Yacht expert Mark Cavendish on the staggering luxury of the lifestyle that surrounds these superyachts
"The concept of making an all-aluminium yacht has been around for donkey’s years," says Mark Cavendish, sales director of Heesen Yachts. "It’s a lightweight material and weight is very important if you want a boat to go fast."
It sounds simple enough. A light boat travels faster, so if you want speed, use light materials. It’s perhaps surprising then, to learn that it has taken until now for any ship builder to create a yacht with the capabilities seen in Heesen’s Galactica Star – a 65m all-aluminium superyacht with an astonishing top speed of 28.8 knots. "There have been aluminium boats, so it’s not new," repeats Cavendish. "It’s just that it’s a specialised production. If you want a boat that does 12 knots and sails 4,000 miles across the ocean, you would be wasting money to use aluminium; you do not need the advantage that aluminium gives you."
So how did the idea come about? "I think it was actually the Monaco Yacht Show in September 2010 when we announced that we had gone into a joint venture with Van Oossanen – the Dutch naval architects who developed the concept of combining the laws of traditional displacement with high- speed aluminium construction – and produced a hybrid yacht that has all the benefits of a traditional steel displacement boat but [can] go very fast when you want it to," explains Cavendish. "Or if you put the coin on its head, it’s the same speed as an equivalent steel displacement boat but with smaller engines using less fuel. So you can either equate it to being faster, or a lot more efficient and cost-effective."
It was the ‘need for speed’ then, that has primarily driven the idea from concept to reality. "Consider the guy who buys a Range Rover versus the guy who buys the Ferrari," reasons Cavendish. "It’s a lifestyle decision… You want to have a modern, sleek, fast yacht as opposed to a more traditional displacement cruising yacht. People like fast yachts because they can manoeuvre around quickly; time is short. If you’re on a two-week holiday in the Mediterranean and you want to do ten ports instead of seven, you can do that on a fast boat. It’s just a lifestyle concept and the way people want to be."
"If you’re on a two-week holiday in the Mediterranean and you want to do ten ports instead of seven, you can do that on a fast boat"
The concept may not be new, as Cavendish modestly points out, but the presence of the concept ‘in the flesh’, as it were, certainly is. The order for Galactica Star was placed just one month after the idea was publicly announced, and its unveiling caused quite a stir in the yachting community. "The reaction was really quite phenomenal," he says. And in terms of what’s on offer to ‘super’ wealthy clients considering the purchase of a yacht, "It really was something quite mind-bogglingly new."
Of course, it could only be ‘super’ wealthy clients who are even able to imagine placing an order, as the price tag for Galactica Star runs into an exceptional number of figures. "At the moment most of the customers are from Russia," says Cavendish. "We are also building a boat for somebody from the Middle East and somebody from Eastern Europe. The people who buy yachts used to be middle aged; now I think the age range has dropped by at least 10 years. It’s not uncommon for owners to be in their 40s, or even in their 30s."
"It’s not uncommon for owners to be in their 40s, or even in their 30s"
And to distinguish the rich from the ‘super’ rich, you only need to take a peek inside the British-designed Bannenberg and Rowell interior of the Galactica Star to begin to understand the luxurious lifestyle that waits upon the waves. "It’s quite modern but certainly not minimalist," says Cavendish. The owners met with Bannenberg and Rowell and worked out the design to their own specification. "I always tell people that building a yacht like that is the modern equivalent of our ancestors who bought grand country homes. People now turn towards the yacht and they create these fantastic floating palaces – their interiors reflect their style, their taste. Some people go for very flamboyant, completely outrageous interiors. I once saw a boat that looked like a condensed version of Versailles Palace. Then you get other people who build quite minimalist interiors. What you don’t see anymore is the traditional; acres of teak or oak panelling with white painted ceilings and quite ‘yacht-y’ interiors."
"I always tell people that building a yacht like that is the modern equivalent of our ancestors who bought grand country homes"
In terms of timescale, however, clients will have plenty of time to decide on final interior specifications as construction can take several years. "The hull is one thing; it takes about a year to build," he says. "Then the other two years are spent fitting out the systems, building the luxury interior, installing it and painting the hull and super structure and laying the teak deck. For a boat of that size, three years is a perfectly normal build time."
With a nine-berth shipyard and the ability to run 12 constructions at one time in a rotation – not to mention their cutting-edge collaborations with world expert naval architects – Heesen Yachts have firmly established themselves as the frontrunners of luxury yacht design and capability. "We have actually got another piece of technology that we are proud of, called the Hull Vein," says Cavendish, offering up another clever contribution to modern ship-building. "This is exactly the same as you have on a Formula 1 racing car. We’ve developed, along with the same naval architects, a component that is attached to the underwater section of the boat behind the propellers, to offset drag, give lift and provide an additional forward vector to pull the boat through the water,’ Cavendish adds with a smile, proving without doubt that Heesen is fully dedicated to progress and discovery – even when it’s already at the top of its game.