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