Wednesday, 14th August 2013
After an energetic game of squash, what could be more refreshing than to splash into the ocean on a waterslide or even on a zipwire? Where once superyachts were largely seen as floating villas, from which one might watch the Monaco Grand Prix or host a dinner party during the Cannes Film Festival, a new generation of owners are increasingly turning their attention to onboard sport.
In 1988, when Nick Jeffery was working on the first volume of the annual industry bible The Superyachts, onboard gymnasiums did not even exist. Today, 25 volumes later, virtually every vessel featured has a fitness centre and pool, not to mention a flotilla of water toys.
“Fitness has become a carefully managed part of the superyacht lifestyle, with personal trainers, masseuses and a chef, making sure that guests’ bodies are pampered,” says Jeffery, a leading yacht marketing consultant. “Suddenly owners are pushing to go beyond that, and it is changing the nature of cruising.”
The recently launched Madam Gu, for example, is an elegant 99-metre vessel built by Feadship which features the first onboard squash court. Meanwhile, jet ski fanatic (and billionaire Russian industrialist) Mikhail Prokhorov has configured his rakish 96-metre yacht Palladium as a fitness and fun platform, with a vast gym and an even larger garage for some 20 personal watercraft and almost every aqua toy imaginable. Palladium, designed by Michael Leach Designs, has jet skis for every passenger and two 40-knot Cougar powerboats – the fully deployed fleet put one observer in mind of a scene from Mad Max.
Such marine diversions are now being supplemented by landlubber sports. As well as a cinema and glass-bottomed “aquarium” room, the 78-metre Hampshire II, which accommodates 14 guests and 23 crew, has a foredeck court for basketball, tennis or badminton. Guests on the yacht, which was launched last year, can move on from tennis court to onboard assault course, then the zipwire which runs from crow’s nest to the sea.
It is not just newbuilds that are getting in on what superyachties dub the “action stations” – others are being retrofitted to boost their appeal in the competitive yacht charter market.
“Anything that provides a novel edge helps marketing, and boys do love toys,” says Miriam Cain of Camper & Nicholsons, a company specialising in yacht management and brokerage.
Among the easiest facilities to add are Aquaglide inflatable waterslides, which require no structural alterations to install or muscle definition to use. Rather more challenging is the Flyboard seen circling the Mariu, a 50-metre Giorgio Armani-designed yacht, off Saint-Tropez last summer. Powered by a high-pressure jet of water, it allows the user to fly through the air, hovering up to 10 metres above the sea. Charter broker Edmiston has noted special interest in the Mariu as a result.
Elsewhere, British telecoms tycoon John Caudwell had his already well-equipped Titania stretched by four metres during a refit last year, taking her to 72 metres. Enhancements include an air-conditioned gym on the top deck and a floating harbour for watersports kit that extends from the stern.
Scuba equipment has long been de rigueur but the 54-metre Tiara (available for charter from Edmiston) takes this further with a new dive centre for 12 guests that has secured accreditation as an official Padi (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) centre, the first on a luxury sailing yacht.
If anyone is to blame for what yachting purists deprecate as “gadget infestation”, it is Chris Cecil-Wright, an industry veteran whose new firm Cecil Wright specialises in the sale, chartering and construction of yachts. His innovations include zipwires, tightropes and even the waterfall (which first appeared on the Lady Lola, cascading two levels into the jacuzzi below).
Says Cecil-Wright: “Time spent aboard a large, high-quality yacht needs to offer not only a level of comfort and pleasure but also a really adventurous experience impossible to find anywhere else.”