What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Well, not this time, baby. This time, it played host to Ferretti Convergence 2019, the Ferretti Group’s annual captain’s training event. The Convergence series was started by Ferretti more than 20 years ago, and its tradition of combining networking, education, and fun in different locations around the world was on display amidst the bright lights of Las Vegas from October 22–25.
“[The event] is something that the company had started very small and then went on and built on it,” say Stefano de Vivo, Ferretti Group chief commercial officer. “It’s not just because we want captains to have fun, we want them to blend with us and vice versa. We’d like this event to become more and more a moment for the captains to get to know each other and to share views on relevant topics.”
Of course, captain feedback for the brand is essential, and de Vivo heralds the event as a perfect avenue for exactly that. “The captains in the end are the ones that live on the boats all of the time; they’re the ones that can help us improve the boats, giving us good feedback,” he says. “They are the ones that can help us get the owner to enjoy a much better experience.”
It’s a great way to build better relationships with the fleet captains, too. “The fact that we know each other changes completely the way they relate to each other and makes it a lot easier for the Ferretti Group team and for the captain,” de Vivo says.
The event has undergone a few changes in recent years as de Vivo emphasized that he was adamant about incorporating more than just teambuilding in the event. “This has to be a convention,” de Vivo says. “What we can do is that we can put [captains] in the same room with specialists, with our technicians that know how we’re building boats with classification societies, [and the] suppliers that know what goes on board.”
The Vegas event included interactive discussions from experts on hot topics, including a “Connectivity on Board” panel that tackled issues with increased onboard connectivity, integration, and privacy, including cybersecurity. Panelists included representatives from Ferretti Group, MAN, NaviOP SIMRAD, RINA, Volvo Penta, and MTU. An interactive site that ran for the event’s duration allowed for audience feedback and questions in real time, proving valuable in prompting discussion.
Day two’s “Preventing and Managing Extraordinary Weather Events” proved equally relevant as discussions ranged from anticipating weather to prepping yachts, to the insurance perspective on these ever-increasing extreme weather events. Panelists included USCG Vice Admiral Brian Peterman and USCG Rear Admiral Duncan Smith, Surveyor and former officer in the Royal Navy Neil Maclaren of International Bluewater Marine Services, Rob Carron and Andrea Gaudenzi from Willis Towers Watson, Ronny Skauen from SIDE-POWER, and Andrea Venturelli of RINA. ASEA POWER, Seakeeper, and VideoWorks also hosted Technical Corners throughout the event, where captains could chat about their products and services, most of which could be found on board the vessels they run. The information available from the sponsors would be included in a team quiz on the final day.
But fun was not forgotten — how could it be in a place nicknamed Sin City? Delicious meals were provided throughout by various sponsors, and captains were also given the opportunity to explore Las Vegas and take in several of the city’s famous sites. What would Vegas be without a show? Good thing we didn’t have to find out as guests were treated to a fantastic performance of “O” by Cirque du Soleil at the Bellagio, followed by dinner at Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace. The second evening saw the group venture out to Convergence Night at Stratosphere, the tallest building in the state of Nevada, providing unparalleled views of the Vegas skyline. Those brave enough could try out one of the hotel’s three rides.
But perhaps it was Wednesday’s teambuilding experience at Sandy Valley Ranch that really determined who the real cowboys were. The captains were divided into eight “gangs” to compete in cowboy activities, including roping, BB gun marksmanship, axe throwing, riding the bucking barrel, box hockey, and horseshoes. Each completed skill was rewarded with hay cubes — the team collecting the most was the winner.
The real question was who would be left standing at the end of the day. While the captains’ skills were in remarkably fine form, team competitiveness saw some mischief and outright thievery as the fight to collect points escalated through the afternoon. A tug of war and a hay bale hauling race rounded off the contest, and it was ultimately Team Turquoise who won with the heaviest burlap sack at 106 lbs — and no cheating. (We’re looking at you, teams Yellow and White.)
In fact, Team Turquoise won the entire competition after holding on to their lead during the final team quiz portion on the last day. Each team was given 25 minutes to complete the quiz, which was based on information available from the Technical Corners. After a final prize giving, the final day concluded with an award ceremony where the captains received certificates of attendance and the winning team were awarded waterproof stereos.
The captains are fans of the event. “[The event] brings consistency to relationships between industry professionals,” says Capt. Emilio Veronese. “The exclusive context of the event, the way it is conceived and organized, allow [us] to interact with professionals from U.S., EU, APAC in an active and relaxed way, where everybody can share their knowledge and experience face-to-face... This contributes also to improve the quality of my work, the yacht management, and the service I give to the owner.”
“What I most like about the [event] is the fact that all captains had the opportunity to update ourselves with the new technologies that are developed in the industry and at the same time they covered important topics,” says Capt. Randy Gomez. “The good organization of the event, camaraderie and the opportunity of being able to speak directly with the manufacturers of some of the equipment that we have on board are the main reasons why I would attend again.”
“In the end, my dream is that every year we’re going to create a paper at the end of [the event, with] research materials that [captains] can go home and read and they can keep on sharing like a symposium, because this has to be super fun but super useful,” de Vivo says. Sounds like it hit the mark.