Valef Yachts' second generation, all women, take the helm of the fifty-three-year-old charter company.
Written by Elliott Greene / Photos by Gregory Karydis
When he founded Valef Yachts in 1969, Vassilios (Bill) Lefakinis pioneered the yacht charter business in a country predestined for it: Greece. Born in Athens in 1933, Bill left Greece on his own at the age of 13 to go to the United States to pursue a better life. He graduated from an Ivy League school on a scholarship, served in both the U.S. Army and in the Hellenic Air Force, and founded Valef Yachts at the age of 36 to provide comfortable access to the wealth of the Greek islands, under his motto 'Discover the Yachting World of Greece.'
When the yachting scion passed a year after the company's 50th anniversary, there was little doubt who would fill his deck shoes: his daughters Alexandra and Kassandra. Their mother, American Kathy Lefakinis, manages Valef Yachts' U.S. office. Working together, the women manage a portfolio of more than 400 exclusive vessels, delivering bespoke land and sea experiences in Greece and the Mediterranean with 24/7 support for their discerning clientele.
Bill's drive came from the need to succeed, and his daughters experienced first-hand the passion he put into the business, spending every summer on the Aegean Sea. "He did a lot of heavy lifting with his personality and charm. That was back then with no internet when you really had to make a lasting impression," remarked his daughter Kassandra. Before taking a co-ownership role in Valef, she made a name for herself in the wellness industry as co-founder of the organic self-care brand OPUNTIA Luxury Oils, which features a skin-healing aromatherapeutic blend of rare essential oils procured from the Mediterranean. Kassandra added, "The biggest gift of my life has been growing up on boats. It is all about a new approach to living and access to a different world. Greece serves that in abundance with each Greek island being completely unique and in no comparison to the other."
To reflect the generational and gender shift in leadership, the sisters have coined a new campaign moniker designed to celebrate the power of the female: "She will lead you anywhere and everywhere." The slogan reflects that boats are traditionally referred to as "she," a practice dating back to ancient times and likely stemming from goddesses and mother figures playing a protective role in looking after a ship and crew. In this instance, the' she' is a nod to both a Valef executive and the fleet in their charge.
"Greece reflects the soul. Being out on the sea feeling the elements looking into an endless horizon, your mind, heart, and soul go different places. It's a priceless experience," says Kassandra.
With vessels ranging from 60 feet to 325 feet, Valef's weekly charter rates range from $16,000 for a yacht accommodating up to six passengers to the highest category yacht with rates starting at $647,000 per week for a party of 36. For more information, visit valefyachts.com.