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On Water: Captain Fañch David

On Water: Captain Fañch David

Jul 1, 2024

It’s a very hot and sunny day in Singapore as we walk up to the Royal Pearl. Captain Fañch David warmly welcomes us inside the swanky 32m superyacht that stands glistening under the midday sun.

Fañch leads the crew to the bridge, where all the magic happens so to speak, recommending that as the best place for the photoshoot, cutting our recce time by half. Just as well as the superyacht is the perfect muse for a photoshoot and zeroing in on one spot would have been challenging. The Royal Pearl’s contemporary and chic interiors were designed by luxury British design house Princess while the exterior design is by award-winning designer Bernard Olesinski.

“It’s 12 years old, the first in the series of Princess Yachts, in fact,” counters Fañch, as I wonder aloud if the yacht is new—my expression transforming quickly to deep appreciation. Keeping the boat shiny and clean, and polished is an important part of the maintenance regimen, explains Fañch. He maintains a schedule detailing everything to be done on the boat and the crew member/members assigned to each task, from deep cleaning to ensuring the systems are all running—the safety, engine, electricals, hydraulics, sensors, communication, refrigeration, and more.

“I am just the conductor of the orchestra,” laughs Fañch. “When people say that the boat is beautiful, the credit does not go to me. It’s because they are doing the job well,” he adds humbly and unabashedly proud of his crew.

But all of that comes from a deep-rooted passion for his job and the sea, a love that he was almost born into.


Fañch was born in Brittany, in the north-western region of France, which shares its coastline with the English Channel to the North, and the Celtic Sea and Atlantic Ocean to the West. “It’s the land of the seafarer,” quips Fañch. “My passion for the sea stems from there, living in a house that was 30m from the beach.”

He was all of six years old when he started dinghy sailing at the local sailing school advancing to joining his fisherman grandfather at sea; cruising with his family at the jewel of Brittany: Gulf of Morbihan; and racing, and won international and national trophies while being a part of the French national sailing team.

“My home town is La Baule, which produced a lot of champion sailors such as as the Pajot brothers, Peyron brothers, Yves Loday, Jean Maurel and many others in the international sailing stage,” he lists. “Bruno Peyron—holder of the 1994 world record for circumnavigating the globe in under 80 days—is a good friend and has come to visit me a few times in Asia. I have sailed in almost all his catamarans.”

By now, we have established Fañch’s connection with the sea enough to know that this was not just a name-dropping exercise. He has also sailed with all of the afore-named champions.

“But I was young then and the prize money was not too much, so I had to start making money. That’s why I came into the fishing industry,” says Fañch on having to do a reality check. He stayed in the industry for years, building his way up to get his IMO number, a unique ship identifier number that gives it the rite of passage among others.

A fateful detour to Thailand in 2008 to visit a friend in Phuket while waiting for a project confirmation in New Caledonia would trigger a pivot to the superyacht industry. During his stay in Phuket, he was offered a job by a Frenchman who owned a 40m Oceanfast motoryacht and a Dubois sailing yacht. “That’s how my career in superyachts began, and I stayed on with the same owner for 10 years,” says Fañch.

A failed refit and COVID-19, brought him to the Royal Pearl as a chosen replacement by its former captain—“a former fisherman as well”, laughs Fañch at the coincidence.

When it comes to being the captain of a superyacht, where Fañch had to upgrade was just his conviviality skills, he adds. An advice he gives his crew all the time: “To be present and attentive but not too close”. It can be challenging for him and the stewardess to draw that line—”to be there but not really”, but it’s something that he insists on and has mastered over the years.


Where to next? Does he see himself grounded, going back home to be close to his family? “My children are all grown up and have lives of their own,” he says. Fañch has a son and a daughter, now 28 and 33 years old respectively, based in Brittany. They grew up with their mother, his ex-wife, although they visited him often when he was in Phuket—his son has also lived with him for about three years.

“I am 54 now and I still have 10 good years ahead of me,” says Fañch. He does not see himself going back to being a fisherman either. “When it comes to pleasure crafts, we don’t go into rough seas[or encounter such anomalies]. The scariest times were when I was a fisherman,” he says, explaining the differences in the world, where he has more control.

He recalls a time as a fisherman when his net pulled up a mine. “Everytime we draw the nets in, we make sure that there isn’t a stone or something strange caught in it—this was floating in the water and we caught it,” he says. They had to get the army involved—“the soldiers were like: ‘Ha ha, it is a very old mine’. But it was a scary experience for us.”

That said, he ensures his crew is well prepared by scheduling systematic disaster drills and timing their response time. “I like to see my crew growing up on the job. They have helped me grow up as well,” he’s like a man who lives a fulfilling life.

“My friends tell me all the time that I am lucky to be able to travel all around the way I do. I tell them luck has nothing to do with it, it’s a choice I made—to be happy.

The original article was published on the July/ August’24 issue of Longitude, ONE°15 Marina’s Club magazine. Read it here.