Dream Boats

Make like a mogul and step aboard your own lux­ury yacht this sum­mer, writes Peter Shad­bolt

Hong Kong Tatler - - Su­pery­achts -

Feel­ing a lit­tle like an oli­garch this sum­mer? Got places to go, peo­ple to see and cash to burn? Maybe a pres­ti­gious su­pery­acht hol­i­day hits ex­actly the right reg­is­ter of con­spic­u­ous con­sump­tion. For the one per cent of the one per cent, the top end of the su­pery­acht mar­ket is the last word in a cer­tain style of lux­ury.

Tired of tak­ing to the sunbed on the pri­vate fold-out panel of your 100m yacht? Go for a rub-down in the Turk­ish ham­mam be­fore tak­ing the Jetlev out to hov­er­board around your float­ing em­pire. Want to im­press a guest? Take them around the coral reefs of the Car­ib­bean in your own mini-sub­ma­rine. Miss­ing your dry-land sports such as clay pi­geon shoot­ing? That can be ar­ranged, too.

In fact, there’s no whim that can­not be catered for. And with an av­er­age weekly cost at the top end of US$3.5 mil­lion, plus an av­er­age of 30 per cent for ex­tras, why shouldn’t the world be at your beck and call?

For Kevin Bod­ing­ton, di­rec­tor at Yacht Char­ter Fleet, a Uk­based op­er­a­tion that tracks the su­pery­acht in­dus­try, even a week­end aboard one of these ships is enough to spoil you for life. “I spent a week on one and be­lieve me, there’s no go­ing back,” he says. “The ser­vice is in­cred­i­ble—the crew are trained to know what you drink and when you drink it. Be­fore you’ve even thought about it, there’s a drink in front of you.”

“It’s ser­vice to an­other level,” Bod­ing­ton adds. “The word ‘no’ doesn’t ex­ist. If peo­ple want to fly in some straw­ber­ries, a he­li­copter will get them for you. If you want a curry from Brick Lane and you’re in the Mediter­ranean, there are com­pa­nies that will fly it to you.”

Pop­u­lar at the mo­ment, he says, are large in­flat­able slides that reach from the top of the yacht to the sea—ideal for those ul­tra­high-net-worth in­di­vid­u­als with chil­dren—and fold-out “beach clubs.” The su­pery­acht used by Bey­oncé and Jay Z last year for a Mediter­ranean get­away, the 65m Galac­tica Star, fea­tured one such beach club—an all-in-one ser­viced sun and sea ex­pe­ri­ence. It also in­cluded a pri­vate he­li­pad, 10 places to dine and a Us$900,000-aweek price tag.

Even so, the Galac­tica Star is rel­a­tively mod­est by the stan­dards of the new breed of ul­tra­y­achts com­ing out. “There are some

crazy things like the Nemo Room, which is an un­der­wa­ter view­ing cham­ber where you can ac­tu­ally see the fish swim­ming past you,” says Bod­ing­ton. “Oth­ers have he­li­copters that can fly into the decks of the yacht. One of the Arab yachts even has a snow room—a spe­cial room that gen­er­ates snow. There are ones with in­door swim­ming pools. You name it: if you can think of it, they’re try­ing to do it.”

While the very top end of the mar­ket has never been more buoy­ant, Bod­ing­ton says the fi­nan­cial cri­sis and the oil slump are hav­ing an ef­fect on the su­pery­acht mar­ket. “In the late ’80s and early ’90s, the trend was for very fast su­pery­achts,” he says. “Peo­ple were com­pet­ing for speed. But then the price of oil went up, the Rus­sians came along, and it be­came very os­ten­ta­tious and nou­veau riche. Af­ter the credit crunch, it’s fol­lowed the pat­tern of cars af­ter the Great De­pres­sion, when they went from very showy to very func­tional. The same thing has hap­pened in the su­pery­acht in­dus­try. To­day, most new su­pery­achts are more like a 4X4 than a Fer­rari. The whole out­ward ap­pear­ance plays it down—the de­sign is just a lot more rugged.”

Su­pery­acht sales and char­ter group Y.CO says these new trends are mak­ing for a highly di­verse and suc­cess­ful mar­ket. In 2015, the group sold an av­er­age of one su­pery­acht ev­ery three weeks. Ship­yards, the com­pany says, are now as busy as they were be­fore 2008 and it’s dif­fi­cult to build a new yacht to­day with a de­liv­ery date be­fore 2021.

“We are see­ing much younger own­ers than 10 years ago,” says Gary Wright, chair­man and co-founder of Y.CO. “These own­ers tend to be more tech­nol­ogy-driven. They choose dif­fer­ent cruis­ing grounds and have quite dif­fer­ent pas­times when they’re aboard. They tend not to fol­low the cruis­ing in the Mediter­ranean and Car­ib­bean, and in­stead pre­fer to go fur­ther afield. So there’s def­i­nitely a trend in de­sign for mak­ing yachts some­what sim­pler to live aboard, more sea­wor­thy and with fewer decks.”

Wright says ves­sels with more glass and smaller car­bon foot­prints are in de­mand— nec­es­sary when the run­ning costs and wear-and-tear for get­ting a ship from the Mediter­ranean to the Car­ib­bean can be in the re­gion of US$250,000 on a re­turn voy­age of that type.

These days, how­ever, many younger clients pre­fer to go off the beaten track. “They pre­fer to be in ar­eas where there are fewer other yachts for surf­ing, kite-board­ing and other more ex­treme wa­ter sports,” Wright says.

“The Mar­shall Is­lands, Mi­crone­sia and other far-flung ar­chi­pel­a­gos in the South Pa­cific are be­com­ing more pop­u­lar. Sev­eral of our man­aged and char­ter-man­aged yachts are based there year-round.”

Tam­sin Pri­est­ley, di­rec­tor for yacht char­ters at Y.CO, says these trends have also changed de­mands for on-board ac­tiv­i­ties. “In terms of on-board toys and spa­ces, the big­gest change we have seen over the past 10 years has been the move to­wards healthy liv­ing,” she says. “Yachts at the larger end of the char­ter mar­ket to­day have ded­i­cated spas, with saunas, ham­mams and gyms. These larger yachts now also have pools with re­sis­tance jets for fit­ness swim­ming as well as Jacuzzis. Many crews have fit­ness and well­be­ing spe­cial­ists on board—fit­ness train­ers, mas­sage ther­a­pists and yoga in­struc­tors. While yachts still of­fer jet skis, there is a real de­mand for non-mo­torised wa­ter toys that guests work them­selves, such as kite surfers, stand-up pad­dle­boards and kayaks. Crew mem­bers trained as pro­fes­sional in­struc­tors in wa­ter sports are a very pop­u­lar fea­ture on char­ter yachts.”

While the mar­ket is still largely driven by Amer­i­can and Mid­dle Eastern clients, Asia is catch­ing up. The wa­ters around Phuket—now well served by re­sorts, golf clubs and restau­rants—are be­gin­ning to ri­val those of the Mediter­ranean. More than 100 su­pery­achts at­tended the Sin­ga­pore Yacht Show (now re­ferred to in the in­dus­try as the “Monaco of the East”) but the bestestab­lished show­case in the re­gion re­mains the China (Shang­hai) In­ter­na­tional Boat Show.

Bod­ing­ton says the chang­ing na­ture of the mid­dle class in the Asia re­gion means that boat­ing is no longer just the pre­serve of the ul­tra-rich—and that the uses of su­pery­achts are chang­ing along­side this new clien­tele. “Peo­ple are tak­ing su­pery­achts pretty much ev­ery­where these days: out to Pa­pua New Guinea, to Ko­modo, even up north to Nor­way and the North­west Pas­sage,” he says. “The ex­pe­di­tion route is the big­gest trend at the mo­ment, rather than just hang­ing out at St Tropez. They’re even build­ing them as re­search ves­sels; some of them have full-scale labs on board.”

Even so, Bod­ing­ton con­cedes that it takes money—and it may be a long time be­fore the av­er­age surfer can char­ter a su­pery­acht to find dis­tant and un­touched surf breaks. “He’d prob­a­bly have to be a bloody rich surfer,” he says. “Not only a world cham­pion, but a re­ally good gam­bler as well.”

the lux­u­ri­ous lounge area of the stun­ning Solandge Luxe on Deck

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