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YV&C News Desk: Celebrity Yacht Charters and Guys' Week at the Monaco Grand Prix

The Monaco Grand Prix is the crème de la crème of the Formula One circuit

International Yacht Vacations & Charters Magazine - News  Coverage


Viewing the most difficult Grand Prix in the world from the top deck of a luxury yacht docked at Port Hercules was the pièce de résistance for a group of businessmen traveling from the UK in style.

The Monaco Grand Prix is the crème de la crème of the Formula One circuit, when all of the glamour and prestige of the racing world is compressed into four glorious days in May - all within a tiny Riviera principality. Prime seating and hotels are sold out months in advance, and crowded balconies overflow with unlimited champagne and exclusive parties where the F1 drivers rub shoulders with celebrities and fans alike. What could be better?

Steve Clarke knows.

Steve is the director of compliance at HIFX PLC, the UK's premier provider of corporate foreign exchange and corporate risk management Together with his colleagues, Steve created an exhilarating corporate event in Monte Carlo for his top performers and clients.

The roar of powerful engines began five days before the actual race in Monaco. HIFX's team and their clients fired up the engines of 15 Ferarris and made their way toward Calais (France) from HIFX's base in Windsor (Berkshire, UK).

 As a member of the Ferrari Club in the UK and a frequent visitor to Monte Carlo, Steve knows the route like the back of his hand, and had planned a scenic tour that included several pitstops for fabulous French cuisine.

Winding their way down through France to the Cote d'Azur created quite a stir for all who witnessed this luxurious convoy in motion. After a brief stopover in Cambery, the group descended to Port Hercules in Monaco where the M/Y Azure Rhapsody, a 30m Azimut lay waiting.

Perfectly positioned along the Quai des Etats-Unis - close to the Tabac corner - with the enormous television screen just overhead, M/Y Azure Rhapsody's Captain Dominique Dubois and his crew eagerly anticipated the arrival of Steve, his colleagues, and their 25 corporate guests.

The HIFX group were thrilled. This signaled the transition from fast cars to faster cars, and five forthcoming days on board a fantastic yacht with the best possible view of the circuit and all of the racing action.

 As a first-time Grand Prix yacht charterer, Steve was a bit apprehensive. Although he was pleased with the specifications of M/Y Azure Rhapsody and her crew profile, there were some unknown factors in the equation.

When he made the charter agreement, the exact location of the berth was yet unknown. Berths for Port Hercules are allocated only the week before the race as the Captainerie has the painstaking job of fitting a large number of yachts into the port. The increasing size and number of yachts that make applications for this special weekend make this procedure a delicate balancing act.

Corporate events (like that of HIFX's), Formula One sponsors, and drivers alike, all make applications for berths early in the new year with the hope that their position will enable their guests to have the best possible view. Zone One is preferred as it encompasses the main area of the port with the best access possible - and in most cases, a view of the large television screen perched on top of the Port Palace Hotel.

"It was a great relief," said Steve, with a smile. "We have been coming to the Grand Prix in Monaco for a number of years, but this was our first charter for the event." Steve went on to explain that the decision to charter was based on the desire to create the ultimate corporate event. After bringing clients, friends, and family to the Monaco Grand Prix over several years, HIFX opted for chartering a yacht in order to combine a corporate bonus for staff and a client appreciation event.

Celebs at the Grand Prix. (L-R) Christian Klein, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Mark Webber pose during a guided tour of the Jaguar garage as the official guests of Jaguar Racing during a photo call on May 27, 2004 to promote Damon's new film "Oceans 12"

"Our company has hosted many corporate events in the past around events like Wimbleton and horse racing, but everyone dreams of the Monaco Grand Prix," said Steve.

Accommodation on board Azure Rhapsody was more than comfortable. With five cabins reserved for the HIFX directors, the remaining guests, mostly clients, were accommodated in nearby luxury hotels. Clearly it was preferable to remain on board as access to the hotels was a bit tricky due to the tremendous infrastructure of the race.

"Next year, we'll take a suite of rooms at the Monte Carlo Beach Hotel and use a shuttle to bring our guests to the yacht in the port," said Steve.

While on board, I had the chance to speak with Olivier Vinolo, the chef on Azure Rhapsody. I agreed wholeheartedly with Captain Dominique that it was "very important" to have a French chef on board as I watched Olivier create incredible appetizers for the troops on the top deck. Fabulous displays of appetizers such as fresh tomato with mozzarella cheese and perfect little sprigs of basil and other tasty treats were sent up as we chatted. Olivier explained that the Grand Prix held a special ambiance for a charter crew. The constant coming and going of guests also puts a big demand on the crew, but Olivier and Dominique were up to the challenge of feeding 30+ hungry and thirsty men more than 18 hours per day.

The group didn't spend all hours on board. In fact, on the Friday before the race Steve chartered a Fairline Targa to take his guests to Cap-Ferrat to Paloma Beach for lunch. Only a 15-minute cruise from Port Hercules, the group enjoyed a fabulous lunch on the beach in the sunshine. "I wanted to get the guys away from Monaco to experience the Cap," said Steve.

Treating clients and colleagues to the Grand Prix on board a luxury yacht was just the start of their Monaco experience, as Steve had organized tickets for tables at the Amber Lounge, a stylish nightclub created in the Grimaldi Forum for three days only during Grand Prix. The Amber Lounge opened in 2003 and was an immediate hit with the F1 drivers, celebrities, and those lucky enough to get tickets. With incredible music and a Moroccan ambiance, the nightclub was the perfect venue for Steve's group to chill out on Saturday night before the big race day.

The race itself was a great thrill for the guests on board Azure Rhapsody. With their fantastic location directly on the track, and the large screen above, it was easy to monitor the drivers. It was an historic day for the Formula One with Jarno Trulli's first win with the Renault team in Monaco. Trulli was followed by Jenson Button (BAR) and Rubens Barrichello (Ferrrari) on a perfect race day that seemed without end.

After the post-race celebrations died down, Steve invited Captain Dominique and the entire crew to join his colleagues and guests at a sit-down dinner on board Azure Rhapsody

"We'll definitely charter again next year," said Steve, "and in addition to our UK team, 25% of our guests will be clients from our new San Francisco operation."

More Stories By Tracey Rogers

Tracey Rogers prefers freelance writing to television, and is a devoted
fan of classic Rivas.

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