#1: How to snap up a superluxe super-yacht
I’m at Nice Cote d’Azur Airport, queuing for a helicopter, when there’s a kerfuffle in front of me. Afluster, an impeccably dressed man begins to pluck purple slips of paper from the ground like a chicken pecking corn. It transpires that a tightly pressed wad of €500 notes in his hand had suddenly unfurled and flown free. We’re both going to the Monaco Yacht Show – in which context, seeing someone throw their money away seems strangely appropriate.
The ultimate superyacht showcase, the Monaco Yacht Show puts 125 of these extraordinary vessels on display in Port Hercules harbour every September, while a further 250 converge in the adjacent bay; it’s an incredible spectacle. Tourists can buy a day pass for €160 (£144) and gawp at the boats, but they’re really here to serve as bobbing advertisements for shipbuilders and brokers. The former show off their latest creations to billionaires perhaps keen to commission their own; the latter are ready to facilitate sales and charters.
To ensure that every desire of the superyacht community is catered for, a complement of stallholders sell supercars, child-sized jet-skis and seabobs with integrated selfie-ready cameras. Flitting from Russian to French to Italian, beautiful and inscrutable clipboard-wielding women determine who is permitted on board which vessel.
There are a few choice yachts for which I have secured clearance. First up is the 136ft Flying Dagger, for sale for €11.3million through Aquamarine Yacht Group. Broker Irina Ilyina shows me the “aggressively shaped and sexy” yacht’s all-white interiors – think Miami hotel lobby – and its mother-of-pearl countertops, and explains that the most privacyconscious, high-profile visitors in fact come directly before or after the show, when the yachts are in place but the crowds smaller. They are often, I am told, the type who tip the crew $30,000 (£23,000) in cash because they don’t want to carry it back to their private jet.
More tours follow. The interior designer of the 163ft I Nova tells me its immense dining table is made from a 30,000-year-old New Zealand kauri tree. Aboard the 254ft icebreaker Legend, the owner talks about recent trips to Antarctica, Alaska and Greenland (the ship’s helicopter comes in handy for heli-skiing) and to Papua New Guinea (its submarine can be used to explore shipwrecks). A week’s charter costs from €460,000.
Aboard the 361ft Jubilee – the largest yacht ever to appear in the show, complete with vast hammam, beach club and pool with an in-built aquarium – a thick blue carpet feels strangely brittle beneath my feet. “It’s made entirely from silk,” I am told.
But I’m most impressed by Endeavour II. Made in Italy by Rossinavi and inspired by its German owners’ love of Asia, it is beautifully finished with tatami mat flooring, sober but stylish custom-made furniture and slender oak columns designed to resemble bamboo rods. Their taste chimes so loudly with my own that I want to move in and suddenly envisage myself enjoying languid moonlit passages along Halong Bay and days exploring deserted islands in Indonesia.
It’s a reminder that every element on each of these yachts is created to its purchaser’s precise specification – and that these vessels offer the world’s most powerful people the privacy and freedom to see and do pretty much whatever they want.
Earlier, at a party aboard the Ancient Egypt-themed Le Pharaon, I had squeezed past the model David Gandy to catch a glimpse of etched hieroglyphics and a fake – I assume – sarcophagus that reminded me it would be boring if we all liked the same thing. Clearly its owners weren’t concerned with its resale value (though it’s on the market for €14million through Edmiston, if you’re interested) and everybody I met was frank that these vessels are intended purely for pleasure rather than as investments. “A superyacht is a hole you pour money into,” one broker told me, “but they’re fun.”
John O’Ceallaigh is The Telegraph’s luxury travel editor; follow his trips at telegraph.co.uk/ tt-johnoc and on social media @johnoceallaigh. Lessons in Luxury returns next month.
The next Monaco Yacht Show takes place from Sept 26-29 2018 (monacoyachtshow.com). For more on Monaco, see visitmonaco.com.