Interview: Yacht Club de Monaco Director Bernard D’Alessandri

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Yacht Club of Monaco clubhouse and, as General Secretary and Managing Director Bernard D’Alessandri explained to Monaco Life, it’s been pivotal in the evolution of the Yacht Club of Monaco.

Bernard D’Alessandri has been at the helm of the Yacht Club of Monaco since 1976, over 48 years, and under his tenure as general secretary and managing director, the club moved to a new state-of-the-art premises. Since then, membership has increased exponentially, representing a myriad of nationalities.

Prince Rainier III created the Yacht Club of Monaco in 1953 and it has been presided over by Prince Albert II since 1984, when he gave it a new impetus. It is important to remember that the first regattas date from 1863; before the YCM, there was the Monaco Nautical Society, so the Principality has integrated the world of yachting for over 160 years, well over a century.

After the Yacht Club de Monaco’s 70th anniversary celebrations last year, festivities continue in 2024 with the commemoration of 10 years in the new clubhouse designed by Lord Foster, one of the most prominent architects in Great Britain. Once again, the calendar lives up to the ambitions of the collective ‘Monaco, Capital of Advanced Yachting’ approach, initiated by YCM to position the Principality as a center of excellence in this sector. High-level sport, the environment, luxury yachting, and maritime heritage are again in the spotlight throughout the year.

Nicholas Monsarrat wisely said: “Sailors, with their built-in sense of order, service, and discipline, should really be running the world.” That is precisely how Bernard d’Alessandri has captained the Yacht Club of Monaco for almost five decades, plus his magnetism and charisma.

The Monaco Yacht Club was designed by Lord Foster and is a significant landmark in Monaco. Photo credit: McClic

Monaco Life: What does this anniversary milestone mean to its members, yachting, and the Principality?

Bernard d’Alessandri: This 10th anniversary of the new clubhouse is significant, as we wanted to reflect the international ambitions of the Principality. The Yacht Club de Monaco has two primary missions. Firstly, it is a private club that brings together people who are passionate about the sea. It has 2,500 members representing 81 nationalities and aims to be a unique place to live. It is, therefore, responsible for organising numerous events exclusively for its members.

But the YCM also has a public service mission to promote the yachting destination. It is a driving force in the port and in raising Monaco’s international profile. It is a veritable showcase for yachting that is undergoing a fascinating transformation. Today, sustainability is the watchword. In line with HSH, Prince Albert II’s vision, “Proof must replace promise”: we must reinforce and quantify actions to promote them with facts and figures. Under a policy firmly focused on protecting the environment, and as part of the collective ‘Monaco, Capital of Advanced Yachting’ approach, the YCM is ramping up initiatives that underpin its commitment.

What are the added benefits of this impressive new building that became the centerpiece of the harbour?

The Club, open to the sea and Monaco, is an iconic structure at 43°44’15” north latitude and 7°25’40” east longitude. This ship-like building, inaugurated in 2014, boasts 5,000 m2 of interior space, 4,000 m2 of terraces, 204 meters long, a height of 22 meters, and six floors, allowing for the simultaneous hosting of various events.

YCM is committed to environmental protection through initiatives like the YCM Explorer Awards-La Belle Classe (21stMarch 2024) and the Monaco Energy Boat Challenge (1st to 16th July 2024). The clubhouse reflects this commitment, built to Haute Qualité Environnementale HQE standards and consistently meeting ISO 14001 criteria since 2016.

Monaco Energy Boat Challenge 2023, credit: Stefano Gattini

Eco-friendly features include photovoltaic cells, energy-efficient LED lighting, adequate energy, heating, waste, and water management systems, a harbor water-recycling hydro cooling system, electric vehicle and boat charging points, and widespread photovoltaic and thermal solar panels. Recently, we added a plant to treat the Club’s pool water, further contributing to boat washing in the Sports Section. A temporary standalone hydrogen production station, a world premiere, has also been installed.

YCM also promotes individual eco-responsibility and raises awareness among yacht owners through the SEA Index, encouraging the reduction of CO2 emissions in yachting. Event organisation includes using dynamic buoys with electric motors, preserving the ecosystem, and electric boats for events and sailing courses.

Actively engaged in promoting individual eco-responsibility, YCM also raises awareness of yacht owners through the SEA Index, the first carbon footprint calculator to allow quick comparisons between superyachts over 25m, targeting objectives to reduce CO2 emissions in yachting with an incentive system for the most virtuous.

Event organisation is not left out. With the Club’s use of dynamic buoys equipped with an electric motor to position them remotely throughout a race, there is no need to anchor them to the seabed, which protects it, and a portable battery so it can run PC regattas autonomously in terms of energy. The use of semi-rigid electric boats for events and its many sailing courses completes the solutions now in place.

All these actions illustrate YCM’s ambitious, proactive vision of what being eco-responsible means today.

“To be honest, we weren’t very confident at the beginning, as it was a significant challenge to undertake.”

How did your work change when the MYC moved from its smaller, familiar quarters to the new state-of-the-art building?

To be honest, we weren’t very confident at the beginning, as it was a significant challenge to undertake. However, this new building quickly brought about substantial changes to our work, opening a world of possibilities. Firstly, this new spacious infrastructure allowed us to host and coordinate various events simultaneously, which was challenging in our former, more confined premises. The addition of Lord Foster’s signature boosted our international reputation. This yacht-shaped building showcased Monaco’s yachting prestige and the Yacht Club of Monaco, solidifying its status as a leading institution in the international yachting arena. Ultimately, this building marked a pivotal milestone in the evolution of the Yacht Club of Monaco.

View of the YCM Marina and club, credit: Ferretti Group

What is your secret for keeping the soul of the YCM intact despite moving to more extensive facilities with an increased membership?

We were committed to preserving the soul of the Yacht Club of Monaco despite moving to larger facilities and increasing our membership by embracing our motto, ‘One Spirit, One Team, One Club’. Our unwavering dedication to preserving our heritage, promoting a welcoming atmosphere, and continuously involving our 2,500 members has been crucial. We have carefully preserved significant elements from our previous location, strengthened our staff, and maintained our Club’s friendly spirit.

There is no better tool or equipment you can have on board than a well-trained crew. What strategy do you employ for building an efficient work team? 

Passion is our driving force and a unifying factor among our staff. Probably due to the unique nature of the YCM being a private club, YCM staff shares a deep attachment to our members and the values of yachting. This devotion for the sea and yachting is accompanied by continuous training and various complementary profiles, with everyone committed to excellence in serving our members.

How do you interact with the Board of Directors? What would you say is their primary role? 

We have a very regular exchange on roadmaps and policies. It’s a collaborative effort, and discussion is essential. The Executive Committee is like a council of wise men, an approval authority for the YCM budget and overall strategy.

Members Summer Cocktail, credit: Mesi

So many events, so little time! How do you organise so many members’ events, sailing school, yachting conferences, exhibitions, competitive regattas, private affairs, and more?

I think it’s a matter of strong will. We have incredibly motivated competent teams working tirelessly to ensure our events run smoothly. We also rely on the Commissaires Fleet, comprised of many Yacht Club of Monaco volunteers. They are the living force contributing enthusiasm and their expertise to organising all the Club’s events. Working hand in hand with the Club’s staff, the Commissaires Fleet is organised into five departments and offers its recruits training courses throughout the year to ensure the quality of the welcome and the smooth running of the Club’s gatherings, positioning it as a benchmark in sporting events.

What is the most rewarding about being a director of the YCM?

It is undoubtedly seeing the joy on the faces of those who come regularly to the Club and participate in our events, whether they are members, sailors, the yachting industry professionals, or the public. But I’m also thinking of the young racers in the Club’s sports section. They come to training with smiles and make memories that will last a lifetime. That’s priceless!

“The biggest challenge is not change itself but the acceleration of the process.”

What was the most challenging task you faced in your career so far?

I think it’s the one common to all industries and institutions nowadays: access to sustainability. We continue to transform, as do all conscientious industries. All the players are willing and open to change, but the biggest challenge is not change itself but the acceleration of the process.

Primo Cup 2023, credit: Stefano Gattini

How do you see the Yacht Club of Monaco evolving into the future?

I hope the Club will continue its momentum and remain a significant player in the yachting world and through the environmental transition. I hope the industry will continue its eco-responsible evolution and become a model to follow. My aspiration at my level and with my means is that I will have contributed to this change.

Above all, I want to share my passion for yachting with the new generation, which is the key to everything. It is for them that we are working to accompany the sector’s mutation, to encourage it to become more eco-responsible to protect the environment and allow our children to continue to enjoy the sea. In line with the wishes of YCM President HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco, who believes, “Faced with the climate emergency, it is imperative that living proof of progress replaces the promises,” we strive to demonstrate that the technology exists and is efficient.


How the YCM’s SEA Index is setting the gold standard for sustainability assessment in yachting

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Main image: Bernard d’Alessandri, credit: Jean-François Ottonello