yacht to SY Velsheda, a 1930's J Class yacht.
When did you leave the superyacht industry and why?
I left my career at sea in December 2019, coincidentally a few months prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 and opted for a shoreside role instead. It got to a stage where the bug for adventure was wearing off and I was craving a better work/ life balance. I knew I still wanted to stay in the industry but in a shoreside role instead.
Prior to leaving, did you plan an exit strategy as to what land-based job you'll transition to?
I didn't plan an exit strategy mainly because I knew I could fall back into the industry if I needed too, having done more than two seasons already and countless yard periods. I knew I wanted to work within the marine sector using my core interests which are product design, yachting, and business, having studied two of them at A Level.
What is the most important lesson you learnt being a yacht crew that has stuck with you till this day?
The most important lesson from yachting that I have taken away is the attention to detail that the industry lives by. It is true that our industry although incredibly small compared to the rest of the world, lives by meticulous standards. This is stuck with me and has been especially useful in launching my first business in the industry. I was introduced to a quote by a good friend of mine recently which sums up our industry in a nutshell "Detail makes perfection, and perfection is not a detail" - Leonardo de Vinci
What is your current job role and where are you based?
I am the Founder and Managing Director of Polaris Yacht Supply, and we are based in the UK.
Can you tell us more about Polaris Yacht Supply and how the concept around your business came about?
Let's start with the name. Like all intrepid entrepreneurs, myself, some friends, and some family spent hours deciding the name around the kitchen table and in the beer garden, brain storming. Polaris Yacht Supply came about as Polaris is the North Star. It may not be the largest star in the sky, but it will always be there when you need it, just like us! I wanted a company name that was catchy and instantly recognisable as to what we do, and I think we nailed it!
At Polaris Yacht Supply, we specialise in supplying the finest deck equipment to superyachts and shipyards worldwide. Anything from Tender Mooring Whips and Carbon Fibre Swim Ladders to Inflatable Fenders, Mooring Lines, Deck Procurement and Safety/ Working Aloft Equipment. You name it and we will supply it!
What is the most important lesson you've learnt since starting your own business? And the most valuable skill your learnt on board that helps you day-to-day in your current job?
That's a tough question but probably the first thing that springs to mind is to take every opportunity that arises (if its financially viable!). This applies to both launching a business and your early days looking for your first gig onboard. I believe as a new business and as a small fish in a very big pond in this industry, you need to be adaptable and to easily alter course to stay on top of your game which will subsequently help the business grow.
Also, what I learnt onboard was timings. The industry generally runs off a very tight yet highly flexible time schedule when cruising or in the shipyard during refit and maintenance periods. As crew, you need to quickly adapt to a new environment and continue as if it is normal. This will stick with you when you move shoreside.
Did you always know that you wanted to start your own business in the superyacht industry?
I joined the superyacht industry fresh from school and longed for a career at sea coming from a family full of seafarers. It started with my great-grandfather who worked as a Cornish fisherman and crewed on SY Shamrock V during the 1930's, my parents also served in the Royal Navy for over 20+ years, so you could say a seafaring life is in my blood. From day one, I was destined to join the Royal Navy until I was steered towards the superyacht industry by a former Rear Admiral who knew the owner of a 75m yacht. After a long conversation with him and lots of research, I went to Antibes with Bluewater Yachting to do my STCW' 2010 and all my courses in between studying for my final A Level exams. As soon as they were finished, I packed my bags for Antibes again and the rest is history! I knew that I wanted to have my own business at some point in my career but in what industry was unbeknown to me.
If you could go back to the start of your career, would you change anything? I.e., financial choices, ways you would have enhanced your CV, extra courses, and so on?
Thats a tough question! Going back, I would've done my first season in yachting and then taken up a 3-year cadetship either through the Royal Fleet Auxiliary or Merchant Navy. I have seen first-hand the leg up it gives you in the industry with several friends going down this route. The reason is that it gives you a good leg up in your career and really fast tracks you into the officer positions which come with more responsibility, better work/ life balance (rotation) and a higher salary.
What does success mean to you and where do you see Polaris Yacht Supply in the next 5 years?
Success to me means the ability to do what I want and when I want. I believe success shouldn't be purely based on your finances but to have the support network of friends and family around you that have been there from day 1. Hopefully in 5 years' time, Polaris Yacht Supply will be one of the leading superyacht supply companies, known all of the industry worldwide by crew, shipyards, management companies and yachts.
Lastly, can you share 3 pieces of advice for green/ entry crew on how to begin making sustainable choices in their yachting career?
My first piece of advice and I am sure a lot of yacht crew can agree with me here, is not to spend all your money at once! Make sure you have a solid investment plan (there are several great investment companies for yachties out there) and save a percentage of your salary each month.
Secondly, is to absorb as much information as possible from your senior crew and friends as this will massively help you in progressing your career.
Thirdly, have fun and enjoy it! We all see the glitz and the glamour of the industry online but rarely show the behind-the-scenes of it all. You must first put in the hard work to be able to sit back and enjoy it all (even if it only doing a rubbish run ashore in the tender, mid boss trip!).