There are Yachts, and then there are YACHTS . . .

There are Yachts, and then there are YACHTS . ..

from a year old NY Times story:

[Athena with Maltese Falcon in the background, in FalmouthHarbour, ANTIGUA]

Measuring Wealth by the Foot
Ted Aljibe/Agence France-Presse – Getty Images
The yacht owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, anchored offHong Kong in 2007. The yacht, named Octopus, is more than 414 feetlong. More Photos >
Published: March 16, 2008
IN a shipyard in Germany, Blohm & Voss workers are building amammoth yacht called the Eclipse.
Like many things in the secretive world of superyachts, its exactlength is hard to pin down. So is the name of its owner, and the costof building it.

But according to the Web site of The Yacht Report, one of severalpublications that track yachting with the same intensity that gossipmagazines cover Hollywood hunks, the Eclipse is 531.5 feet long.

That’s six and a half feet longer than the Dubai, an 11,600-tonbehemoth that now holds the record as the world’s largest yacht. Itsowner is the ruler of Dubai, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum.

The extra length on the Eclipse isn’t an accident. Supersized yachtsare the latest examples of one-upmanship among billionaires, many ofwhom already own a private jet, a Rolls-Royce or two, and multiplemansions.

Despite fear of an economic recession and unrelenting job pressuresamong those who remain yachtless, there’s still a lot of moneyfloating around the world. And as the superrich get richer, the sizeof yachts grows bigger and bigger, too.

“When a yacht is over 328 feet, it’s so big that you lose theintimacy,” says Tork Buckley, editor of The Yacht Report. “On theother hand, you’ve got bragging rights. No question, that’s a verystrong part of the motivation.”

Who will be the one to wrest bragging rights from the sheik? Blohm &Voss, a leading shipbuilder, isn’t saying. According to an executiveat a different yacht company, who requested anonymity because he wasconcerned about losing clients, it is being built for RomanAbramovich, a Russian tycoon.

Mr. Abramovich already owns the 282-foot Ecstasea and the377-foot Pelorus, and Web sites that track yachts speculate that hemay be the owner of a new 394-foot yacht called Sigma thatresembles a battleship. A spokesman for Mr. Abramovich declined tocomment.

Just four years ago, when Lawrence J. Ellison, the chief executive ofthe Oracle Corporation, took possession of the 454-foot Rising Sun, hegained crowing rights over Paul Allen, the Microsoft co-founder. Mr.Allen’s yacht, the Octopus, is relatively minuscule at 417 feet.(Since then, David Geffen, the Hollywood mogul, has bought a 50percent share of the Rising Sun from Mr. Ellison.)

Many yacht owners are entrepreneurs or industrialists, rather thanroyalty or bold-faced names from Silicon Valley, according to yachtdesigners and builders. “One of my clients is a woman who startedher own business and ended up making cocktail-type quiches soldthrough Costco and Wal-Mart,” said Douglas Sharp, who owns a yachtdesign company in San Diego.

Like Mr. Abramovich, a growing number of yacht buyers are fromemerging markets. “There’s an incredible amount of disposablemoney in the world at the moment, and a lot of money is coming out ofnew markets like Russia and Ukraine, as well as India,” saysJonathan Beckett, chief executive of Burgess, a company that helpsowners build and charter yachts. “These people have made a lot ofmoney very quickly and have an appetite.”

According to ShowBoats International, a luxury yacht magazine,916 yachts measuring 80 feet or longer – the traditional definitionof a superyacht – were on order or under construction as of lastSept. 1, four times the number in 1997. The biggest gains were amongthe biggest yachts: 47 yachts were 200 to 249 feet long, up 68 percentfrom a year earlier, while 23 were 250 feet or longer, an increase of28 percent.

“When I started in the early 1970s, a 60-foot boat was consideredpretty large,” Mr. Sharp said. “A 150-foot boat was queen of theshow in Monaco in 1982. In 2008, you wouldn’t be able to find thatboat in the marina.”

Some new megayachts are so big that they have to dock in commercialports. The growth in the number and size of yachts is also making ithard to find qualified crew members.

Still, many yacht owners trade in their boats every few years forbigger models.

“People want more toys to play with. That’s something that drivesit,” says Wim Koersvelt, director of Icon Yachts in the Netherlands.”Gyms were unusual 20 years ago, and no yacht is being built nowwithout a gym. They’re buying two- to four-person submarines, havefour Jet Skis and little sailboats stored on board, as well ashelicopter landing pads.”

It takes two to four years to build a yacht, and prices are rising soquickly that some owners are selling their boats before they’re evenfinished – for a tidy profit. Mr. Beckett of Burgess says priceshave risen 10 percent to 20 percent in the past two years alone. Heestimates that a yacht 328 feet long would cost about $230 milliontoday, with prices rising to $650 million for a 500-foot yacht.

Some owners recoup part of their costs by chartering theiryachts. Want to sail the Maltese Falcon, the innovative clippership built by Tom Perkins, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist? Thatwill put you back around $539,000 to $555,000 a week, not countingexpenses for fuel, food or crew. Or the Mirabella V, theelegant sloop owned by Joe Vittoria, the former chief executive ofAvis Rent A Car System? That’s $325,000 to $375,000 a week,depending on the season.
There are no signs that demand will slacken. “There are2,000 superyachts in the world today” over 120 feet long, “andnearly 200,000 people who could afford to buy them,” Mr. Beckettsays.

The arms race in yachts echoes the competition among business titansin the last century to build the world’s tallest skyscraper. In hisbook “Mine’s Bigger,” David A. Kaplan describes the battlebetween Mr. Perkins and Jim Clark, the co-founder of three SiliconValley companies, including Netscape, as they competed to build theworld’s biggest sailing megayacht.

By the time Mr. Perkins completed his Maltese Falcon, measuring 288feet, in 2006, it was substantially longer than Mr. Clark’s Athenaif measured at the water line.

“Clark could console himself only with the fact that if you includedhis 33-foot stainless steel bowsprit as part of the length, then hiswas bigger than anybody else’s,” Mr. Kaplan writes.

Mr. Vittoria holds a different record. His 247-foot Mirabella Vhas a 292-foot mast – so tall that it can’t fit under the GoldenGate Bridge.


 . . . speaking of inflation — the “little” boatcircled here is SIXTY-FIVE feet long.

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      35 Years of Environmental Service toSmall Tropical Islands

About Bruce

Work for sustainable development of small islands and the Chesapeake Bay; ex-Peace Corps (Volunteer and staff) in LA & Caribbean; cruised Caribbean on S/Y Meander for three years; like small tropical islands, French canals, Umbria, Tasmania, and NZ. Married 52 years to the late Kincey Burdett Potter (see President of the now-sunsetting Island Resources Foundation.
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