The Yacht Week has gained notoriety for its raucous parties and taking punters to some of the most beautiful places in the world – all on a boat. What started out as a small venture in Croatia in 2006, largely attended by friends of the founders, has exploded into a massive entertainment company that puts on boat sailings around the world. With its current Croatia boats, it has expanded into nightlife, offering a package with Ultra Europe and bringing in top level Djs to perform for those on the yachts. This year will feature a partnership with Ministry of Sound on a floating DJ stage with Monki and Melé performing. Other DJs who will also perform over the summer include Mark Knight, Weiss, Illyus & Barrientos, and Offaiah.
To find out how they put all of the pieces together, we chat with head of entertainment at The Yacht Week, Paul Lojszczyk to learn about how they put together their entertainment, the floating stage, how he got into the business and much more.
Croatia has been a vacation destination for decades (outside of the Balkan War), but the market has exploded in the past five or so years. What drew Yacht Week to it in 2006?
While I like to think it was the Croatian bumbag game (it's second to none), apparently that was only one of the reasons. To create the magic of The Yacht Week, there are a lot of location based boxes that need to be ticked, and back in 2006, our founders found that Croatia ticked all these boxes, and even a few more. From an infrastructure perspective, it was popular and developed enough to have the marinas, yacht supply and facilities. It had an exciting, developing music scene and a number of great clubs that could handle The Yacht Week events. Whilst it was a tourist destination in 2006, it was absolutely nowhere near the level it is at today.
The Yacht Week's founders were adamant that Croatia was going to take off as a buzz holiday destination in the way that it did. The geography is perfect for sailing with several incredible islands within easy sailing distance and the entire route is really well protected from swell, wind and anything else nature throws at us. The final important aspect is that the country is absolutely stunning. From the crystal clear waters of the Croatian coastline to the epic mountains and the medieval towns straight out of Game of Thrones, it's a place that is worth exploring and is best explored by sea, with your phone and wallet conveniently located in a satchel around your waist.
Why did you choose Ultra Europe as an event to build a Yacht Week voyage around?
We saw the launch of Ultra Europe in Croatia as an opportunity to give those The Yacht Week guests who are serious about their music and parties, the ultimate experience. Guests have the option to either sail to the festival, with a week of The Yacht Week as a warm up to the 1-3 days of Ultra madness. Alternatively they can attend Ultra then spend the remainder of the week cruising around the spectacular Croatian Islands, setting their own pace. Ultra has such a diverse, quality lineup, especially with the increasingly impressive Resistance brand, so a partnership was a no brainer. It's definitely not a trip for the faint hearted though!
What was the thinking behind the floating DJ stage? What creative and technical challenges (electricity + water) do you face with it?
Each and every week in Croatia we host two incredibly unique parties, that we call The Circle Raft and The Tunnel Raft. These involve every yacht in the fleet rafting next to each other in the middle of the Adriatic Sea, in a circle or tunnel formation. Guests grab a drink and their favorite floatie, cruise into the middle of this raft and hang out with their 300 or 400 new best pals. Sounds horrible doesn't it!
These parties have always been a trademark event of ours. Something unique that no one else out there does. We knew that to take the party to the next level and make it truly unforgettable, we needed a central music source, rather than each yacht playing their own music. For a few years, we had DJs set up from the top of a catamaran, which worked to a degree, but it still didn’t have the X-factor we were after. We soon realized that for the maximum impact, it had to be a boat in the middle of the raft. It was a few years in the making, but eventually, The Buzz is what we came up with!
Being the first time that something like this had been done; The Buzz had no shortage of challenges. We had strict weight limitations for the wasp structure and on the weight of the sound system. We had a company called Wrekon create the wasp-like structure completely out of recycled materials, and as light as possible. The Buzz then needed a sound system that would pack some punch, but wouldn’t sink it. We also needed a system that didn’t draw a huge amount of power, as unfortunately, we couldn’t find many power points in the middle of the Adriatic Sea. Therefore we needed a light, onboard generator to power the system and the smaller the power consumption, the smaller and lighter the generator could be. Everything had to be able to handle life at sea, being waterproof, able to withstand the heat of the Croatian summer and it couldn’t be susceptible to rust. Finally, we also needed crispy 360 degrees of sound so that every yacht in the circle raft could enjoy DJs like Claptone from the comfort of their catamaran, wherever in the raft it may be.
When booking DJs, how do you choose who to book? How far out are you booking these names? How long are their commitments to The Yacht Week? Is that a selling point and can that be a problem for some in the summer festival season?
We have over 40 weeks worth of events across the world every year, with most destinations having a different pace, or vibe and so the music reflects this. For example, Croatia is our home of music, with big artists, big venues, and big crowds, and the best of house, tech house, disco and hip-hop. When it comes to booking headline talents like Gorgon City, Mark Knight, Monki, Illyus & Barrientos and Melé, I'm looking for those artists that hit the sweet spot between being musically accessible, and the underground and look to collaborate with globally recognized brands such as Ministry of Sound. We then have a range of talented resident DJs who bring the energy day in, day out, as well as the hip hop collective Applebum who takeover one of our events each week with the best of old and new school hip hop and r’n'b.
At our smaller scale events such as Greece and Montenegro, we have a stellar lineup of musically diverse resident DJs, and we'll throw in the odd surprise collaboration. For example, last year we hosted a run of Hed Kandi shows in Greece and Goldroom featured heavily at our Montenegro event.
In terms of timeline, for the headline acts, we’ll start looking into names before the season is finished or even earlier, however this is a year round process. When it comes to resident DJs the booking process usually starts around the New Year and continues all the way up to summer… there are a lot of events to fill!
Each DJs' commitments are different; headline acts such as OFFAIAH will play the one show, whilst some of our residents such Bladtkramer, will play up to 10 weeks over the course of the summer. That guy's got some serious stamina. The fact that we have events essentially every day of the entire summer means that for many acts we can be flexible with dates and book outside of the standard festival / club weekend days which is an advantage.
Who have been some of your favorite acts over the years and some you are still looking to book?
Over the years we've had some incredible sets in some incredible places, with the likes of Claptone and Goldroom delivering fire from the middle of the sea and Maribou State giving us an amazing set in Croatia. Our residents such as Bladtkramer, Milo S and Adry & OMR consistently throw down huge sets with some very memorable ones over the years.
The number of artists on the hit list is always growing as we continue to develop and diversify the musical offerings on The Yacht Week, with a focus on everything from the underground to emerging international and local talents and established artists similar to the ones we have this coming season.
With plastic waste such a dire threat to our oceans, how do you guys minimize your environmental footprint?
The ocean is our playground and it is increasingly in bad shape, so we are continually doing what we can to minimize our impact and make positive ones. The use of single use plastics is one of the worst impacts, so we've currently implemented the following strategies to help reduce their use and to minimize our total environmental impacts:
Re-Usable Water Bottles for all Staff Members - Plastic bottles are our biggest single use plastic found on event, so we're issuing 500 branded re-usable water bottles for all our staff to use over the season.
Bags For Life for Hosts - We're ordering 1000 branded bags for hosts to use when they provision for the yachts, saving hundreds of plastic bags each week.
Removal of Plastic Straws - All plastic straws have been removed from food packages and we are working with venues to remove them from our events.
Upcycle Floaties - We offer a service for guests to upcycle the floaties they've used for the week and pass on to the following week's sailors.
The Revive Week - This year we are helping to fund the launch of the first Marine Litter Recycling Station in the Saronic Gulf and hosting beach clean ups in Greece at the end of the season, which we’re encouraging guests to get involved in
Croatia Clean Up - At the end of each season, our Croatian office team joins up with local divers to clean up the seabeds of bays our yachts frequent.
Day 8 Office Cleanup - We have an office day out to clear rubbish from The Thames on stand-up paddleboards.
Unused Food Donated to the Homeless - We reduce waste and help out local communities in Croatia by collecting unused food from our guests and donating it to the homeless.
How did you get into the industry?
Music has always been number one for me. I used to run a black market coke (coca cola just to clarify) business at school to make money to buy new CDs every week. Once I was earning real money at a legal job, all my wages went to gigs and festivals all across Australia. As a teenager I hated electronic music; “get a real instrument hey... and some talent whilst you're at it.” However as I started getting exposed to it in my early clubbing years, it started growing on me. I was lucky as at this time the 'bloghouse' era was kicking off via Hype Machine, which was all about making roughly produced remixes of all my favorite indie rock bands at the time, so it was a very easy entry into the electronic music scene. I was scouring blogs, downloading everything and anything and loving it.
With my iPod always being the one used at all our parties, I had an epiphany... apparently I could get paid to be the music provider. So I bought some decks, taught myself to DJ and off I went. The following 10 years would see me play all across Australia, Sweden, UK, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Canada, Montenegro, hold my own events, produce several tracks and remixes that hit #1 on Hype Machine and uploaded to The Sound You Need, and eventually work my way into the management side of things.
How did you find your way to your current position with Yacht Week?
I was in Leeds, UK, finishing my Environmental Engineering and Science degree and I had the whole summer free. I had a lot of time, not a lot of money. A good friend of mine from home, Beau Pilgrim, had once taken photos for The Yacht Week and so I asked him for some contact details. I was initially booked for two weeks to DJ, which was great, but I still had the whole summer free, and still had no money.
Then I saw the position of DJ Manager for the entire summer appear on The Yacht Week's website. I read the description and was like 'Well hi there dream job.” I managed to land it and went out to Croatia for the summer and burnt the candle from every side, managing the DJ team we had as well as playing almost every party for 10 weeks straight.
I did the same thing over the next few summers as well as moving into event management and video / photo content creation and editing. Each summer we would continue to build the music program up until it reached the world-class level it is currently at. With the increase in investment and programming I moved into the new role of Head of Entertainment and now manage the programming, promotion, the overall music and music content strategy.
What does Yacht Week look for in potential employees?
A timely question as I'm just finishing up a whole heap of recruitment for the summer. Whilst we have staff from all walks of life working with us here at The Yacht Week, there are a few essential boxes that potential employees must tick. They must be fun, passionate and dedicated, with a love to travel the earth, whilst respecting it. A hard working, positive attitude and adventurous spirit is also beneficial, as is a great taste in music of course!
For more information on The Yacht Week visit www.theyachtweek.com