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From Gigayachts to Sail Boats: The Best Luxury Vessels of the Year

The Big Idea: The Crystal Yacht

Glass has marked progressive architecture since Joseph Paxton displayed his Crystal Palace at London’s Great Exhibition of 1851. In the current millennium, glass has transformed the world’s skylines from Dubai to Manhattan. At sea, the craze for crystal has consumed the superyacht world, with several groundbreaking projects having released this past year.

Excellence, a 262-foot-long beauty from Abeking & Rasmussen, uses a complicated series of panes for its stunning open staircase. The 262-foot Artefact has glass walls—and 60 tons of the material overall—as well as windows designed in new shapes. Silver Yachts’ 279-foot Bold includes an expansive, full-beam winter garden ringed by glass, which can be folded away and tucked neatly into hidden storage spaces when the weather warms. The trend has spread even to more modest yachts, such as Sunseeker’s Predator 74, whose outer-helm area is enclosed by large panels that open.

It’s not just design whim fueling the surge of glass on board. It’s technology, which has advanced to the point where glass has become thinner, lighter (a must for the seafaring world) and stronger. Yacht designers capitalized on that trend and made a shift from mere windows to full walls, incorporating ever-larger panes and new forms in ambitious ways, like Bold’s folding, stackable garden walls.

“Glass technology is opening the design space,” says naval architect Philippe Briand, who has included large, transparent fields on his boats. “The 3-D shapes we can make are improving all the time. We’re finally able to use glass as a structural element.”

The 295-ft. Dar by Oceanco wins the prize for the most creative and practical use of glass. She has 4,300 square feet of floor-to-ceiling mirrored panels. “The clients wanted to see the water from their salon through a sheer wall, with no bulkheads or metal,” says designer Luiz de Basto, speaking on board Dar at the Monaco Yacht Show. “From the exterior, the glass looks black, but there’s no sacrifice in interior light and no distortion. You can see Monaco, but Monaco can’t see you.”

Underwater examples are also becoming more common. As the material becomes stronger still, it will be increasingly used below the waterline, so you will see the fish, but the fish won’t see you.

Luminosity yacht


Gigayacht: ‘Luminosity’

The favorite gigayacht was not the largest delivered in the last 12 months, but she is arguably the most creative and, potentially, the most eco-friendly. Benetti’s 353-foot Luminosity marks a sea change for the Italian builder, not only for the scale of the yacht, with her 56-foot beam and massive volume of 5,844 gross tons, but also for her diversity of features. The exterior, a collaboration of Reymond Langton, Azure Yacht Design, Zaniz Jakubowski and Giorgio M. Cassetta, retains a classic look, defined by her plumb bow and nearly 9,000 square feet of floor-to-ceiling windows across four decks.

The Zaniz Jakubowski interior is a modern, artistic wonderland. A remote-control media wall, with 1,200 feet of electronic panels, towers three decks up around the main glass stairwell, turning the area into a tropical rain forest, while 264 white magnolias on the salon’s wall open and close as someone passes. Decor in the common areas is light and contemporary, and the palatial master suite has artful surprises, such as a hydro-massage tub crafted from a single block of the same marble Michelangelo used to sculpt his David. Twelve staterooms, including four king suites, accommodate 27 passengers. The beach club, another full-featured complex, has two 323-square-foot sea terraces, a bar and dining area, a full gym and a counter-flow pool. 

The hybrid power is Luminosity’s most significant breakthrough, with diesel-electric generators for propulsion and around 36 tons of lithium-polymer batteries that can fuel the hotel systems for 12 hours, with no emissions or engine noise. The Azipod drive system delivers a respectable 16-knot top end, but at 10 knots, the yacht can cruise for 8,000 nautical miles, potentially crisscrossing the Atlantic.

Artefact superyacht


Superyacht: ‘Artefact’

One of 2019’s most important launches, Artefact has a strong, flamboyant character. The custom 262-footer, built at Nobiskrug’s yard in Germany, is unlike any other yacht on the water, with a multistory glass wall in her midsection, jigsaw-puzzle windows in the lower hull and balconies that define her profile. Inside is her alter ego: a hybrid propulsion system that not only dramatically reduces emissions but operates silently for hours on battery power. The yacht’s other eco-friendly features include 248 feet of solar panels, diesel-electric Azipods, wastewater recycling and a dynamic-positioning system.

While Artefact’s technical prowess alone could justify this year’s award, her innovative design assured it. “It’s our coolest project ever,” says Gregory C. Marshall, the Canadian naval architect behind the boat’s standout look. “This is the owner’s first yacht but not his first large custom project. He brought an uncommon mindset for creating something original and unique.”

The exclusive details include 7,965 square feet of glass, which provides exceptional water views, along with privacy. The master suite has also been relocated from its typical forward placement to the rear area that would normally serve as the main salon. Marshall also rethought the arrangement of other key elements: “Balconies are featured across the yacht, positioned for privacy and wind protection,” he says, and “grand public spaces are balanced with intimate private ones.”

Flying Fox yacht


Charter Yacht: ‘Flying Fox’

Harmony often defines the success of a superyacht exterior, especially the world’s largest. Espen Øino’s graceful, proportional design of Flying Fox, along with the subtle shifts and curves in her six guest decks, gives the 446-foot yacht a grand appearance. This Lürssen also takes the charter scene up a significant notch, becoming not only the world’s largest charter yacht but also one of its most elegant. We admire Øino’s exterior, which includes an observation deck, two helipads and a first-of-its-kind, extra-large 40-foot pool that runs transversely across the deck, displaying a feat of engineering with regard to both size and volume of water. Mark Berryman’s subtle, multifaceted interior was the deciding factor for our award. He used soft, neutral tones along with teak and oak flooring and joinery, and the occasional live tree, to create a sense of home.

Even outsize spaces feel intimate. The open salon spans two floors, with a lower living room featuring a fireplace as its centerpiece and a separate social area on the upper level. The dual-level spa is also at the vanguard: a 4,300-square-foot complex that includes a hammam, a cryo sauna, a beauty center with massage rooms and a full gym. Flying Fox can accommodate 25 guests in 11 staterooms, including the master quarters, which has separate dressing rooms, a private deck, an outdoor cinema and, of course, a distinct salon with a fireplace. She is available for charter through Imperial Yachts.

Sandy Lane Yacht Club


Marina: Sandy Lane Yacht Club

Beautiful, unassuming Canouan, a small island in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, has been described rather archly as the destination for billionaires who want to escape millionaires. Sandy Lane Yacht Club’s new superyacht marina there offers boat owners solitude, serenity and natural beauty in the form of white-sand beaches, coral reefs and lush, uncultivated hills. Travel on land is by golf cart, cruiser bicycle or resort car.

As a haven only recently “discovered,” the island is known for its runway, which is long enough for private jets, and for protecting visitors’ privacy. The Mandarin Oriental and the Canouan Estate resorts offer exceptional dining and a Jim Fazio-designed golf course.

Sandy Lane sits in an idyllic cove, with berths for yachts up to 330 feet, a fuel dock, high-speed Wi-Fi and security patrols. Unlike many Caribbean marinas, it was designed specifically for superyachts. The property also has villas, pools and a beachside bistro. The Tobago Cays’ marine sanctuary, with its exceptional snorkeling and diving, is but a tender ride away.

Espen Øino


Lifetime Achievement: Espen Øino

Last year, it dawned on Espen Øino as he put the finishing touches on Bold, the 279-footer by Silver Yachts, that it was his 50th superyacht in 25 years. The Norwegian master studied naval architecture in the UK and then learned yacht design in the South of France, and says it’s “accidental” that he has become the leading designer of gigayachts. While in his first role, his firm “just happened to be awarded the design for Eco, a 243-footer for a Mexican client,” he says. “Since I was the only one with a degree in naval architecture, I was named project manager.” 

Eco’s success created a rep for the young designer, and by 1994, Øino was on his own, working on complex projects such as the conversion of a 220-foot tuna boat into an expedition yacht. That boat, Amazon Express, led to the commission of the 414-foot Octopus, for the late Paul Allen. “In 1998, Octopus was a very ambitious yacht, filled with tenders, helicopters and a submarine, but the owner didn’t want these to be seen,” says Øino. “So we had to design a seamless exterior—a very technically challenging undertaking.”

The decades rolled, each breakthrough design leading to the next ocean-going rock star. Øino’s Monaco studio is responsible for more 325-foot-plus (100-meter) gigayachts than any other firm, with boats that make splashes as longest and biggest. His—and the world’s—longest yacht ever, the 600-foot Rev Ocean, is being fitted out now.

Happy to help celebrate Øino’s 50th superyacht, Robb Report honors him with a lifetime achievement award for his incredible string of launches and deliveries in the last year: Rev Ocean, the 425-foot Project Lightning, the 446-foot Flying Fox, the 295-foot Dreamboat, Bold and the 207-foot North Star. He has a dozen others in the works.

Øino was surprised at just how many he has had going simultaneously. “I never count,” he says. “It’s hard to fathom that we’ve put so many hours into so many yachts. When you enjoy what you’re doing, it doesn’t feel like an effort.”

Lexus LY 650


Motor Yacht: Lexus LY 650

As you might expect from a luxury automotive leader, Lexus has made its muscular new ride both a looker and a blast to drive. The LY 650 shares a coupe-like profile with its predecessor, the 2017 Sport Yacht model, but the new 65-foot, 5-inch Lexus is much larger, with three en suite staterooms as well as a flybridge. Italian firm Nuvolari Lenard did the interior design, while the exterior was created by the Marquis team in Wisconsin and Lexus Design.

The boat’s two-tone copper-and-metallic gray exterior, with exposed carbon elements, puts its curvaceous lines to best effect, while highlighting several motifs carried over from the 42-foot Sport Yacht, including athletic haunches at the rear of the boat that look like taillights and a rounded bow with reverse sheer that resembles the new Lexus LC 500 Coupe. The exterior’s curves also define the interior, from the bend in the leather-covered arm dividing the galley and salon to the oblong, recessed ceiling lights. Even the salon floor combines arcs of carpeting with white-oak planks. Beyond the luster of fit and finish, the beauty of this yacht is that so many shapes and pieces come together as a cohesive whole, unlike any other yacht in its class; that and the partnership between Lexus and Marquis make it unique.

Canova yacht


Sailing Superyacht: ‘Canova’

This 142-footer from Baltic Yachts has some of the most sophisticated technologies of any 100-foot-plus sailing vessel ever seen. Canova scores highly not only for that early-adopter tech edge but also for her natural beauty on the water. Lucio Micheletti’s balanced design includes a long, lean hull, a low-profile cabin and a vertical bow, with a suite for the owner, three guest staterooms and quarters for four crew. The yacht is equipped with powerful electric winches that allow for shorthanded sailing with minimal crew.

The boat has the ultimate hybrid propulsion (when not powered by wind), with its diesel-electric engine combo and a hydrogeneration system that uses the yacht’s momentum to recharge her battery bank. The yacht can then operate in silent mode for up to nine hours, bolstering fuel economy and reducing emissions. Canova could theoretically cross the Atlantic under sail without ever having to charge the batteries from the diesel engine. 

Beyond her hybrid power, Canova has an even more impressive secret. Her Dynamic Stability System, a transverse sliding board that runs beneath the water’s surface, is a first for a yacht of her scale. The foil, found on much smaller racing yachts, minimizes heeling and pitching, so she offers a much smoother and faster ride than conventional sailing vessels.

Attila yacht


Beach Club: ‘Attila’

When the beach club became a must-have 20 years ago, it changed the lonely stern to a sought-after swim platform and fitness hub. Designer Francesco Paszkowski’s reinterpretation of the beach-club interior on the 210-foot Sanlorenzo Attila shows how that area can sync with an owner’s passions, rather than fall prey to generic designs. “He loves to spend time with friends and cook at home,” says Paszkowski. “The goal was to reproduce that on the boat.”

The designers, which included Officina Italiana Design for the exterior, accomplished that by connecting the lower club with the main deck in every way possible, physically with stairways up both sides of the swim platform and then visually via a glass-bottom pool that serves as the beach club’s ceiling. A third internal staircase, creating a double-height atrium, forms visual links between the beach club and owner’s galley on the deck above, where he is often found preparing meals and chatting with guests on stools at the counter. The yacht also has both wine and meat lockers and a larger, more elaborate galley on the lower deck.

To dress the open, light-infused beach club, Attila’s owner wanted a “cozy and contemporary” look. Paszkowski used glass and teak, accented with a Galusha-topped table, a Calacatta-marble-topped bar and onyx walls along the internal staircase. Beach-club accoutrements were not ignored: Attila is kitted out with a fitness area plus a massage room and spa with mosaic tiles.

Bluegame Yachts


Comeback: Bluegame Yachts

“The technical side is the driver, but the yacht also has to be beautiful and touch you deeply,” says Carla Demaria, CEO of Bluegame Yachts.

Demaria, formerly of Atlantis Yachts and Monte Carlo Yachts, has a talent for spotting untapped market niches and is overseeing the brand’s rebound with founder Luca Santella, who heads the technical side. Providing the funding for new product development is Massimo Perotti, executive chairman of Sanlorenzo Yachts, which acquired Bluegame in 2018.

“Luca is a maniac on the technical side, so we were careful to keep Bluegame’s DNA, which is all about seaworthiness and innovation,” says Demaria. “Now we’re adding luxury.”

The new BGX70 is a boat without precedent, breaking all the rules in all the right ways. A 70-foot yacht has never seen this kind of layout. The owner’s salon, a full-beam master suite, three guest staterooms and a massive cockpit are straight out of a superyacht. Santella’s experience as an Olympic sailor and offshore cruiser show in the upper deck and the pilothouse, which are more like those of a blue-water trawler. Winner of multiple design awards, the 70 has successfully merged two styles into one hull. We look forward to Demaria and Santella’s next act.

Super Sport 65 yacht


Yacht Concept: Rossinavi Super Sport 65

Rossinavi never disappoints. The Italian builder has created some of the most iconic yachts of the last decade, bespoke from the running surface through the superstructure. The shipbuilder’s concepts are always inspiring, sometimes even mind-blowing.

Its partnership with Pininfarina on last year’s Super Sport 65 concept tilts toward the mind-blowing, though unlike many concepts, this one doesn’t rely on a sci-fi edge. Instead, one could well imagine the long, lean 215-footer as the belle of Monte Carlo’s inner harbor. Many trendy, even hip concepts emerged last year, but nothing as sophisticated and sleek as this collaboration. 

The Super Sport 65 gives a nod to Aurea, Rossinavi’s first project with Pininfarina in 2017, sharing the single design line that runs from bow to stern, so the profile has an uninterrupted flow. This most recent concept employs automotive references from Pininfarina’s Gran Turismo design, particularly the upper deck with its soft, undulating curves. Often-mundane features, such as the main staircase, are integral to the aesthetic; in this case, its shape resembles the air intakes of high-performance cars. Pininfarina also recognized that the Super Sport 65 had to function as a yacht, so the designers included open social areas on every level, even on the foredeck. 

This is one concept we hope to see on the docks.

Water Revolution Foundation


Sustainability: Water Revolution Foundation

“Clients ask us what new developments can help them be more environmentally conscious, more sensitive,” says Peter Lürssen, fourth-gen leader of his family’s German shipyard, which builds some of the world’s largest superyachts.

That kind of question prompted Lürssen and competitor Henk de Vries, fourth-generation head of Feadship, along with other executives across the yachting world, to form the Water Revolution Foundation. The mission was clear and ambitious: “We are determined to protect the oceans from degradation, to support ocean conservation and to leave the oceans in better shape than before,” reads its code of conduct.

Water Revolution Foundation was chosen for the Sustainability award not so much for its lofty goals but rather because the group is in a unique position to positively effect change. Its superyacht owners are among the world’s most affluent citizens and, according to the code of conduct, have the “power to drive sustainability and make a truly positive impact.” Lürssen says his clients are ready to invest in new, eco-friendly technologies. 

This kind of extensive call to action has never been delivered from the highest levels of the superyacht world. The group understands the urgency of declining ocean health and, because it’s self-funded, can take the long view to finding solutions. It’s already finalizing a Yacht Assessment Tool that lets yacht builders make smart, sustainable choices during the build process. Other initiatives will follow.

“Not only are we thinking about today, we are looking at what our yachts need to have in three, four or five years,” says Lürssen.

Azimut Verve 47 yacht


Day Cruiser: Azimut Verve 47

Azimut calls its new Verve 47 an “American beauty with a Mediterranean heart.” This outlier in the brand’s fleet retains its Italian sensibility, thanks to Francesco Struglia’s creative design, but the offshore hull and quadruple 450 hp Mercury Racing outboards are unmistakably American. Michael Peters, the Florida-based guru of performance hulls, designed the boat to navigate big ocean swells, even at 60 mph.

Besides being seaworthy, the Verve 47 is just plain fun. Struglia made the most of the space and added some superyacht styling by reinterpreting traditional features. A large square rises from the floor to become the cockpit dining table, for instance, while the side bulwark folds over the water as a swim platform. An outdoor kitchen and flat-screen TV improve the deck experience. Glass panels in the hull sides do double duty as the Verve’s artistic signature, while letting the driver read the water. Such innovative details are what make the Verve stand out from its center-console competitors. 

While the creative cockpit design indicates this is an undisputed day boat, the 47’s surprisingly large cabin includes two staterooms, a dinette/salon, a second galley, a head and shower and—in line with its Italian heritage—wine storage.

Bold yacht winter garden


Winter Garden: ‘Bold’

The hard, angular, military-style exterior of Silver’s 279-footer belies its warm—and buzzy—inner self. The helicopter garage doubles as a disco, complete with advanced sound system and flashing lights; the main salon is papered with a wall of nine giant screens; and the full-beam outer terrace behind the salon stands out in particular, expanding the concept of a winter garden.

That’s because designer Espen Øino, prompted by the boat’s owner, decided to rewrite the rules. Instead of a small outside nook with a few glass doors, the Bold version occupies its own deck, connecting to the sprawling salon. Surrounded on three sides by tinted, floor-to-ceiling windows, it has oak floors, a long dining table and loose seating, closer to a seaside terrace of a five-star hotel than a superyacht’s aft deck. 

The bottom line was that the owner wanted to use his winter garden anywhere, any weather. With the large glass panels in place and infused with natural light, the indoor version becomes a large social hall on the edge of the sea. Windows out, the winter garden transforms into a summer garden, filled with warm breezes and the scent of the ocean.

Excellence yacht


Interior: ‘Excellence’

With a bow resembling an eagle’s head, Abeking & Rasmussen’s 262-footerclaims one of the most eye-catching exteriors of 2019’s superyacht launches. The Winch Design team included a 32-foot-high wall of mirrored glass as part of the exterior, composed of six panes weighing 1.5 tons each.

Herb Chambers, New England’s automotive emperor, has owned a series of yachts named Excellence (this is his seventh) and wanted the usual deluxe beach club, pool and showpiece atrium. But he also wanted an interior made of materials he loves, along with motifs that reflect automotive design, without being kitschy. The Winch team rose to the challenge, designing struts into couch sides that resemble Cadillac grilles, and incorporating black-and-white circles in the salon floor to bring to mind white-walled tires of the 1950s. Surrounding these details are Macassar ebony, bird’s-eye maple, limed oak, marble, onyx and silver leather embossed with tobacco leaves. The choices could have been chaotic, but the designers anchored the materials in cappuccino and cream tones for a calming effect. Adding the odd artistic whimsy—like a seven-foot ceramic rabbit sculpture—created an interior that is contemporary, sophisticated and, as Chambers desired, fun.

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