Marine Consultant, Electronics & Communcations
Greymouth on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island is not the first place that springs to mind when contemplating yachting. Yet two illustrious names from the world of sailing are associated with it.
Sir Francis Chichester got lost searching for gold in the forests of the Southern Alps which dominate the skyline behind the town, thirty four years later Tom Cooper, was born in Greymouth, a town founded on gold mining, as well as timber, coal and construction.
Tom was encouraged to make a start in the building trade as a young man, but: ‘I felt the natural pull of the ocean, having been boating since I was a kid.’
So he swapped a hard hat for a souwester, retrained and landed a job slipping vessels in Australia’s Drummoyne Shipyard. Here his college studies in mechanical and hydraulic engineering and the use of non-ferrous metals, soon landed him the role of manager for the refitting of vessels as well as being in charge of the engineering department.
It was good to be in a steady job, but that ‘pull of the ocean’ still played on his mind and led him to take time off to sail and explore the east coast of Australia from Melbourne to Cairns in a 28ft John Alden sloop.
‘It was an introduction to a much bigger country,’ Tom said and also an invaluable cruise along the Great Barrier Reef which was to loom large in his business life later on.
Having eased the wanderlust out of his system, Tom returned to Sydney and enrolled in Technical and Further Education (TAFE) courses as a marine master and marine engineer.
Now aged 31, and needing a break from the world of academia the wanderlust returned and Tom went back-packing from Singapore, through Southeast Asia and into China, Tibet and across to India.
His two-year travels took him to Europe including the UK and a summer job, en route, as manager for a beach sports complex in the Greek Islands.
Eventually, he returned to Sydney and took up a new role as captain of a 140 passenger charter vessel for Freyja Charters, a job which resulted in Tom becoming general manager.
Meanwhile, back at TAFE he gained certification in GMDSS, Radar Operation and Medical. As well as having all his qualifications recognised by the UK Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) now applicable as the international standard.
In 1992, Tom started his own company, Tom Cooper Marine & Harbour Events which took off almost immediately. Warren Yachts contracted Tom to become the test captain of their 43m superyachts in charge of sea trials. For Oceanfast Motor Yachts he carried out multiple deliveries in power up to 72m and in sail up to 32m.
For Australian Customs he trained officers and crew in handling jet-powered vessels and he also ran a yacht charter business handling clients’ craft ranging between 20 to 35m employing up to 12 staff, except during the Sydney Olympics in 2000 when he employed 70 staff.
For six months of the next six years, Tom skippered a client’s 32m vessel to the Great Barrier Reef and the South Pacific for cruising and diving expeditions.
Tom’s charter clients included US President George Bush, senior, and Secretary of State, Colin Powell, the Crown Prince of Thailand; Country & Western legend, Willie Nelson; horse racing magnate Jim Fleming and wife Angela; industrial tycoon Sir Saxon of the Tate & Lyle family and media millionaire Ted Turner of CNN, who won the Fastnet Race, on handicap during the disastrous storm which killed 15 sailors.
Tom has also been a project manager for three of top yacht designer Ed Dubois’craft: a 125ft motor yacht; a 118ft motor yacht and a 121ft sailing yacht. He has also managed projects for Dehler Yachts.
In Taiwan, Tom headed up a new business project managing a fleet of 23m luxury motor sailors, whilst also founding Marine Centre which was a distributor for Raymarine, Webasto, Tru Design and Fastmount amongst other major marine equipment manufactures.
His technical skills led him at this time to train engineers for marine industrial giants such as Raymarine, Inteller and Webasto. He also made several yacht deliveries across the Taiwan Straits.
During his time in Taiwan he met Dick Beaumont and the first Kraken Yacht was born, White Dragon, a K66, the building of which Tom was the project manager for. He is now coordinating the interiors, digital electrical design and electronics for the K50 and the K58.
There can be few marine project managers who have built and sailed vessels in as diverse a range as from Sydney Harbour Skiffs to Superyachts.