The History of Super Yachting – Part 2

The 1990s: Super Yachting comes of Age

1990 brought a new decade and a new beginning. In fact, by the middle of the 90s the world had entered an unprecedented phase of growth fuelled by a new and exciting sector – IT. The Internet was revolutionising every aspect of modern life: it was helping old industry to grow and it was creating new types of business as well.  In 1987 the FTSE 100 was priced at around 1700 points, but by 1997 it had reached 5136. A gain of over 300% in 10 years! Similarly, the S&P 500 moved from around 260 to reach 960 by 1997. A gain of 370%! It seemed everybody was making money, and, of course, more money meant more Superyachts!

 By the mid 90s production of super yachts had begun again in earnest. In 1995 Amels launched the 78-meter motor yacht Montkaj for a Saudi Prince and in 1996 Feadship launched the 60-meter Medusa, commissioned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. But in 1997 it was Lurssen again breaking new ground with the launch of the 96-meter Limitless, another Jon Bannenberg design.


It was one of the largest private yachts of its time (it still stands out to this day!) and also one of the most technologically advanced. Limitless was the first yacht to feature a combination of diesel and diesel-electric propulsion generating high performance with very low fuel consumption. She was designed to allow a non-stop transatlantic passage at speeds of up to 25 knots. The new system also offered great flexibility: one of the ship’s generators was capable of powering a bow thruster as well as the fully rotational stern thruster to drive the yacht forward at 5 knots without even turning the engines on.  The interior was decorated by renowned French designer Francios Catroux and has never been photographed.

Another innovative yacht of the 90s was Izanami (now Ronin), designed by renowned British architect Norman Foster and built by Lurssen. With its angular superstructure of chalk white and pointed grey hull, Izanami looked like a futuristic navy patrol boat. It was the largest aluminium vessel to be built at the time and the super-light structure of the vessel was combined with a stylish, minimalist interior that allowed her to obtain speeds of up to 33 knots.



The private yacht industry, along with the economy as a whole, was enjoying unprecedented growth: more and more vessels were being launched every year and they were getting bigger. In the late 80s a 30-meter vessel was still considered a large private yacht but by 1995 the ‘smallest’ yacht on Boat International’s Top 100 Register was the 50-meter Margaux Rose and by 1999 it was the 53-meter Perini Navi Sail Yacht Galaxia. The term ‘Superyacht’ was coined to distinguish the 50-meter plus elite from those who owned vessels in the 30/40meter range- mere yachts.

A New Millennium: Beyond Super Yachts

The expansion of the Internet continued apace with a steady increase in online shopping, banking and advertising starting to take over from more traditional means. The Euro currency was launched helping to ease trade across national boarders and emerging markets such as China and India began to threaten the economic dominance of the United States.  All in all the world economy continued to develop and advance, despite a few setbacks: the dot-com bubble & subsequent crash in 1999, the sub-prime mortgage crash and banking collapse of 2007, the Occupy Wall Street movement of 2011. However, none of these made an impact on the yachting industry, which continued to grow exponentially. The number of incredible yachts launched from 2000 to 2013 is truly staggering and it is impossible to do justice to them all in a single article, but I will try and give a brief overview of the last 13 years.

Feadship launched more than 30 yachts over 40 meters during this period. A standout among these was the 2004 Ecstasea, built for Roman Abramovich. At 86-meters she was the largest yacht Feadship had built and the most powerful. The 4 diesel engines gave a total power of 12,616hp but a Gas Turbine at the centre of the stern gave enough additional power for the yacht to reach 30 knots, incredibly fast for an 86 meter yacht!


In 2008 Feadship launched the striking 72-meter yacht Predator. With its axe bow and frowning bridge windows it looks like the super yacht most likely to star in the next Transformers movie.

pic1In 2009 Feadship launched the 75-meter Ocean Victory and in 2011 the 81-meter yacht Air as well as the two 88-meter sister ships Musashi (commissioned by Larry Ellison) and Fountainhead (commissioned by Mark Cuban). In 2012 they launched the 80-meter yacht Venus, created by famed French designer Philippe Stark for Steve Jobs. Although Steve Jobs apparently allowed Starck free reign with the structural design, the yacht still has a particularly Apple-ish feel to it with its squared lines, its socket dotted portholes and its grey/white colour scheme. Jobs himself spent considerable time on the interior detailing of the yacht, including, of course, the placement of seven 27-inch iMacs at the bridge control panel in this strikingly modern yacht.


The company Oceanco, based in the Netherlands, had been building yachts since 1987 but it wasn’t until after the Millennium that they began to focus specifically on 80-meter plus mega yachts. In 2000 they launched the 95-meter Indian Empress and in 2001 the 80-meter Stargate. In 2007 Oceanco completed the 80-meter Amevi as well as the truly stunning 82-meter Alfa Nero with her eye catching aft deck bar and infinity pool (which can also be transformed into a large dance floor or a helipad).


In 2008 Oceanco finished the 75-meter Anastasia and in 2009 the 85-meter Vibrant Curiosity. 2010 saw the launch of Seven Seas (86mtr), and Sunrays (85mtr) and in 2012 Oceanco completed Nirvana (88mtr). With some dazzling examples of design and craftsmanship and the capacity to build up to 5 yachts of 80 plus at a time Oceanco’s focus on mega yachts seems to be paying off.

In recent times Lurssen has again been one the busiest builders of yachts.  Since 2000 they have launched 23 yachts in the 70-meter plus range, all of which went straight into the Top 100 Private Yacht Register. In 2002 Lurssen completed the 98-meter Carinthia VII, built to outdo the 96-meter Limitless, which had itself been built to outdo Carinthia VI (look out for Limitless II!). In 2003 they launched the iconic yacht Pelorus. The name is derived from the Greek for ‘vast’ and at 115 meters, she certainly is.  However, the Tim Haywood design has managed to draw such elegant lines and create such a balanced yacht that Pelorus somehow manages to look slender and delicate despite her vast size.


2003 also saw the launch of the 126-meter Octopus, built for Paul Allen, complete with 2 helicopters, 2 submarines and 19-meter tender as well as numerous other boats and toys. In 2004 Lurssen launched the immense 138-meter Rising Sun with its aft deck basketball court. Rising Sun was built for Larry Ellison and was Jon Bannenberg’s last project.  In 2004 came the 72-meter Queen K, in 2005 the 90-meter Ice, and in 2006 the 92-meter Sail Yacht EOS. 2008 was a busy year with the launch of Martha Ann (70mtr), Skat (70mtr), TV (78mtr), Dilbar (110mtr) and the gigantic 155-meter Al Said. More recently Lurssen launched the 124-meter Katara and the 147-meter Topaz.

A yacht that needs to be mentioned in any run down of 21st century vessels is the 2008 Blohm + Voss construction named A. At 119 meters and 5,500gt she is a substantial yacht but it is her futurist style rather than her size which makes her stand out. Another Phillipe Starck creation, A polarises opinion with her radical hull form and super structure.


Another landmark vessel of the new Millennium is the extraordinary Maltese Falcon. Built in 2006 by Perini Navi for Tom Perkins this 88-meter vessel is an incredible meeting of design and technology. The yacht has many innovative design features including fully rotational masts and a hydraulic sail system that allows all 15 sails to be deployed by a single person. This is effectively a square rigged sailing vessel, but one which can also sail close to the wind.


However, all yachts mentioned so far fall in the shadow of the 162.5-meter Eclipse, currently the largest private yacht in the world, built by Blohm + Voss for Roman Abramovich. Although not as elegant as Pelorus she is certainly large and well equipped: 2 helicopter pads, 1 mini submarine, 2 swimming pools, numerous hot tubs, numerous tenders and water sports toys, a missile defence system and specially designed anti-paparazzi system (apparently this flashes a light into the would be photographers lenses causing photos to be overexposed and blank). Eclipse takes the title of largest private yacht in the world by being a whisker (0.5mtrs) longer than the 162-meter Dubai, built by Platinum Yachts in 2006 for Prince Jefri of Brunei. The increase in size of private yachts in the last 10 years has been truly staggering. So much so that in 2012 the smallest yacht in the Top 100 Register of Private Yachts was 75 meters in length and with numerous large builds nearing completion that number seems set to rise very soon.

The future of Super Yachting: Mega Yachts, Giga Yachts and beyond

As we move into 2013 there is no sign of a slow down in the super yacht industry. The biggest current news is that of Project Azzam. Another Lurssen build this one is rumoured to be between 170 and 180 meters in length. Truly a behemoth of a boat! Project Azzam is scheduled for launch in the later part of 2013. Also currently under construction is the sailing vessel White Pearl. Not much is know about this project at the moment except that she is set to be a three-masted sailing vessel and is being built in Germany with a launch set for 2016. The aim is that at 147 meters White Pearl will be the largest Sailing Yacht in the world. However, she will be run close by another sailing vessel under construction in Turkey: project Dream Symphony, as she is currently called, is set to be a very modern 141-meter sailing yacht.

Dream-Symphony-yacht-rAs private yachts increase in length they increase exponentially in volume and complexity (and price!). Each increase in volume and complexity requires an increase in skilled crew. Rising Sun has as many as 40 crew on board, Eclipse is said to have as many as 70 full time crew, and these new builds will need even more. As larger and larger yachts are launched, more and more crew will be to needed to work on them, and so it seems there has never been a better time to get a job on a Superyacht, a Mega yacht or even a Giga Yacht!

One Response to “The History of Super Yachting – Part 2

  • Have you ever dreamed about yacht like that? I just wonder what kind of person you should be, to own the three largest and most luxury yachts of the world at total worth of over 1.5 billion USD. That is really amazing and Pelorus and Eclipse are so beautiful and so luxury, that we have never seen something like that ever.

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