Jochen Rieker. This is a name that may not be familiar to too many people outside of Germany or Europe, but if you are part of the boating industry or the journalistic community, this is indeed a trademark, just like Toby Hodges or Matthew Sheahan. You, my dear readers abroad, are probably used to the “European Yacht of the Year” award. I’d say it’s the most prestigious award in the boating industry and a seal of quality for any boat, coveted by shipyards all over the world. Now – Jochen is one of the driving forces behind this award, and until recently was editor-in-chief of Yacht magazine, a position he held for almost 25 years at the helm of Europe’s largest yachting magazine.

Meeting Jochen online

His story is worth telling. Now in his early 60s, he has decided to slow down a little, make way for a new generation of dedicated journalists at the top of “Yacht” magazine and concentrate on writing (he has recently published a book about IMOCA 60 racer Boris Hermann and his Malizia Team in the Ocean Race). He also remains part of the regular “Yacht” crew, a “plain and simple copywriter” as he calls himself. I met Jochen for an online chat a few weeks ago, here’s what we talked about.

Talking to Jochen Rieker of “Yacht”-magazine

Lars Reisberg | NO FRILLS ”Jochen, thanks for taking some of your precious time off of your still filled-up schedule to talk to me. Just tell me, how does it feel to “leave the bridge” after such a long time at the helm of “Yacht”?”

Jochen Rieker: “Well, it feels pretty good, Lars! The demands of being responsible for a whole magazine, covering more than a dozen in-depth topics every other week, were a bit taxing. So not having to take care of the editorial department, the budget, all the planning involved is a relief. It just feels good. But work-wise, to be honest, I have not really reduced my hours: I’m still a pretty active part of the Yacht team, focusing on writing, providing content and advising the editorial team. There is still a lot to do.”

A brand new Editor-in-Chief …

NO FRILLS ”How and why did you decide to “scale back” and exit as editor-in-chief?”

Jochen Rieker: “Well, it was always clear to me that I did not want to work until I reached the official retirement age, which in Germany is close to 67 years now. I could never really accept the idea that it’s just now, after reaching this threshold, that I would be able to do what I couldn’t do freely in the past decades, to hope for three or four good years of sailing, if my physical strength would still allow for it. So in the summer of 2022 I took a few weeks off to get some clarity. I deliberately did not go sailing on my boat but instead rode my motorbike through the Alps. And as funny as it is, it was only on the second day of that trip that I had this pure clarity and a deep understanding of what I was going to do next …”

Editorial routine; Meeting Magnus Rassy

NO FRILLS ”… resign?”

Jochen Rieker: “Well, in a way fate also played a role: The publisher of Yacht was about to sell the magazine to another company. I felt it shouldn’t be me steering the transition at the helm of Yacht but someone with a long-term perspective. So I took advantage of the circumstances and decided to make the jump. I am happy with my new position and very excited and proud to see the next generation taking over. I will stay with Yacht for one more year full-time. After this period, I will slow down and finally go sailing for real.”

To her limits: Testing the HR 400

NO FRILLS ”On the other hand, the whole sector of print publications, especially in the special interest sector, is under enormous pressure right now, isn´t it?”

Jochen Rieker: “We cannot rationalise away the fact that the economic pressure, the decline in spending by advertisers and the general economic development at the moment are making it very difficult for publishers to maintain their business models. On the other hand, I and the entire editorial team at Yacht feel that we have an obligation to maintain a high level of journalistic quality. We want to be among the first to publish when there’s something to say, when new developments or trends emerge. I mean, it’s a very tough business in reality, and of course it’s even more stressful in the conditions we’re facing right now – even for a market leader like us. I was certainly susceptible to a heart attack in the next few years if I hadn’t stopped or slowed down soon. (laughs) Obviously that’s something I want to avoid.”

ClubSwan 50 test!

NO FRILLS ”What would you say how much has the “Yacht”-magazine changed since you stepped down as Editor-in-chief?”

Jochen Rieker: “Everyone will have a very subjective opinion on that. Personally, I think the magazine is bolder and fresher now in terms of the title and the range of stories. It feels a bit more modern now, maybe a bit more remote of ‘the pontoon’, collecting more stories and content with a broader view, I’d say. The new editor, Martin Hager, is certainly bringing some of his own favorite content into the magazine, which is normal. He also runs the magazine “Boote exclusive”, which is dedicated to superyachts. So there is more of that in Yacht, which I think is a good thing. But to be honest, the magazine has not changed dramatically. If there will be a significant change at all, it will be slow and gradual. Let’s put it this way: The magazine is staying true to itself. But Lars, what do you think? I mean, you are one of our readers, aren’t you?”

NO FRILLS ”Well, to be honest, I don´t see all too many changes myself indeed as well. But this can be a good thing, right? I mean, a change of helm doesn´t necessarily mean that a revolution must follow. “Yacht” is a brand that is 30, 40 years old … well, how old is it, by the way?”

Jochen Rieker: “An incredible 120 years by next July, my friend! Unbelievable, right? It is actually only one year younger than “Yachting World” and was founded with the support of the German Kaiser…”

Jochen Rieker attending Silverrudder 2015

NO FRILLS ”… oh really? I didn’t know that! Now I can understand why Yacht has become one of the most recognized and, for Europe, still the biggest yachting magazine there is. When did you join the Yacht staff?”

Jochen Rieker: “Oh, that’s quite a story! It was in 2000 during the start-up phase of the “Financial Times” Germany. After seven years at “Manager Magazin”, I joined the team and we set up the editorial process. As you can imagine, it was like running a marathon but at a sprinter’s pace. Pretty stressful, so I was planning a sabbatical after the launch. And as things sometimes happen, a friend told me at a party that Yacht was looking for a new editor-in-chief. My friend said: “You’re a sailor, you know the ropes – call them!” But it took me a few weeks to overcome my reserved attitude and make contact…”

NO FRILLS ”… why so reluctant?”

Jochen Rieker: “Well, you know it yourself, don’t you? Making your hobby your job is a double-edged sword, isn’t it? I was somehow afraid to combine my personal, private passion, which is sailing, with a job in which you have to deliver. So I started with a 2-year contract, which I thought was fair to both the publisher and myself. Those years flew by. Then I was part of the 100th anniversary celebrations, which was a real highlight for me. And then it just never stopped being exciting: We founded “Yacht-TV”, “Yacht Classic” and the “European Yacht of the Year” award… it was a coincidence, perhaps fate, and I have never regretted it!”

“European Yacht of the Year” editor´s meeting 2002

NO FRILLS ”You mentioned the term “hobby becomes profession” – you saw your job within the Yacht magazine as exactly that, right?”

Jochen Rieker: “I would suggest to everyone to take such an opportunity if it presents itself – without hesitation. I mean, to work in a field or subject that is your passion is just perfect because … everything comes so easy. If I imagine that I would have to sit down in the evening and read a book about, let’s say, administrative law in order to be able to fulfil a task the next day at a boring desk in a boring office … I could never do it! Watersports, sailing and boats are fun. And so is my job.”

Every nook and cranny: Boat test

NO FRILLS ”Being my own little editor-in-chief at NO FRILLS, the most interesting question for me is how “Yacht” managed to become Europe’s biggest yachting magazine. Is this just an assertion or a proven fact?”

Jochen Rieker: “It’s a fact, and audited, too. Yacht’s reach and sales figures are a multiple of all of our competitors, and our magazine is read for an average of three hours. I find these figures quite astonishing. The reason for this success? Well, I think it is because – oddly enough! – we Germans have a kind of deep longing inside us. It’s strange, I know, because the rest of the world would say we’re too intellectual, too technical. But a kind of yearning is something we bring with us. I mean, we used to run the world’s biggest IT show, the world’s biggest travel show, we still have the most important book fair, one of the world’s leading car shows, and last but not least, the most important boat show is boot Düsseldorf. So that means something. I’d say the further away you are from the sea, the greater the yearning. We are good at organising things and we are good at producing magazines – I think that is one of the reasons. Talking about Yacht magazine, I would say that we have never been either technical or emotional, cruising oriented. “Yacht has a good balance between the two, we are good at combining the fascination of sailing with the technical aspects and also looking at the details.”

Go small: Jochen on his Seascape 24 in 2020

NO FRILLS ”I remember a Beneteau dealer meeting a few years ago where Gianguido Girotti, Deputy CEO of the whole group, mentioned that he had sailed once in the European Yacht of the Year seatrials when you went overboard in a small 18-footer. And he told this little story of sailing in some rough conditions. He remembered you getting onboard his boat, still dripping wet from the incident before, saying: “Jochen Rieker got wet… you don’t want Jochen Rieker to get wet!” I found this quite remarkable ….?!”

Jochen Rieker:(laughs very hard) “Oh, really? Well … I think it has more to do with the way we work at Yacht magazine, not so much with me as an individual. You see, we have never abandoned our code of conduct, our meticulous and perhaps at times enervating working ethos. We have never watered down or weakened our standards, not in good times and not in times of crisis. After all these years of boat testing, we still find ourselves crawling into bench lockers and taking measurements, looking behind every nook and cranny of any boat. Not that the measurements of a locker are all that important, but it is the crawling into the farthest corners that reveals how a boat is built, you know? We still do that on every single boat and the shipyards or builders know it. You see, there are others who write four or more pages of boat tests and they have barely spent ten minutes at the helm. Or worse, they haven’t even been on board! Apart from that, the shipyards know very well how we work and that you cannot argue with us…” (with a slight smile)

Farewell to Wilfried Erdmann, 2000

NO FRILLS ”Speaking of your “early retirement”, looking back, what were the, let’s say, top 3 moments of your time with Yacht magazine?”

Jochen Rieker: “Oh … that is a difficult one. Really, my whole time was full of highlights and most of these stories have something to do with experiences on the water. Let’s think about it. Well, if you want my highlight, I would say the biggest thing I was part of was a real scoop.It was back in 2001.Our late German sailing hero Wilfried Erdmann was returning from his solo circumnavigation against the wind and we wanted to be the first magazine to interview him. So we decided to meet him in the English Channel. Easier said than done … with the pressure to meet the copy deadline, there was no time for delay, no room for manoeuvre.  At the same time, of course, the weather in the Channel was very, very bad. As a crew of four we flew into Heathrow, hired a car and of course got a flat tyre on a roundabout. The boat we chartered turned out to be a small 10.50 metre yacht… and as we headed out into the Channel there was still a huge swell. To cut a long story short, we had to anchor overnight in a bay near Start Point, two of the four of us got seriously seasick, the full program. The next day, no wind but still a huge swell, we tried to find his tiny boat against the backdrop of a glistening, bright white sunny day, chances pretty slim … but then we finally found his KATENA NUI and we were the first to bring back an interview after his solo circumnavigation. What a story!”

First transat sailing 2003

NO FRILLS ”Oh yes! If only people knew how much effort it takes sometimes to make a story come true… It’s sad that Wilfried died this year, we lost a great sailor in him. Two more highlights for the Top 3?”

Jochen Rieker: “Another very exciting moment, maybe the second most impressive, was my first Atlantic crossing as part of the “Daimler Chrysler North Atlantic Challenge”, a race starting from Newport in the USA, round Scotland to Hamburg. An everyman’s race, if you like, and a first for me. We’ve experienced the full range of emotions. Two storm systems, one with 40 plus knots, the second with more than 50 knots… two blackouts, the last one forcing us to tap out and head for Ireland. It was overwhelming! And my third, well, I’d say I’m very proud of all of us as a magazine for having recognized and fostered the trend of open design boats. I don’t want to call us trendsetters, but you know, these boats, whether it’s the Open 60, the Class 40, the Mini 6.50 and their production derivatives like Pogos and later Seascapes were a completely new thing at the time. Back in 2001, 2002 and 2003, starting with the Pogo 40 and the Class 40 itself. At first we were a little critical and cautious, but we soon understood that this style of boat design was moving mountains, really shifting paradigms! Ellen MacArthur’s second place in the Vendeé Globe, Boris Hermann’s first successes in the Class 40… I think we have opened our window very wide to welcome this new style of sailing. And that is something for a rather conservative sailing magazine with a focus on cruising. I’m very proud of the fact that we didn’t miss this trend. Be it the Silverrudder, of which we saw the potential and helped make it the biggest solo sailing event in the world, or of course the European Yacht of the Year award, which is now the most important award for the boating industry.”

Back to the Caribbean: BVIs 2013

NO FRILLS ”Perhaps your experience and career at Yacht magazine could fill a book of its own, Jochen? Last but not least, what are your plans for the future? I mean, you are still working as a consultant and editor for the magazine, but what’s next?”

Jochen Rieker: “Sailing, sailing, sailing! You know, I have a second-hand 36-footer in the Adriatic, but I have never really sailed it this past season because I was too busy. That needs to change – a lot!”


Thank you so much, Jochen, for this intimate insight into your work and career at Europe´s biggest yachting magazine. I wish you a Happy Christmas and then a great, fulfilling and exciting new sailing season 2024!

Copyright for all pictures credit to Jochen Rieker and YACHT-archive


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