In April of 1988, a 125-footer (38-meter) slid down the ways at Heesen Yachts. Certainly big for her time, the megayacht was even more noteworthy for her purpose. Her owner commissioned her to be the world’s fastest yacht. The owner: John Staluppi. The yacht: Octopussy. Thirty years later, Octopussy is still the stuff of legends.
Even the way the project started, in 1986, is legendary. Rather than seek a naval architect to start from scratch, Staluppi bought the engines first. Specifically, he purchased three 1,500-hp MTUs. He then sought the engineering and build teams to fashion a yacht around them. “The telephone rang,” remembers Frank Mulder of Mulder Design. “He introduced himself. ‘My name is John Staluppi. You don’t know me, but I’ve got a reference for you, and I have a question.’”
The world speed record at the time was 50 knots. Mulder, whose studio was seven years old, informed Staluppi he’d have to call him back. “I had a very small computer with my own program on it for speed prediction,” he says. “I looked at it and rans some calculations.” Once done, “I called him back and said, ‘I think so.’ The next morning he was at Schiphol airport.”
Octopussy saw construction at Heesen Yachts, established by Frans Heesen in 1978. A name barely known in the United States, Frans Heesen took up the challenge. This newsreel-like video of Octopussy takes you from the moment she launched from his then-modest yard straight through to sea trials. While she did exceed 50 knots on her very first sea trial, that wasn’t good enough.
Ultimately, Octopussy hit 53.17 knots—61.23 mph. Staluppi was thrilled.
“Everybody had told him that doing 53 knots with a 40-meter yacht was impossible,” remembers Cor D. Rover, who was among the newest employees at Mulder Design at the time. “Time has told us it wasn’t.”