As leisure pursuits go, yachting is decidedly one of the more expensive options. Large boats, by their very nature, require an experienced crew and significant maintenance to keep them in top cruising condition. With each new build, owners attempt to outdo the competition in terms of luxuries and amenities. The real trend making waves in superyacht circles, however, is a big one. Literally.
Traditional Luxury Motor Yachts
The current crown with regard to size is the 180-meter/590-foot motor yacht Azzam, but swirls of skeptical rumors hint at a new build still on the design table, a 222-meter/728-foot motor yacht sporting eight decks. Massive yachts with equally massive appetites for fuel and refits, superyachts of this size approach cruise ship status, yet are dedicated to private or charter use.
Infinity lap pools, multiple Jacuzzis, saunas, spas, gyms, and media rooms are the norm, with an increasingly exotic stable of tenders stowed in highly technical garages and touch-and-go helipads becoming frequent features. Rare and beautiful materials, posh furnishings, and commissioned art contribute to interiors that feel more like vacation homes than sea escapes, such as those on board the fascinating, highly private Al Miqab. Built for Middle Eastern royalty, the 436 ft. Al Miqab is equipped to handsomely accommodate 60 guests in truly luxurious quarters that remain highly secretive.
Expedition Icebreaker Yachts
Appealing to a sense of adventure, the trend toward expedition style luxury yachts is strong. Posh interiors and ice-classed hulls stocked with expedition gear are providing the ultimate experience at sea. Navigating the challenges of polar regions or cruising the Amazon, these yachts are built to offer long range, self-sufficient voyages just about anywhere in the world.
Dutch firm Damen’s SeaXplorer series, ranging from 65 to 100 meters/213 to 328 feet, accommodate up to 30 guests and 50 crew, with two helicopters, two lifeboats, four Zodiac tenders, a luxury tender, two submersible craft, and the usual selection of water toys.
Aquos Yachts’ big new build Big Fish offers a broad menu of luxury amenities as gorgeous, and as sturdy, as the next with a notable perk: the decks are tough enough to withstand stiletto heels, often a ladies’ preference for special occasions.
Paul Allen’s 126 meter/414 foot Octopus, built in Germany in 2010, has a luxurious glass-bottomed pool, library, cinema, juice bar, gym, and research-focused areas, performing searches, conducting experiments, and delivering data to further scientific interests while enjoying a fabulous voyage.
Sailing into Luxury
Two esteemed shipyards and one venerated naval architect joined forces to create project 85, recently revealed as Sailing Yacht Aquijo. An 86-meter/283-foot sailing yacht, Aqujjo is a combination of schooner and ketch, hence “sketch,” with a number of different sail configurations to accommodate a broad range of experiences that please adventurous sailors as well as wine-sipping spectators.
This world voyager can clip along at 18 knots in 25+ knots of wind and not spill a drop from anyone’s wine glass. Alternatively, Aquijo can up the ante and race like a beast, angled toward the water and ripping up the record books. She’s got a load of technology on board as well, able to handle 40 ton loads on the custom captive winches, and raise a Code Zero sail in under two minutes.
The Hybrid Yacht “A”
Russian businessman Andrey Melnichenko first built Motor Yacht “A,” with three swimming pools, a dramatic profile and equally dramatic interiors by Philippe Starck. On to the next challenge, Melnichenko recently commissioned the 142-meter/468-foot Sailing Yacht “A,” created and built by his own hand-picked project team at the shipyard in Nobiskrug, Germany.
More a hybrid than a true sailboat, many describe her as a sail-assisted motor yacht. With naval architecture designed by Dykstra, A has 8 decks, 3 of the tallest masts in the world, an 8-meter keel, and room for 14 guests and 54 crew, A is preparing for a 2016 launch. The stunning craft has been seen out and about undergoing sea trials in the vicinity of her build dock, without sails, but with masts stepped into place, hitting a top speed of 16 knots powered by a pair of 3600 kW engines and two 4300 kW electric motors turning the props.
How Big is Too Big?
Size does matter, but the benefits of space must be weighed when designing itineraries, as some of the world’s most beautiful and interesting harbors are too confined to allow passage of these giants. That is where the battle of the tenders begins, with some very fast, very chic, 20- to 30-meter limousine, open, and cruising boats to run guests from yachts at anchor to shore.
Whether the trend toward bigger yachts will continue is debatable. There is, however, no question that luxuries and innovations lavished on the interiors are limited only by the imagination of the owner. On board one of these exceptional yachts, whether 100 feet, or 400, life is most certainly good.