During the pandemic, Capt. Hugo Ortega was working in the Netherlands aboard M/Y Harle undergoing a 15-year refit, and the bleak winter and Covid-19 protocols made him think about his goals and direction in life. This led him to create Superyacht Sunday School, which mentors and educates new crew by providing advice in their job search, life aboard, career progression, and more. The company welcomed its first students in October 2022.
Ortega has been in yachting for eight years with his most recent position as captain of a 27-meter sport yacht in South Florida and the Northeast U.S. “As a chief mate and master, I realized that I have so much knowledge and can better serve the industry by giving back to those at the beginning of their journey. Yachting is so focused on retaining the status quo, making information difficult to find or earn, and I wanted to change that," he says. “If I could help empower new crew, they might not get on board programs or yachts that don't deserve crew or take advantage of their naivety.”
Superyacht Sunday School teaches incoming crew about yachting and how to start, along with the problems most crew face and how to prepare for them. He empowers them with knowledge and experiences from other crewmembers as well. Plus, the feedback received from students is used to create more content.
“All of our students get personalized attention directly from me. Whether it’s through weekly Q&As, various ways to reach me, or a series of one-on-ones to determine what their goals are in yachting, I don’t force a round peg into a square hole and know that not everyone wants to be captain or chief,” he says. “We give actual real advice from crew who have seen a huge chunk of the industry, so they can move towards their goals instead of wasting time in situations that won't make them happy.”
Ortega shares that people entering the industry tend to not know where to turn and end up buying expensive courses they don’t need. They start their yachting journey in the red, and Superyacht Sunday School helps teach them that it doesn’t need to be that way. Since taking on students, he’s been able to help them properly find work, redo their CVs, and negotiate a proper salary.
In the future, Ortega wants to offer courses endorsed by the MCA and USCG and study prep, but his focus now is on those considering entering the industry and serving their needs. They’re also recruiting for a few yachts, and he wants to continue this element so crew who go through their courses can find work through them as well.
“I think that crew should know that there is no faster way to improve your situation than to get a mentor,” he says. “Whether it’s working with someone like me or finding someone in the industry, you will benefit greatly and rapidly if you’re able to learn from someone else’s experience.” @superyachtsundayschool on Instagram