These super fast yachts are providing owners with a whole new power trip
As luxury yacht builders look back to their powerboat racing roots, it’s clear that speed matters more than size
Bragging rights in the superyacht world are often tied to size. Yachts like 162m Eclipse and 156m Dilbar are the envy of many, capable of incorporating everything from helipads and swimming pools to wine cellars and cinema rooms across their vast length. But while their smaller neighbours might be eclipsed by these gargantuan boats, they do have one advantage when it comes to speed.
Smaller boats, thanks to their weight and size, tend to be lightning quick. Take the SV Alpha, launched at last year’s Miami Boat Show as the world’s fastest yacht. Packed into just 11.7m, she can tear across the water at a hair-raising top speed of 78 knots. The same goes for the Midnight Express Quintessence43, which uses five 400hp Mercury outboard engines to achieve the same speed.
While superyacht owners might simply host one of these smaller boats in their on-board garage, ready to hoist out at a moment’s notice, others are also keen to ensure the mothership is capable of serious speed. Take Ermis2 – despite being a fully-fledged superyacht at 37.5m long, she is still capable of doing 57 knots, thanks to her lightweight carbon fibre and titanium shell.
Michael Eaglen, CEO at McMullen & Wing, the New Zealand shipyard that built her, explains the motivations of the owner. “For Ermis2, the need for speed was simple maths,” he says. “Based in the Greek Islands, the owner’s cruising options were limited only by the time he had available. If he could go twice as fast, he would get four times as many destination options for a given passage time. At nearly 60 knots, you cover a lot of ground in an hour or two!” >>
Superyacht owners are usually time poor – so the need for speed makes sense. While they can use their turbo tenders to fly into ports and restaurants, their yachts need to be capable of getting them from destination to destination as quickly as possible, ensuring they can make the most of their sparse holiday time. This is especially true now that exploration travel has become a big deal in superyachting circles. Voyages to far-flung regions like Antarctica and Papua New Guinea are far more efficient with a faster boat, after all.
Guido Krass, a yacht owner himself, was encouraged to set up his own shipyard after being told his ideas for a lightweight and speedy superyacht were not viable. “When we initially put our plans out to tender with some of the leading shipyards, we were told it wasn’t possible,” he explains. “We were told, ‘it’s too light, it’s too narrow, it will not be that fast.’ At that point I said to myself, ‘I’ve built up a few companies, why is it going to be so hard to hire the best people and start building with my own shipyard?”
The result is SilverYachts – a shipyard with the tagline, ‘simplicity, efficiency and speed.’ Krass chose to set up the yard in Australia, inspired by the fast, lightweight catamaran ferries the country was churning out in the 1950s. “I was always intrigued by their design,” he says. “Things are more efficient when they are lighter. It wasn’t rocket science.”
SilverFast, one of the yard’s first triumphs, is the world’s fastest aluminium yacht, stretching out to 77m in length and boasting a sleek, silver hull. At top speed, she’s capable of 27 knots – and is currently for sale for a cool €79.5m. >>
Another shipyard making speed a priority is Sunseeker, who recently announced partnerships with both Red Bull Technologies and the Fifa World Cup. “Performance is part of our DNA and heritage,” explains the shipyard’s CEO Phil Popham of the affiliations. “The original boats that we made were small, fast speedboats. You’d go out during the day, but you’d be able to speed back to get the best seats at the restaurant that evening.”
The company will be looking back to their powerboat roots in the not-so-distant future and launching a new range of smaller, faster yachts – while continuing to ensure their bigger boats power ahead of the crowd. “Performance is not just about speed,” says Popham. “It’s a combination of distinctive design, craftsmanship and seaworthiness, as well as range and refinement.”
Many owners agree that speed isn’t everything when it comes to superyachting performance. John Rosatti, who owns the 65m yacht Double Down, is one of them. “In my opinion, speed is not important when you have a superyacht,” he says. “We’ve learned how to travel at night and wake up in the morning at our destination for a lot less money in fuel.” When it comes to tenders though, Rosatti isn’t prepared to compromise. “We do have a 42-foot MTI that goes 80mph and can hold 15 people. I do think that is important for quicker trips and to get around faster.”