From a Fendi-finished superyacht to a "milk run" jaunt, the Monaco Yacht Show celebrates the most extravagant travel indulgences
So committed to Fendi is Lady Lara's current owner that he or she has had the Italian design house create products exclusively for the yacht
Sailing “the milk run” between Monaco and St Tropez forms something of an elite passeggiata each summer
“It’s only an extra £1million, he won’t even notice the difference.” It’s not the type of comment you typically hear on an easyJet flight, but clearly the woman beside me felt little need to be coy about money. We were touching down in Nice and it was obvious that many of the passengers were, like me, on their way to the Monaco Yacht Show.
Held in late September, the four-day Monaco Yacht Show is the world’s largest showcase for superyachts (generally defined as yachts over 30m) and what Americans refer to as “megayachts” (yachts over 100m). Over 100 of these remain wedged in the principality’s Port Hercules throughout, while, further to sea, an overflow of momentous vessels shimmer on the horizon like icebergs.
It’s an astonishing spectacle – collectively worth billions, the yachts on display are some of the most lavish in existence. Admittance to the show is granted to anyone willing to spend €150 on a day pass, but the most enthusiastic welcome is of course reserved for those with the means to charter or purchase the boats on show.
Even for the world’s wealthiest, investment in a superyacht is an indulgence that requires serious consideration. Today there are over 4,500 superyachts on the water and you could buy several houses outright instead of chartering one of the most extravagant for a week. That, I was told, could easily cost “over 1million”. “Pounds, dollars or euro?” “Whichever you fancy.” The fee covers use of the yacht and the services of its crew; fuel, food and tips (the latter usually amounting to between five and 15 per cent of the chartering cost) are extra. Yachts exceeding 100 metres commonly sell for more than £100million and, whatever their price, owners should expect to spend 10 per cent of that sum per annum on maintenance.
That these figures are inconceivable to most of the world’s population is something those in the yachting industry recognise and are keen to justify. Reputedly costing $605million, the world’s biggest yacht, the 180m Azzan, was built for UAE president Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan by the German shipyard Lürssen. Its sale director Michael Breman has described the company as a “modern-day Robin Hood,” such is its role in wealth-redistribution. It employs some 1,800 people.
I toured the show with staff from Y.Co, a Monaco-headquartered company that specialises in superyacht sales, charter, management and associated services, and they too emphasised the cornucopia of highly skilled specialists and experienced crew the industry employs. As each yacht is bespoke, development and design are intricate, time-consuming processes and the end products differ wildly.
Among the most humble yachts offered for sale through Y.Co at this year’s show was Cinderella IV at €12,750,000. Formerly owned by the Scotsman Charles Gordon, the late president of William Grant & Sons spirits company, it is homely and almost disappointingly restrained; the 59.3m Lady Lara, however, isn’t subtle. Finished in gold and ivory, with a Jacuzzi on the deck and a sauna inside, its interiors – from the lights to the tableware to the bedspreads – are all made by Fendi. So committed to the brand is the yacht’s current owner, in fact, that he or she has had the Italian design house create products exclusively for the yacht. It’s on sale for €38million.
Whether it’s in their possession through charter or purchase, most superyacht customers spend their time on board in similar ways. Water sports are popular, and most vessels have a battalion of high-spec toys so passengers can jet ski, kite-surf or seabob at whim; others feature helipads and helicopters to facilitate easy transfers. Sailing “the milk run” between Monaco and St Tropez forms something of an elite passeggiata each summer and St Barths is a popular meeting point for the yachting community each winter.
For others, though, the appeal of yachting lies in the opportunities it provides for complete escape. I heard tales of yachts sailing to Antarctica, withdrawing entirely from the rest of humanity; others drifted along the fjord-flecked coast of Norway, stalled at deserted beaches in Corsica or explored unblemished dive spots in French Polynesia. For an increasing number of the world’s wealthiest, it seems the greatest luxury is simply getting away from it all.
The 2015 Monaco Yacht Show takes place from September 23 to 26.
BY JOHN O'CEALLAIGH