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Jean-Marie Recamier, a half century at Camper & Nicholsons, Cannes
Tristan Rutherford
29th October 2019

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Jean-Marie Recamier, a half century at Camper & Nicholsons, Cannes

Jean-Marie Recamier is a distinguished link to Camper & Nicholsons glorious past. During a fifty year career the Senior Sales Broker has witnessed the heritage yachts of yesteryear and the company’s latest builds. Recamier’s additional role is to safeguard the company’s most renowned yachts. Each remains as finely crafted as when its original gentleman-owner first took charge.

With five decades experience at the highest level of brokerage, Jean-Marie Recamier is a titan of the luxury yachting world. But he’s quick to recall his lucky breaks. “In 1967 I raced in the Trailblazer series to train for the America’s Cup,” recalls the Senior Sales Broker. “By chance I was introduced to our company owner and future chairman, George Nicholson, who invited me to race the latest Camper & Nicholsons built sailboats.” It was a dream job for a 21-year-old. “I essentially voyaged around the Mediterranean with some of Mr Nicholson’s most prestigious clients.”

Work wasn’t all play. A few years earlier George Nicholson had pioneered the industry’s first overseas sales office, on La Croisette in Cannes, to broker orders for the firm’s shipyards on Britain’s south coast. Recamier regularly flew up to Gosport and Southampton to check progress for his clients. “The heritage at those yards was immense,” he recalls. “There were ancient yachts made of wood and steel laying around from Victorian times. And steamers and braziers for bending and hardening wood. You could say I’ve witnessed Camper & Nicholsons in the 19th century, as well as the 20th and 21st.”

In the late 1960s yachting had few rules. “You were essentially allowed to sail wheresoever you pleased,” remembers Recamier. “Yachting was a pastime undertaken for pure pleasure, by connoisseurs of sailing and speed.” Some crew members didn’t even possess a license but were natural sailors, like fishermen from Spain or Portugal. “Those with a ticket were mainly British or French naval officers who commanded their yachts with élan.”

Some of the era’s clients were larger than life characters. In the 1970s a young Recamier placed an advert in Yachting World for a recent sailing yacht. “Then Malcolm Forbes called me from New York to check her condition was as advertised.” For Forbes, one of the world’s richest individuals, the broker’s word was enough. “The next day Mr Forbes flew into Nice Airport on his private DC-9 airplane. It was painted gold and had the words Capitalist Tool written on the fuselage.” A few weeks later Forbes telephoned the young broker to thank him personally for his time.

Sadly, no tales from the mid-1970s onwards will be revealed. “To be a broker is to be a confidant,” Recamier explains. “In times past I would meet a client for lunch and they would choose to share personal information to help me search for the perfect yacht. I had to carry a lot of trust.” Although guests may share their sailing life on social media, it’s safe to say that Recamier isn’t on Facebook. “One of the reasons I still have clients after 50 years is because I keep everything discreet. I even act as broker for the third generation of some families. But if I breathed a word of their life stories, however innocuous, it would be extremely disrespectful.”

Such a career has brought Recamier alongside the a cornucopia of industry-topping boats. For him the most uniquely characteristic of classic motor yachts is 59m Marala, built in Gosport in 1931 to a Charles Nicholson design. The art deco cruiser, with its original MAN diesel engines intact, epitomises a decadent decade of high living and knowing sophistication. “The first time she had been on the market in 53 years is when I sold her two years ago, so she remains a Campers yacht.” Another favourite is 67m Anna. “This time I introduced the buyer to designer Michael Leach, while Feadship in Holland built her powerful, prowling lines. I believe she is among the most beautiful Feadships ever built.”

For Recamier, selecting a favourite Camper & Nicholsons sailing yacht is like choosing a favourite child. “But if I could only have one it would be 43.5m Sylvia, the second largest Camper & Nicholsons sailing yacht still afloat. She was built in 1925 but still cruises around the world. She is doubly interesting because I met her owner, the fashion magnate Don Emilio Pucci, in the early 1970s, then ensured this grande dame obtained the sensitive renovation she deserved. Then I sold Sylvia again 20 years ago, so I know she’s in safe hands.”

The company veteran of five decades has been responsible for other industry firsts. He co-started MYBA, a worldwide brokerage organisation that lent the industry assurance and trust. In turn this led to the creation of a small boating event in Port Hercule - now known as the Monaco Yacht Show. Recamier’s latest project is the launch of the Heritage Club to safeguard the history of Camper & Nicholsons most illustrious launches from the past century. “Our new yachts are beautiful,” confirms the Senior Sales Broker, “but tradition never grows old.”