When I was a kid I used to go to the London Motor Show every year for my birthday. Living in the green belt, just catching the Tube was an adventure back then. But seeing the brand new supercars was the real kick; shutters clicking, flashes reflecting off the glossy new paint jobs, a lucky few punters even being able to sit inside the cars. It was absolute magic for me.
Then I grew up. Don’t get me wrong; I still love cars, but once you’ve been to a yacht show, you realise that the road-going counterpart is relative child’s play. For a start, you don’t get the Tube to the Monaco Yacht Show.
As a VIP guest of Ocean Independence – a global leader in luxury super yachts, specialising in sales, charter, new build and management – a helicopter is sent to pick you up from Nice Airport. The chopper follows the famous coastline; the waters below are unseasonably busy. You’ll see the overflow from the show before you even catch sight of the port: hundreds of white blotches pepper the china-blue sea.
There is what can only be described as an armada of luxury yachts of all different shapes and styles anchored in a billionaire’s bay, the sea awash with money.
Until I went to the Yacht Show, I never really got yachts. But exploring ten very different yachts in two days has definitely opened my eyes. Buying a yacht is actually far more like buying a house than a car. The ability to apply your personal taste ad infinitum; their endlessly customisable nature; to renovate or rebuild; even taking out a mortgage to pay for it.
Of course, you can always rent (‘charter’ in yacht speak) – and, just like with a house, this option has all the same advantages: it’s more immediate; it’s more flexible; you don’t have to worry about the upkeep, the depreciation or the berthing costs either.
But it’s not yours. And for some, that’s a compromise they’re not willing to make.
Whichever route you decide to take, one problem won’t be choice. Ocean Independence had 16 different vessels on show this year – although large by the show’s standards this is only a tiny proportion of its portfolio. It was a pretty diverse selection; here are ten of our favourites…
Vicky is definitely a party girl. Before you even board her, the first thing you can see is a long bar lined with champagne flutes, buckets of Ruinart providing a suitably golden backdrop. Beyond is a full-size grand piano; above are modern crystal chandeliers; and at the rear is a grand staircase where you can imagine guests descending in elegant cocktail wear.
To recover from all the partying, the yacht has her own spa with hammam steam room, living garden wall and huge day bed. There’s even an aquarium embedded in one of the walls. The staterooms are exceptionally well appointed – and the spacious full-beam master suite has two walk-in wardrobes, both of which are larger than my first apartment.
But sleep is for wimps, right? I’d rather be on the giant slide, which descends from the top-deck helipad into the sea.
Endeavour 2 was only completed this year and was one of the most stylish yachts at the show. The work of famed Italian designer Achille Salvagni, her interior is a masterpiece in Japanese-inspired minimalism. All smooth surfaces and mood lighting, this boat an incredibly tranquil place to be – like you’ve boarded a floating spa.
But despite this soft and stylish interior, this tri-deck stunner is actually pretty hardy on the outside. She was originally built as an exploratory vessel with long range and low fuel consumption at her core, so you can take her far and wide with no trouble.
The full-beam master suite has a stunning fold-out balcony offering the best views to those who are picking up the tab.
Not every new yacht actually looks new. Indeed Soprano, made by Hakvoort, was only finished this year, but is a modern interpretation of a 1920s cruiser. Although her tech and build is thoroughly contemporary, her style is art deco meets Caribbean colonial. The living areas have an almost beach-house feel with windows that actually open – a surprising rarity in yachts this large – to let in the ocean air.
Available for charter, this is not one for the party crowd; she’s more Radio 4 than Radio 1. Crucially, she’s below the 500-tonne regulatory threshold, so she can explore far and wide. Or just pootle around the Med. The choice is yours.
You need to decide what you want a yacht for. Is it to escape? Is it to party? Is it to get away from it all – or be in the middle of it?
The beauty of many yachts is that they can help you achieve all of these things.
The first we saw was Como. At 47m and with six staterooms, she’s a generous yacht for entertaining a group of friends or a large family. Or just you and your partner, if you’re feeling particularly romantic.
Not only are the Dutch widely regarded as the best shipbuilders in the world, Heesen is arguably the very top of Holland’s tree. Every yacht Heesen has ever built has been delivered on time. And every single one has lived up to the performance figures that they have projected. This is no mean feat.
What makes Como particularly special is that she was commissioned and made for Mr Heesen himself. If ever the craftsmen at the yard needed extra motivation surely making a yacht for the boss would be it?
On Como, every seam is crisp, every surface pristine. She’s built like a safe and is just as strong. She has a restrained yet modern aesthetic. The male broker who showed us around commented on how manly he thought Como was; the female marketeer how calming she found her. She’s all yachts to all people.
The finishing touch is a giant sun deck: extremely large for the size of the yacht – at nearly three quarters of its full length – it’s finished off with a substantial hot tub, just a few steps away from the bar. Life from Como’s vantage point seems pretty good.
As we board Smiling T, we’re greeted by the grin of Peter Hürzeler, Managing Partner of Ocean Independence. Reclining in the deep corner sofa, he waves his hand over the living area, and says “Welcome to the biggest little yacht at the show. This is a pocket explorer.” He should know. He’s been in the industry for decades – working his way up to captain before starting his own charter business, which evolved into Ocean Independence. But even I – a yacht novice – know what he means.
Despite her relatively diminutive 28.2m length, inside she feels much larger. The full-beam master statesroom is a real luxury – this yacht is all about volume. She also has a full sun-deck with hot tub.
You don’t think of Taiwan when you think of yacht manufacture, but Jade Yachts did a superb job of making an impressively hardy vessel, decked out in acres of teak.
With just one owner since her 2012 build, and the same captain for the last five years, it’s easy to find a soft spot for her.
For some people, a yacht isn’t a yacht unless it has sails. That’s where Zalmon comes in: she is the ultimate sailing machine for purists. The 40.4m Zalmon was designed and built by New Zealand maker Alloy Yachts. If you caught the America’s Cup, then you’ll appreciate the Kiwis know a thing or two about sailing. Zalmon is carbon-fibred to the max – even the steering wheel has the lightweight material inlaid into its spokes.
Although she was built back in 2000, she has enjoyed a substantial refit and maintenance programme since 2016, including a complete hull and superstructure paintjob.
And if you bought her, the challenge of one day sailing her back to her home country would surely be too great to pass up?
This striking yacht from Italian yachtyard Codecasa has to win the prize for the best name – Flying Dagger. It’s not much of an exaggeration, either. Despite her considerable 41m length, she’s capable of 34 knots. That’s an almighty top speed for any yacht, let alone one with four bedrooms. But then, this yacht doesn’t do things by halves. Her interior is somewhere between an art gallery and a nightclub. There are sliding mirror doors, gold-leaf walls and stark white angles.
Imagine the Sanderson hotel, but with a 7,400bhp engine.
Thanks to the mastery of luxury yacht architect Andrea Bacigalupo, she has the fun feel of a day yacht, but the size and stature of one you could spend months on.
Yachts start getting serious around the 40m mark. But when you get into this territory, it can become somewhat overwhelming, and the yachts not that liveable. That’s not a problem with More. This 44.2m Benetti Vision Series is incredibly homely. There’s a reason she gets booked year on year by repeat customers: she’s as comfortable as a slipper but has the sex appeal of a stiletto. A slippetto, if you will.
Her master bedroom is particularly remarkable with floor-to-ceiling wrap-around windows overlooking the imposing bow of the yacht. The second hull of only 18 made, you won’t see many like her on the ocean. She’s as classy as she is classic – and a week’s charter will leave you wanting a whole lot more.
When you conjure up the image of an Italian yacht, the Ocean King 130 is probably not what you’re imagining. Made in Venice, at the Cantieri Navali Chioggia shipyard, she is designed for adventurers.
With capacity for 170,000 litres of fuel, it has a range of 20,000 nautical miles at eight knots. That’s very nearly enough to circumnavigate the world without stopping. At a 12-knot cruising speed you’ll get 5,000 miles from her – that’s trans-Pacific range. Upgrade her to ice class (increasing the hull thickness from an already hefty 8mm to 15mm), and the world really is yours.
She’s only 40m long but in many ways felt like one of the biggest yachts in the show. With her brutalist, utilitarian looks, she certainly has undeniable presence.
Jonathan Browne, one of Ocean Independence’s seasoned brokers, hit the nail on the head: “You can pick this up for the same price as a Sunseeker 116. That’s just a giant gin palace – all coat and no knickers; this… this is a real yacht.”
OK, so this is a whole different ball game. Indeed, this €40m 69m yacht is aptly named Game Changer. The most amazing thing about it is that it’s only actually a support vessel – one to go alongside a mothership.
Made in the merchant style by Damen, it has a fully certified helicopter hangar. Imagine you need to transport your chopper to, say, the Caribbean from the Med. You don’t want it exposed to the elements for two weeks, do you? So it sinks into the hull where it’s looked after. And let’s say you want to sail to the Arctic circle and go heliskiing. For two weeks. This is the one for you.
She’s an incredibly fast vessel, too, with an x-bow that cuts through the sea like a knife, making her stable and fuel efficient.
She takes the ‘support’ part of her job role very seriously: she can carry just about every marine toy that you can imagine; has a huge galley so food can be prepared ahead of arrival of the mother yacht; and even has a hospital wing with a totally enclosed air-conditioning system. She also has a party deck space for up to 250 guests, if you want to keep the mothership clear and clean.
This really is next-level yachting.