Delta Delivers Katya

Delta Marine Katya

Here’s something that doesn’t occur often: a yacht delivered early.

That’s what happened last month, when Delta Marine handed over Katya to her owners, who promptly enjoyed a cruise along the U.S. West Coast before heading to the Panama Canal.

I got an early look at the 151-footer in May, and she was shaping up nicely. The red bootstripe and curvy profile were eye-catching. The owners, from the Midwestern region of the USA, hired Jean-Claude Canestrelli of Canestrelli Design to work with the Delta Design Group, the yard’s in-house team. The woods reflected dark, rich colors – specifically, an African mahogany known as Khaya, crotch mahogany, and Cinamora burl. Stone inlays formed the tops of the buffets to each side in the dining area, and the Delta craftsmen were laying more stonework on the sole in the foyer along the starboard side, where a central staircase also resides. I therefore couldn’t venture forward to the master suite, occupying the full beam, or the four guest staterooms below decks. But in speaking with the project manager, I learned that the en suite heads each featured an abundance of stone, something the owners definitely wanted Katya to reflect.

Because the owners plan to enjoy long cruises and offer Katya for charter later this year, there are also generous storage areas for provisions and four commercial-grade refrigerator/freezer combos in the galley. A crew staircase leads to the upper deck so that snacks and meals can be served at the alfresco dining area for 10, and a central bar takes care of everyone on the sundeck. (Hopefully guests will spend more time relaxing there than using the workout equipment that can be pulled out and set up on the teak-lined deck.) Another crew-only staircase allows the eight-person crew to reach their accommodations below decks, and the captain’s stateroom is just aft of the wheelhouse.

It’s also worth noting that Katya is the fifth megayacht to feature Delta’s full-displacement design, which permits more tankage than similar-size yachts. In fact, she can tote 20,000 gallons of fuel. That, in combination with twin Caterpillar 3508 diesels, yield a range exceeding 5,000 nautical miles while cruising at 12 knots.

I plan to take a closer look at Katya during the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, where she’ll make her formal debut.

Superyacht Index: “2008 Was a Good Year”

Sunrise 45m Africa

For the better part of this month, I’ve been poring over the second edition of The (Super)Yachting Index, the annual analysis of what’s going on in the megayacht business, as compiled by Camper & Nicholsons and The Luxury Institute, a research organization focused on high-net-worth individuals. Last year’s edition, the first of its kind, contained some pretty eye-opening information regarding the number of superyachts in existence (3,800), the size range most fall into (100 to 130 feet), and how much the market had grown over the prior two years (1,000 new launches).

The current edition provides some equally interesting information, notably that despite the economic collapse that marked the fall and early winter of 2008, last year saw an “unparalleled level” of megayacht sales and charter, as Jillian Montgomery and Laurent Perignon, CEO and director of marketing (respectively) for Camper & Nicholsons, write in the foreword. In fact, they theorize that if global conditions had remained stable, 2008 likely would have eclipsed 2007 regarding the business value that was generated.

So what are some of the statistics? In the brokerage realm, 330 yachts measuring 80 feet and larger sold in 2008, an increase of 15 boats over the prior year. Even with that five-percent increase in overall volume, the total dollar value was actually down, by 20 percent, adding up to $2.6 billion. How could it be down when more yachts sold? Likely because sales did slow down as the end of the year approached. It could also be related to the increase in listings in the second half of 2008. The Index found that new listings rose to 1,000, compared to 500 in 2007. Both of these scenarios are logical when you consider the banking crisis and economic problems exploded last September.

In the charter realm, nearly 1,000 megayachts were available for charter as 2008 drew to a close, a sizable jump considering 830 were available in 2007. Montgomery and Perignon believe that at least part of the increase can be attributed to owners of newly delivered superyachts; in fact, they determined that one-third of new launches entered the charter market.

Speaking of new launches, the (Super)Yachting Index couldn’t be complete without also taking a look at new construction. In an attempt to make the statistics even more accurate, Camper & Nicholsons’ team examined signed contracts, vs. the number of yachts on shipyards’ order books. It was a wise move; if you’ve ever looked at the order-book stories written by several of the yachting magazines, you know that some overstate what yards are going to build, counting projects they hope to construct on spec. A signed contract is therefore more authoritative. Now, Camper & Nicholsons acknowledges that most signed contracts are in the 100-foot-plus realm, so it had no choice but to rely on order-book information in addition to contracts for the 80- to 99-foot realm. Regardless, in 2007, the average length of megayachts was 117 feet, while last year it grew to 123 feet. If laid end to end, the total deliveries of 100-foot-plus yachts would measure more than 32,800 feet. To put that figure into perspective, it’s about two and a half times the height of the Empire State Building.

As to where the yachts were being designed, just like in 2007, Italy led the list – for both fully custom and semicustom yachts. Of the 77 custom megayachts delivered worldwide last year, 18 came from Italian drawing boards. Only UK designers came close to rivaling that, with 15 designs being built and delivered – although they ranked first in terms of the total length per company, at nearly 3,380 feet. When it came to semicustom megayachts, Italian design firms were responsible for 70 yachts totaling 12,556 feet. U.S., Dutch, British, and French designers rounded out the top five.

One thing that hasn’t changed: Yacht owners are still predominantly American. Italian, Russian, and Greek buyers rank highly, too, and the super-size superyachts that keep grabbing headlines are mostly commissioned by Middle Eastern individuals.

As to what’s occurring now and may happen by the end of 2009, Toby Walker, Camper & Nicholsons’ sales director, offers some interesting insight. He says that despite the megayacht business having undergone a tremendous change in 2008 – “probably an irreversible one” – there are golden opportunities for buyers and charterers alike. In turn, he recommends that every company in the business double its efforts to not only focus on service but also improve it. “The immense joys and privileges derived from being afloat are still the same,” he points out.

He hits the nail on the head with that statement. What I find most interesting about the (Super)Yachting Index is that its findings are in line with those of other far more publicized reports. Even though a recent New York Times article referenced analysts’ beliefs that the rise of the super-rich has finally hit a wall, the 2009 World Wealth Report, published by Capgemini and Merrill Lynch, estimates that the wealth of high-net-worth individuals will soon bounce back. In fact, the report states, despite the wealth of these individuals declining 20 percent in 2008, it should grow at an annual rate of eight percent, achieving a new high by 2013.

That translates to an extraordinary opportunity. If those individuals don’t know about the yachting lifestyle – whether from an ownership standpoint or that of a charterer – and yacht-oriented businesses don’t position themselves to cater to them, it will be an opportunity wasted.

Tricon’s First Yacht Hits the Water

Argos G92 launch

Yacht building in China took another step forward with the launch of the Argos G92 earlier this month at Tricon Marine.

Located in Zhuhai, in the same region of the Guandong province that has attracted other yacht companies, Tricon Marine is a relatively new builder, established earlier this year by David Adams, the founder of Premier Yacht & Ship, and Christos Livadas, a former client of Adams’ who wanted to start his own yard.

The Tricon Marine team tapped Howard Apollonio for the Argos G92’s naval architecture. After extensive tank testing at B.C. Maritime Institute, a “hybrid trans-planing” hull, as Tricon refers to it, was selected to make transoceanic travel more efficient yet also to make a good turn of speed possible. With deep propeller pockets and an extended keel, it additionally has soft forward chines. The hull is said to be suited to a variety of engines, ranging from 600 hp to 2,400 hp, for top speeds up to 35 knots. (As of this writing, however, no information was available on the exact engine package for hull number one.)

Argos G92 sea trial

Inside, the all-fiberglass megayacht has a decided emphasis on space. The master stateroom, for example, is just aft of the pilothouse and referred to as a SkySuite, with a panoramic view, something not seen on other yachts in this size range. In keeping with the philosophy of protecting the owner’s privacy, the crew have side-deck and other internal access to the pilothouse separate from social areas. There’s also a split-level sun deck, measuring 26 feet long and encompassing more than 800 square feet.

In a recent interview with Fairtheworld.com, a Chinese company focused on Web-based news related to China, Adams conveyed the difficulties of finding local skilled craftspeople experienced in boat building. He added that Tricon was therefore hiring workers from other countries but hoped the government would set up training schools to benefit the growing industry.

The Argos G92 will debut at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. In the meantime, a 100-footer, the first model in the Argos G100 series, is under construction at the yard.

Vripack Collaborates With Kingship Again

Vripack Kingship 138

While most yachts in the 130-foot range are semidisplacement designs, this one bucks the trend. You’re looking at the Kingship 138, the latest design that the yacht builder, which is based in the Pearl River Delta district in Guandong Province, China, has tapped Vripack to design and engineer.

Kingship Marine previously worked with Vripack on Princess K, a 110-footer that’s part of its Magellan series of oceangoing megayachts. The steel-hulled 138 is intended to be an ocean explorer as well, with an expected range of nearly 4,700 nautical miles at 10 knots. (Maximum speed is anticipated at 13 knots, thanks to twin Caterpillar C32 ACERT diesels.) She’ll meet both Lloyds and MCA requirements.

Vripack is also overseeing the interior design, which will feature all staterooms on the lower deck, including the owner’s cabin. Given the emphasis on long-range cruising, the crew’s quarters are receiving extra attention for comfort, and they’re additionally being planned with a professional-quality laundry area – no mere washer and dryer in a closet.

Some alfresco areas will extend the interior of the trideck yacht to the outside. For example, the owner’s stateroom will include a balcony, something rarely seen in this size range. But overall, when it came to the exterior styling, Vripack wanted to emphasize powerful, clean lines. Bart Bouwhuis, Vripack’s director of design, says that in the process of creating the design with Kingship, the team eliminated a lot of shapes, “which ultimately makes the look and feel tick like a clock.”

Expect the Kingship 138 to tick for real in 2011.

Heesen Rolls Out New Series

Heesen 4000 Series

Building yachts on spec may seem like a big gamble these days, but Heesen Yachts is staying the course. Why? Because the yard had its highest order demand in its 31-year history last year, according to Fabio Ermetto, Heesen’s commercial and marketing director, but equally important, he says the yard wants to remain prepared for the eventual turnaround in buyer demand.

To that end, the new design pictured here, the 4000 Series, is being added to Heesen’s lineup.

If you’re familiar with Heesen’s offerings, you may recall that it has a 3700 Series, of which eight deliveries have been made to date and two more are under construction. You might therefore also assume that the 4000 will replace the 3700 – but that’s actually not the case. Heesen wants the new series to fill the gap between the 3700 and the 4400 Series.

“The 4000 is for those owners who look for more comfort but still prefer two and a half decks with a high level of customization,” Ermetto tells me. Plus, “our competitors build this kind of yacht in fiberglass, but ours is in aluminum.”

As the name suggests, the 4000 is a 40-meter (131’3”) megayacht. Being built to ABS classification, she features her own semidisplacement hull design, which, besides being longer than that of the 3700, is also half a meter (1’6”) wider, coming in at 8 meters (26’3”). She additionally has a full-beam flying bridge and a variety of interior layout options for four or five staterooms, including ones in which the VIP cabin can be full beam.

One thing that won’t change: the emphasis on good turn of speed. Thanks to twin 3,700-hp MTU 16V4000 M90s, the 4000 Series should see a 30-knot top end. Ermetto says that owners may be able to achieve up to 4 knots more if they select the optional M93 diesels. Regardless, scaled back to 12 knots, the yacht should see a range of 2,000 nautical miles. Zero-speed stabilizers – something the 3700 doesn’t feature – should ensure comfort.

While most buyers don’t pay much attention – if any at all – to how a yacht is designed, Heesen proudly points out that the 4000 Series is its first to be fully designed in 3D. It actually is a significant move, as any yacht builder that presently uses 3D can tell you. Three-dimensional models allow all the departments, from design to engineering to interior decor fit-out, to share information far earlier and therefore avoid potential errors before the first pipe, wire, or other elements gets put in place. This in turn, as Ermetto points out, “results in the rapid creation of complete interior layouts,” since lighting and the positioning of furnishings can also be incorporated. Heesen undertook a pilot program for CATIA, one type of 3D design, and was so pleased with the time saved that it is now implementing CATIA throughout the company. “We can deliver drawings faster and of better quality and are able to perform feasibility studies in a matter of hours thanks to the power of 3D,” Ermetto explains.

Delivery for hull number one of the 4000 Series is set for 2011. Given the unprecedented weakened global economy and the predictions from some economists for slow growth, that date may seem too far off for comfort, but it still doesn’t have Heesen concerned. “We’re in a better (financial) position because we don’t build a lot of boats in a year,” Ermetto says.