Being out at sea on a luxurious yacht is an experience that is hard to top. Sea breeze whipping through your hair, the sun shining down and the deep blue sea shimmering as you relax on deck with your favourite drink and admire picturesque scenery or party up with friends. Owning a yacht is synonymous with the good life, and as more and more wealth is generated in or brought to Asia, so the yachting scene here is growing and becoming more sophisticated.
With that hails the arrival of bigger and more elaborate super yachts, and a greater demand for customization as owners want yachts that reflect their personalities and preferences and meet their needs. Indeed, if money is no object, why buy a production super yacht when you can invest in a custom super yacht that is built, designed and decorated exactly to your liking? And, beyond a certain size and extravagance, you go beyond the scope of production yachts and have to customize anyway.
How Super is ‘Super?’
Super yachts are over 24 metres in length and generally very luxurious, high-tech and require a professional crew to sail and manage. While they come in all different configurations, they typically have multiple cabins, indoor and outdoor dining areas, lounges, living areas and a swimming pool. But the sky’s the limit and more ostentatious super yachts boast a stunning variety of features and equipment: several decks, helipads, satellite communication, Jacuzzis, suites, saunas, screening rooms, water sports equipment and the list goes on and on. There’s no cap on how big a yacht can be either, and the largest yachts in the world right now are well over 150 metres. World-renowned yacht designers Bannenberg & Rowell, for example, listed this year’s largest yacht as being the gigantic 164-metre long Eclipse. Owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, this tremendous vessel was built at a cost of over £700 million and has a crew of up to 60. To give you an idea of how big this is, the largest berthing space that One °15 Marina Club has is for a 61-metre yacht, alongside.
Though long established in Europe, the market for customized yachts in Asia is comparatively new and young. Simpson Marine, an extensive and comprehensive yacht dealer in Asia since 1984, is witnessing this development first hand. Paul Whelan, their General Manager for Southeast Asia, who is based in their 18-month old Singapore office at One °15 Marina Club, says “At present the Asian market for super yachts that are completely custom is still relatively small, with the majority of these yachts being semi-custom or brokerage custom yachts. The latter are super yachts that have been custom built for some else and are now available second hand. An older but still decent second hand semi-custom 24-metre yacht can be bought for as little as US$1 million, while a high-end semi-custom yacht from Europe might cost US$6.5 million. Bigger yachts in the 45-65 metre range in the US and Europe vary from US$12 million to US$60 million. A few years ago these yachts where priced up to 25 percent more.”
With such good value in the market, no wonder full-custom super yachts are still rare here. But they are inching their way in, with one full-custom super yacht being worked on out of Simpson Marine’s Hong Kong office, a semi-custom super yacht due to arrive in Singapore in August 2012 and, as we spoke, the possibility of the sale of a large, customized catamaran in Malaysia. Ask for details about these and other ‘wow’ super yachts in the region though, and Whelan is tight lipped. “The industry is too small,” he says.
It’s All About You
Customization is a long, involved and ultimately satisfying process. “A custom yacht can take from 18 months to three or more years to build,” explains Whelan. “Typically most shipyards will have a few different pre-engineered platforms that they can use. They can then adjust the exterior and interior styling to suit the requirements of the customer. This saves considerable time and money, and means the shipbuilder won’t need to reinvent all the major engineering systems on board.”
While some yacht owners are very experienced and want to have a say at the engineering or technical level, many owners here are relatively new to yachting and are more likely to make requests for specific things relating to décor, services on board, entertainment and communication. For example, an owner might insist that his yacht have enough cabin space to accommodate his chef, masseurs, stylist and personal trainer, or that it he must be able to watch his favourite basketball team play anywhere in the world, or that he absolutely does not want to hear any engine noise. And a feature currently in vogue is the wet-edge swimming pool, where the water seemingly goes right up to the pool’s edge and over—quite an impressive sight on a super yacht.
“A full-custom project will usually start with a list of requirements from the owner,” continues Whelan. “These may be based on his experience from previous boats or purely on visual attributes from magazines or websites. Often the owner will have seen elements of other yachts he likes and will want to include those. Once this is done, a designer will become involved, and it is not uncommon for two or three designers to team up. These can be a naval architect, exterior designer and an interior designer. When a general layout including major specifications has been created and the styling has been done, the yacht will then be put forward to either one particular shipyard or a variety of yards for quoting.”
The best super yacht builders currently are in The Netherlands, Germany and Italy, followed by yards in the US, New Zealand and Turkey, with Taiwan and China hot on their heels. “Some owners want their yacht built in a particular place, say northern Europe, or at a particular shipyard due to quality or what that yard has built previously, while other owners are more influenced by price and availability,” says Whelan.
At this stage, construction begins and it is really up to the owner to decide how involved he wants to be. In most cases, an owner’s representative is appointed who will work closely with the owner, his broker and the project manager to oversee construction. The owner’s representative ensures that the owner’s wishes are carried out, and regular meetings are held between all parties, with progress reports generated by the project manager, to keep everything on track.
What happens when the super yacht is finally done? After a series of sea trials during which any flaws and bugs are ironed out, the custom super yacht is proudly delivered to its owners. And then the next stage of developing the vessel begins—selecting a crew, registration, administrating warranties, securing insurance, carrying out proper operations, maintenance and repairs and the endless other work required—but the best part it, of course, is cruising to a fabulous destination, be it a remote archipelago or a glamourous marina, on its historical maiden voyage.
With yachting on the rise in Asia, beautifully customized super yachts are appearing on the horizon.
This article was first published in Tatler Homes