Latitudes of largesse

SUPERYACHTS

The gap between superyachts and everything else out on the harbour is as wide as you could imagine, reports Fiona Harper.

It could be said that a club racer on Sydney Harbour and superyacht of 100ft plus have commonality in that they both satisfy the purpose of sailing, or indeed racing, around a course. But that is pretty much where the similarity ends. There are, indeed, significant differences at the glamorous end of yachting. Expect to pay approximately $1 million per metre for a superyacht, commissioned directly from the boat yard. Assuming that it will cost about 10 per cent of the build cost to run a superyacht, the vast divide soon becomes apparent. But it’s not only the financials that sets them apart.

Once onboard, the noise these elegant mega-yachts can make is astonishing. With electric winches whirring, hydraulic rig adjusters straining, giant sails booming and sheets cracking, the cacophony of sounds is seemingly out of place with the elegance of polished chrome and teak trim. Add to this the not always discreet verbal exchanges between captain and crew on the start line and it’s an adrenalin-charged scene that is not for the faint-hearted. Another significant difference at the glamorous end of racing is the distinct lack of bodies positioned on the rail. While superyachts are no less focused on making fast times than their smaller cousins, guest comfort generally takes priority.

Did you think it was impossible to go racing without spilling a drop of expensive French champagne’ I thought the same thing until I heard about the latest, and largest 50m blue-water sloop commissioned at Italian yard Wally Yachts. Established in 1993 after the astounding response to the family yacht Wallygator, Lucas Bassini Antivari founded Wally Yachts to create state-of-the-art custom-built superyachts. These sleek, modern yachts are designed to combine the comfort and luxury of a large cruising yacht with the performance of a maxi yacht racer, while making sailing easier and safer for non-sailing guests. The Wally 50m is the first yacht of its size to be built in advanced composites, and incorporates a lifting keel that reduces the 6m draft to 4.2m. Early indications are that in eight knots of true wind, the Wally 50m will perform at 11 knots upwind and 14 knots reaching. Conveniently for guests, the sail plan includes a self-tacking jib, ensuring that they need never leave the foredeck jacuzzi tub, nor are they required to relinquish their champagne glass, when the captain calls for a tack.

Auckland builder Sensation Yachts, which built Mari Cha III, the 148ft composite super-ketch that smashed the trans-Atlantic sailing record in 1998, as well as winning the coveted International Superyacht Design Award and Most Innovative Sailing Yacht Award in the same year, continue to produce impressive superyachts. One of the unique features of Mari Cha III is the weight-saving construction methods used to enhance performance. Much of the interior is removable, meaning that she can be converted into lightweight racing mode to contest regattas. The full-beam owner’s suite, with adjoining study and large shower room, remains largely intact, while the main saloon and ensuite guest cabins can be dismantled and removed, providing space for 25 racing crew to be accommodated in.

Alloy Yachts, also based in Auckland, launched the 52m sloop Red Dragon late last year, the fourth superyacht over 50m they have built. Contracted by international yachtsman Guy Ullens, who is, among other things, an avid art collector, he immediately expressed delight after Red Dragon's launching. ‘Alloy Yachts has a culture of excellence which is world class,’ he said. ‘Red Dragon is a work of art.’ Red Dragon was designed as a luxury cruising yacht with the ability to stay operational in remote areas for long periods of time. Her carbon fibre mast is an impressive 62.5m, denying her the opportunity to sail beneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Location, location
While the Mediterranean and Caribbean vie for the title of superyacht hub, there are plenty of strategies in place to attract more of these elegant vessels into the Asia-Pacific region. Favourite international playgrounds are St Tropez, Porto Cervo Sardinia, Bonifacio, Portofino, Cannes and Monaco. In the Caribbean, St Barths is popular for those who want to be seen and St Maarten is a popular destination for guests to board their yachts. The captain of a superyacht enroute to Sydney, who wished to remain anonymous, nominated Vanuatu as a favourite destination for his owner, while Fiji is another perennial favourite for those who venture into the Pacific.

On Australia's east coast, Superyacht Base Gold Coast City has been established as a central base to facilitate the needs of superyacht owners, captains and their guests. Wayne Dunn, Chairman of SBGCC is proud of the service offered by specialist services and suppliers on the Gold Coast. Wayne is the man who captains contact when they require guest helicopter transfers, or if they need to replenish stocks of caviar. The Southport Yacht Club recently welcomed superyacht owners by adding dedicated superyacht berths. Palazzo Versace Marina is adjacent to Australia’s only six-star hotel, while Marina Oceanus is right next door, with plans under way to add 35 superyacht berths here. Swanky Sovereign Islands on the Broadwater also attracts superyachts to its private marina. Other Australian destinations where big boat owners like to play include Sydney Harbour, Melbourne and Cairns, with the Kimberley attracting more interest each year.

Hamilton Island management have been trying to attract more superyachts for some time with their plans to host a regatta among the Whitsunday islands in 2008. It was to be a significant year, with the opening of the Great Barrier Reef Yacht Club, plus the inaugural Hamilton Island Superyacht Series regatta. However, an extreme wet season has delayed the completion of the GBRYC, while the 2008 regatta has been postponed for 12 months as government regulation issues are resolved. ‘The problem is pretty simple,’ according to Hamilton Island CEO Glenn Bourke. ‘Under Federal Government legislation, superyachts over 35m in length cannot put down an anchor within 1.5km of beaches like Whitehaven and other beautiful locations in the Whitsundays. The anomaly is that the same legislation currently permits large tourist vessels, with hundreds of guests on board, to anchor close to these very locations.’

According to Superyacht Series Organiser Rob Mundle, superyachts in private operation or under charter rarely carry more than 10 guests, and they represent low impact and exceptionally high yield for a region. ‘The Whitsundays is our answer to the Caribbean. In the next 30 months, 371 superyachts will be built, 235 of them are over 50m, 51 are over 50m and 10 are over 100m. They are all looking for a new playground and it’s all here,’ Rob said. Stars such as Lachlan and Sarah Murdoch are regular visitors to Hamilton Island on their Swan 80 Ipixuna and are sure to enjoy this regatta when it eventually gets under way.

Superyacht season

So, for the time being, superyacht owners and their guests flock to the big regattas and boat shows in the Caribbean and Mediterranean. April is an exciting time to be in Antigua, starting with the Classic Yacht Regatta. While not strictly for superyachts, ‘classic’ being the main criteria, the regatta attracts fleets of around 50-60 annually, with traditional craft from the islands, J Class yachts, ketches, schooners, yawls and tall ships all making for a wonderful spectacle of sail.

Following this classic event is Antigua Sailing Week, a favourite event for superyachts now in its 41st year. Back in the ‘60s, classic yachts that were gathered in English Harbour Antigua began chartering. The captains and crews challenged each other to a race down to Guadeloupe and back to celebrate the end of the charter season. From this informal race, Antigua Sailing Week developed into one of yacht racing’s most anticipated annual regatta. Hot favourites this year for the 42nm sprint from Guadeloupe to Antigua were Mike Slade and his seasoned crew aboard the 100ft Farr-designed canting keel flyer ICAP Leopard.

Superyacht shows
One or the more glamorous boat shows that shouldn’t be missed, (though it’s actually more like a luxury festival for the rich and famous than a boat show) is the World Royal Superyacht & Luxury Show, held in Tarronga, Spain, each May. Prospective buyers mingle on Superyachts Boulevarde, and with scores of superyachts on display, this is the place to ‘try before you buy’. Also exhibiting here are premium brands in jewellery, private jets, helicopters, property and wealth management, with many launching new products and services at this glitzy event.

While in Spain, don’t miss the prestigious Superyacht Cup at Palma Mallorca in June. Entry to this celebrated regatta is by invitation only, as is its sister event in Antigua each December. With plenty of on-water action, last year's regatta had 52 sailing superyachts, with seemingly as many mega-motoryachts accompanying them as mother ships. Glamorous Palma in the Balearic Islands is the chosen holiday destination of Spanish royalty.

For some serious royalty spotting in September, the Monaco Yacht Show is the premier European event that attracts all the big names in superyachting. Prince Albert of Monaco is a firm supporter of the event, and is particularly keen to promote the carbon-offset program introduced in 2005. Alloy Yachts will exhibit their 52m Kokomo, and you can also expect to see a number of Wally superyachts on display.

While some industries struggle to maintain customer support in tough financial times, the superyacht industry just keeps growing. With scores of marinas and big boat facilities currently under construction around the world to accommodate this expanding industry, insiders are optimistic that the good times will continue to roll.

Salperton.
Fitzroy Yachts of New Zealand won Best Sailing Yacht in the 30 ‘ 44 metre class for the Ed Dubois designed Salperton at the World Superyacht Awards held on Giorgio Maggiore Island, Venice, Italy in April 2008.

Loa : 44 metre
Lwl : 39 metre
Beam : 9.3 metre
Draft : 4.75 metre (Daggerboard raised)
Draft : 7.0 metre (Daggerboard lowered)
Displacement : 215 tonnes
Construction : Aluminum
Interior Design : Adam Lay Studio

Australian superyacht visa
A new tailored visa for the crews of superyachts will provide a boost to the tourism industry, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, said. It is intended to support the growing superyacht industry and assist tourism in areas like Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef region, he said.
‘The new multiple-entry visa will allow all crew members to work in Australia for up to 12 months on commercial or private superyachts. Senator Evans said the new visa will come into effect in October 2008. Currently, the superyacht tourism industry contributes $150 million each year to Australia’s economy and is expected to grow to $500 million over the next five years. The increasing numbers of vessels will also encourage training and job opportunities in related industries such as ship-building and repair, particularly in regional Queensland.

M.O.S.S Australia
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