Lutz Pouplier, 1954-2015
By Tim Thomas
(This complete editorial can be found at: www.yachtingmatters.com Edition 30)
Lutz Pouplier may not be the most familiar name to those who did not know him, and as an engineer he wasn’t a great one for shouting about his achievements. Yet in a Superyacht career spanning more than 30 years, his brilliance was clearly recognised by the ones who counted – so much so that his last position was as Lead Technical Superintendent of the 180 metre Azzam, a role that he took up in 2013 shortly before the yacht’s delivery. Pouplier’s life epitomised the spirit of Superyacht crewing – loyal, dedicated and not without his quirks, he was a unique character who should stand as a roll model to new generations of professional crew.
Born in Germany on 14 November 1954, Pouplier originally trained as a master mechanic – a skill that manifested through his lifelong passion for restoring classic cars – but his first taste of yachting came when he bartered a crossing of the Pacific on a small sailing yacht in the 1970s. His engineering talent and his ingenuity saved many a cruising boat, and it was this talent that landed him his first true yachting job aboard the Abeking-built SY Jagare in 1983, which he found in Tahiti. “He was very hippy looking after living on the beach in Mexico,” recalls Peter Davies, captain of Jagare at the time. “He had to reverse the usual yacht habit of removing shoes when coming on board as he had no shoes and his feet were too dirty. But he soon settled into being ‘yacht smart’ and before long he was annoying the laundry stewardess because his boiler suits were not well ironed enough.”
Pouplier’s next yacht was the 45 metre Lady In Red, where legend has it the engineering team misread the fuel gauges on an Atlantic crossing and only made it to Barbados by dredging the tanks with buckets. It was an uncharacteristic mistake – Pouplier’s attention to detail was normally superb. I was able to witness first hand when I worked with him on his third yacht, SY Mikado on which he sailed for 15 years under captains Hans Hoff, David Howe and Jerry Reed. I shall never forget the pained expression on his face as the weighted monkey fist of our heaving line landed squarely on the bonnet of his freshly restored Austin Healey that was sitting on the quay behind Mikado’s Golfe Juan berth.
Pouplier followed captain Jerry Reed from Mikado to the new 93 metre sailing yacht Eos, launched from the Lürssen yard in 2006, where he remained until joining Azzam. The crew of Eos held a small private service onboard the yacht in memory of his passing, marked by the surprise arrival of a pod of breaching whales just as chief officer Toby Savage was about to say a few words. “It was all very Disney,” says Savage, “but I did think it was a wonderful omen from Neptune and something both poignant and symbolic. I drew on many memories and tried to portray to those who weren’t lucky enough to meet him his brilliance, intelligence and most of all his lust for life, huge personality, wicked sense of humour and great charm.”
Pouplier was a keen sportsman and was often either found in the gym or on his bike. For those who did know him, he was a truly unique character with truly unique quirks – whether it was his regular diet of popcorn sprinkled with chilli powder, brewers yeast and tabasco, his early adoption of Apple Macintosh before the brand became a global force, or his first unsuccessful attempt at driving a large yacht many years ago. “Lutz was a lone wolf, an intellect, a gentleman and a non-conformist,” write former crewmates, “and the world is a lot sadder without him. The mould was definitely broken when the made Lutz – he was a true one-of-a-kind and a special friend.”
Pouplier passed away on 24 October 2015 just short of his 61st birthday, following a stroke from which he never recovered. His funeral was held on the 6th November 2015 in Ennepetal near his hometown of Swelm in Germany. He is survived by his long-standing girlfriend Ulrike. They had both fallen in love with Africa many years previously and travelled Southern Africa extensively in their Land Rover from their home in Franschhoek, in the wine lands of the western Cape. They were active supporters of the local charity, The Butterfly House, part of the Drakenstein Palliative Hospice in nearby Paarl.
They were active supporters of the local charity, The Butterfly House, part of the Drakenstein Palliative Hospice in nearby Paarl.
Jerry Reed, colleague, Captain and friend of Lutz’s for 25 years is planning to have a children’s play structure erected in Lutz’s memory at the Butterfly House. Donations by friends, associates and former colleagues to assist in this worthy cause would be very appreciated and can be made to the following account:
Drakenstein Palliative Hospice
Account number: 072154446
Branch code: 050210
Swift code: SBZAZAJJ
Please include the reference “Lutz” with any donations made.