February 19, 2008

Fantasy Yachts

Cast your eye around any of the modern marinas and you’ll inevitably find your gaze drawn to the growing number of glamorous and eye-catching superyachts stretching the capacity of their moorings.

Once the domain of the ultra-rich elite, the accessibility of these premium vessels is increasing as our economy shines, the baby-boomers boom and our entrepreneurs excel.

In the news recently was Reg Grundy’s 70m Boadicea (pic, right). Bought for a reputed $30 million ten years ago, the retired media baron is looking for a cool $120 million. This ocean-going ship is one of the world’s largest private superyachts and it’s clear that even if Mr Grundy has to haggle, there will still be a considerable capital gain. Or you can rent it for 500 large per week.

Greg Norman’s Fremantle-built Aussie Rules was another boat that turned heads and turned out wallets. The sleek 69.5m cruiser with palatial fit-out is reported to have cost some $70m and was sold to Wayne H. Huizinga of Florida in 2004.

Fitting out these vessels is an art in itself and often a great challenge to designers who strive to accommodate the owners’ whimsical excesses. Mere toys such as zodiac tenders, Jet-Skis and flat screen TVs are passé. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's $200 million private yacht, Octopus, has two helicopter landing pads. Arch-rival, Larry Ellison of Oracle won’t be outdone. His 138m Rising Sun (pic, left) has 82 rooms over five decks and 86,000 square feet of living space, equal to a small department store. Add a standard gym, basketball court and private cinema, Rising Sun boasts crystal chandeliers, onyx counter tops, leading chefs and a wine cellar. Under guard in Nice since 2003, is the late Saddam Hussein’s 82m Ocean Breeze. Its toy locker includes a miniature submarine and surface-to-air missiles.

Closer to home, you’ll find Aussie Home Loans’ John Simon enjoying his Sunseeker 90 Yacht on the harbour, probably waving to Nicole Kidman in her similar 74. Both yachts would be valued at around $10 million.

Gold Coast Sunseeker dealer, Rick Rodwell, says these high value vessels are attractive to similarly valued individuals.

“For many high worth people, travel and leisure time is extremely valuable and international travel, for all sorts of reasons, is a hassle. Celebrities, corporate high-flyers and media identities are buying these vessels almost as floating real estate. It’s somewhere for them to enjoy quality relaxation with family and friends with all the luxury trappings they are used to – and without the inconveniences of airports and security.”

Apart from the UK-built Sunseeker yachts, more and more brands are making their presence felt. Locally constructed Warren and Maritimo yachts are gaining a strong following as well as imports such as Sanlorenzo, Pershing and Foretti.

Sunseeker’s newest flagship, the 37m Trideck Yacht is everything an aspirational cruiser should be. Flipping open the brochure, we are confronted with the following description:

"… four decks of unsurpassed luxury, setting a new standard in an extremely discerning market. An unprecedented achievement in respect of design, performance and refinement, she has enormous scope to be customised throughout to individual taste. Unparalleled levels of space, accommodation for ten guests and quarters for eight crew make this an excellent yacht." I’m sure.

The 37m Trideck Yacht is POA, but once delivered and optioned, don’t expect much change from $30 million.

Rodwell also believes the recent buoyant economy coupled with the “seachange” movement is fuelling many purchases.

“These people, many just hard-working regular folks, have opted to stay near home and enjoy themselves.”

But obviously not everyone is shelling out $10 million for their personal dream boat.

Peter Duke, a professional skipper with 20 years experience, is seeing a change in the owner demographic.

“Put simply, there are more boats, more owners and more money! Once it was just the big end of town, now it seems almost everyone is enjoying a luxury vessel. Clearly there are plenty of people in the construction, banking and finance industries doing very well at the moment.”

For those hankering for the high life, Sunseeker’s 47 Portofino (pic, left) is a great way to start. Priced around $1.3 million and comes with radar, autopilot and enough comfort to accommodate and impress four people in two cabins. It could well be your stepping stone to superyacht stardom.

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