What’s the first thing you notice as you enter Zaitunay Bay? No doubt it’s the yacht club. The picturesque setting of shiny vessels inflames our secret wishes… for they are exclusive possessions that embody money, liberty, and sheer indulgence… while recalling bright images of open seas, unpolluted skies, and nascent islands. It is no wonder that rock vocalist David Lee Roth once said that money can't buy us happiness, but it can buy us a yacht big enough to pull up right alongside it.
Big Boys’ Toys
Fabled tycoons who were passionate about yachts, and all about hardcore networking and cultivating associates, included Franklin Roosevelt who requisitioned the Delphine to conduct meetings with Winston Churchill and Vyacheslav Molotov during World War II, Malcolm Forbes who hosted high-powered czars while The Highlander cruised the seven seas, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen who promoted the brand’s new software at a convention of cable-TV executives from the Octopus, as well as Microsoft pioneer Dr. Charles Simonyi whose Skat became a driving force behind the invention of the brand’s Excel program.
Notorious magnates who are passionate about yachts and all about luxury and status include Saudi billionaire Dr. Nasser al-Rashid whose Lady Moura requires the devotion of an 80-member crew to keep up with the yacht’s onboard sand beach and fully equipped hospital, New Zealand’s telecommunications mogul Alan Gibbs whose exploration yacht Senses harbored the world’s first high-speed amphibious car, and one of the world’s largest private car dealers, John Staluppi, whose eighteen yachts were named after James Bond sequels. Rivalry viciously soars between business foes Paul Allen and Larry Ellison, shipping plutocrats Stavros Niarchos and Aristotle Onassis, and fashion gurus Roberto Cavalli and Giorgio Armani.
At the Heart of an Industry
Super mega yachts form the very core of a niche industry that specializes in catering to the wealthy 1%. Besides contributing to the domestic care and hospitality sector by recruiting captains and sailors, chefs and hostesses, stewards and cleaning staff, yachts are revolutionizing some macro industries like interior design and architecture, engineering and electronics, tourism and chartering. There is a ubiquitous trend among builders and designers to mount customizable dinghies that replicate the amenities of a high-end condo, with flexible and adjustable spaces that function as indoor and outdoor areas. The slightest detail can propel a yacht’s luxury to a higher level. And since no yacht is an island, the metallic monster of the sea is incomplete without its arsenal of recreational vessels… incapable of reaching deeper realms. Submarines, powerboats, landing boats, jet skis, tenders, tritons, wakeboards, canoes, kayaks… all these buzzing extensions serve as the monster’s tentacles and arouse the owner’s ego buds.
Life in the Glistening Ocean
The most obvious part about sailing through highlife is how ludicrously expensive it is; it costs from $4 to $5 million to paint an ultra-yacht, up to $80,000 to fill a 120-ton fuel tank, and from $25,000 to $50,000 a week to dock it in the Quai des Milliardaires at the International Yacht Club of Antibes, Port Hercule at the Monaco Grand Prix, and Fort Lauderdale on a random day.
Speed fanatics, like owner of Duty Free Shoppers Robert Miller, are happiest steering their roaring ships in ultimate races like the Volvo Ocean Race, the Superyacht Challenge Antigua, and England’s Henley Royal Regatta. Aussie cruiser Mark Jensen, on the other hand, prefers to take his Beneteau 393 sailing yacht on a spontaneous trip around the world. In his travel blog, he reports facing a category-5 cyclone and Somali Pirate attack.
Devotion can be genuinely felt in the case of Mouna Ayoub’s acquisition and restauration of Phocea. In her memoir, the French socialite and businesswoman confesses to finding love and freedom with a boat and not a man.
There are over 6,000 superyachts roaming the Earth and the number is steadily increasing. In the dinghy culture, it is said that you are nobody until you own your own yacht or charter one. But when the dogfight rages between territorial industrialists and barons, the yacht is alas defined as “a furnace that just burns money.” Either way, purchasing or building superyachts remains the ultimate demonstration of affluence and influence.