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Lady Moura: On board the 105m Blohm+Voss superyacht

At the age of 30, Lady Moura is maturing with impressive grace. Now under new ownership, we remember one of the biggest brokerage sales of 2021...

Whatever Lady Moura's been taking, I’d like some. She may be 31 years old, a respectable age for a yacht, but the palatial interior of this seven-deck, 105 metre looks as pristine as the day Blohm+Voss launched her to international fanfare in 1990 - and she's just found a new owner.

With exteriors and interiors by Luigi Sturchio , she was then the ninth largest yacht ever built – and the most expensive . Three decades of ultra-private family use followed before she made her public debut on the brokerage market in 2019. As of June 2021, she is under new ownership after just two short years on the market and was asking a cool $125,000,000 .

Her (original) carpets are still soft, pure cream; flowers tumble from vases on to freshly polished dressers. “One of the things that we’re most proud of, actually,” says relief captain Sebastian Rauber, “is that most of the interior is still original.” One beauty secret here is constant maintenance by an army of crew who know every corner of the boat. “The average time crew have been on board is 18 years: the chief housekeeper has been here for 25 years; the bosun 28 years; the chief engineer came on board the first time in 1993; the captain has been here for 17 years. A lot of people have spent more time on this boat than at home over the last 20 years.”

The second secret of youth is use – or the lack of it. She’s never been chartered; in fact she hasn’t moved much at all. To those familiar with Port Hercules, Lady Moura is as distinctive a feature as the Foster + Partners-designed Yacht Club – and she pre-dates that by 24 years. “Cruising – we didn’t do too much,” says Captain Matthias Bosse. There are 13,500 running hours on the clock – that averages out at around 37.5 a month.

The third factor is the bone structure that Blohm+Voss installed. “ Lady Moura was built in one of the most important shipyards in the world,” says Paolo Casani, CEO of Camper & Nicholsons .

“She was built by a passionate owner who participated very much and influenced the shipyard with some solutions. So over five years of construction plus one year for engineering – there were in total six years planning and construction, which means that they had time to take care of every little detail. This is one of the reasons why the boat, after 30 years, is still in very good condition.”

She was also a technical marvel, with some achievements that are, Casani says, “very, very modern – amazing solutions considering that it was built in 1990. Some of the most important shipyards in the world came to visit  Lady Moura  for ideas, to understand details to replicate.” Blohm+Voss, which is now owned by Lürssen (itself at the cutting edge of yacht design today), includes in that list: tenders that are stored inside, behind hydraulic doors; a huge sunroof that slides open over the indoor pool on the top deck; a lounge amidships on the lower deck that runs the full beam; hydraulic opening sea terraces, and much more.

“Subcontractors at that time were focused on standard and commercial outfitting equipment – not at that high level that today is called ‘yacht standard’,” says Blohm+Voss, adding, “Everything was new, not proven technology as it is now.”

The yard’s own engineers developed Lady Moura ’s hydraulic tech – for example, the hidden side gangways – alongside their subcontractors. Strength calculations for a vessel with so many openings and gangways were also a challenge. “The thing to remember about this ship is that everything comes out of holes or folds in/folds out,” says Rauber. “Navigation lights fold out on top, the mast goes up on the foredeck so as not to break the design, the bridge wings slide out. Everything is pop-up, everything moves. That’s why we have a pretty clean design. I think at that time it was very revolutionary to have so many moving parts in the hull and in the structure.” Today’s superyachts may be studded with fold-out balconies and hatches – not so in 1990. This “perforated hull”, as Blohm+Voss describes it, required new calculation methods and highly competent engineering.

The well-maintained two-storey engine room is testament to the enduring value of that competence: the original MTU engines (which Rauber describes as “honest” and offer an impressive 8,000nm range at 17 knots) were overhauled in the past two years. The changes that have been made to the boat since launch have mainly been behind-the-scenes technical upgrades. The bridge, for example, is a very different beast to the one installed in 1990.

There are, however, a few more visible changes, says Rauber. On the vast helideck (“You can land pretty much anything on this deck,” he says) the original blue “concrete cement” sole was replaced with a more modern rubber in a neutral tone. The bright blue hull has been repainted in easier-to- maintain white and the whole boat’s teak decking has been replaced.

So what does Lady Moura feel like today? Well, the blunt answer is really, really big. That is hardly a surprise at 105 metres long, but her 6,539 gross tonnage is the real figure to note.

With exterior rather than interior space increasingly maximised in 21st-century yacht design, you would expect Lady Moura’s volume to be greater than more modern examples – but the distance by which she outsizes them is staggering. Take 107.6-metre Benetti superyacht Zoza, by some way the most voluminous of Benetti’s three 100m-plus launches last year; Lady Moura is two metres shorter but packs on 689GT more. For a historically relevant comparison, take the 103.8-metre Al Mabrukah , launched in 1982, at 4,633GT – that’s a difference of nearly 2,000GT.

Together with Lady Moura’s rich, enveloping decor by Luigi Sturchio, this translates to a feeling of being cocooned in a private world. High-gloss mahogany gleams down corridors that taper so far into the distance it seems impossible that this could be a yacht. There’s space for every conceivable luxury, from a cinema to a concealed hair salon next to the lobby, and an owner’s dressing room so vast there’s space for several glass-encased, rotating tie-racks and a walk-in wardrobe just for shoes. There are cabins for hairdressers, make-up artists, beauticians and any number of private staff, as well as substantial offices for the owner and his wife.

The five huge children’s cabins on the owner’s deck are decorated in a lighter style than the rest of the boat. “All five have this en suite dressing room and an en suite bathroom, and four have Pullman beds as well, if you have nannies or friends,” says Rauber. At the other end of the colour spectrum, the full-beam VIP cabin on the owner’s deck is replete with deep burr wood, smoked mirror, and as Rauber accurately puts it, “is actually bigger than a lot of owner’s cabins on slightly smaller boats”. The master dwarfs all of this. Taking over the entire aft half of its level, it is sequestered into a light main cabin with access to a private terrace, a separate cabin, that vast dressing room and a central lobby with a wall of television screens.

The formal saloon on the main deck is predictably vast, as is the seldom-used 18-plus-seat dining saloon on the same deck. But there are more intimate spaces too, notably the family saloon on the bridge deck, which opens on to an aft deck. But the loveliest social space is the pool on the top deck, forward of the helipad. Glass-clad, with an opening roof, it offers a private set-up, surrounded with casual dining and coffee tables, a spa pool , dance studio and terrace.

But just as essential to the self-contained feeling of this boat is the sophisticated service structure that’s built in. As much of the bridge deck is dedicated to senior crew operations – with a suite of offices and living quarters – as the deck below is dedicated to the owner. The tank deck, meanwhile, is a warren of facilities that make the yacht tick, with sheer numbers necessitating separate galleys and laundries for crew and guests – all amply sized. “In the season normally we used to have something like 65 to 70 crew,” says Rauber. The crew also have a dedicated hospital, complementing the intensive care unit up in the guest area. There’s also a bakery, a workshop, a crew gym – “it’s normally full from six in the morning until midnight” – and, of course, massive stores. Crew cabins, on the lower deck, are decently sized and have en suites.

Connecting the tank deck hub to the rest of the boat are two crew staircases – one aft and one forward – and two crew lifts. Also of logistical value is the unusual set-up on the lower aft deck. Arriving on Lady Moura , moored stern-to, guests are routed straight up a central staircase to the main aft deck and into that impressive main saloon. Behind that staircase, but also accessible from the dock, is a cleverly concealed area for crew operations, allowing them to handle deck equipment, take on provisions, or just take a breath of fresh air, unseen by guests.

Here, at the less glamorous end of Lady Moura , lies the crux of her success. While she has monogrammed bins and a gold-plated nameplate (yes, really) she is, in essence, a well-designed machine, rigorously maintained. After all, that is the true secret of beauty.

Imagery courtesy of Camper & Nicholsons

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Sailing the Seas of Luxury: The Enchanting Story of Lady Moura and Nasser Al-Rashid

Lady Moura yacht


In the world of luxury and opulence, one tale stands out in the waves – that of Lady Moura, a legendary yacht owned by the illustrious Saudi Arabian tycoon, Nasser Al-Rashid . This article dives into the captivating narrative that intertwines Lady Moura’s lavish design, exceptional specifications, and the remarkable biography of Nasser Al-Rashid, offering a glimpse into a world where maritime grandeur meets visionary brilliance.

Nasser Al-Rashid: A Visionary Beyond Measure

Nasser Al-Rashid’s journey through life began with a pursuit of engineering education, ultimately culminating in postgraduate studies in the United States. However, it was his role as a trusted advisor to the Saudi royal family that truly set him apart. This influential figure not only played a pivotal role in the realms of business and entrepreneurship but also steered policy matters that shaped Saudi Arabia’s trajectory.

Royal Advisor: A Guiding Hand

Nasser Al-Rashid’s influence extended deeply into the reigns of King Fahd and King Abdullah. His sage advice left an indelible mark on policy decisions and strategic directions, underscoring his role as a linchpin in the country’s growth. This unique blend of advisory expertise and entrepreneurial spirit solidified Al-Rashid’s position as a symbol of Saudi Arabia’s development.

Lady Moura superyacht

Lady Moura: A Floating Marvel

Central to Nasser Al-Rashid’s legacy is Lady Moura, a luxury yacht that transcends expectations. The yacht boasts a distinctive crescent-shaped shell door, an entrance that magically transforms into a beach club and pool. Its interior is a testament to opulence, featuring intricate woodwork, luxurious materials, and lavish furnishings. With dimensions stretching to 104.8 m / 344 feet, Lady Moura is an architectural masterpiece on water.

Technical Feats: Power, Range, and Grace

While shrouded in mystery, Lady Moura’s engines are estimated to harness several thousand horsepower. This impressive power enables the yacht to cruise gracefully at speeds between 20 to 25 knots. Its remarkable range facilitates transoceanic journeys without frequent stops, a testament to engineering expertise and meticulous design.

An Enduring Legacy: Lady Moura’s Maritime Impact

Lady Moura’s captivating design and opulent allure have etched an indelible mark in the maritime world. Its presence in prestigious yachting destinations worldwide solidifies its stature as a symbol of elegance and extravagance. The yacht’s legacy persists as a tribute not only to its owner’s vision but to the undying allure it holds for maritime enthusiasts.

Nasser Al-Rashid’s Influence

In the symphony of luxury, Nasser Al-Rashid orchestrates a narrative spanning business, politics, and nautical splendor. His journey harmonizes with Lady Moura’s, embodying a visionary who seamlessly interweaved power, prestige, and innovation.

Conclusion: A Voyage Through Time

As the sun gently sets on this narrative, Lady Moura’s luminescence continues to illuminate the open waters. Nasser Al-Rashid’s life story intertwines with the yacht’s legacy, reminding us that luxury knows no bounds when visionary brilliance and engineering marvels unite. From the exquisite designs that grace the seas to the echoes of influence that shape destinies, Lady Moura and Nasser Al-Rashid’s stories traverse the waters of history, leaving behind an undying legacy of grandeur and magnificence.

Lady Moura large vessels

“Luxury Unveiled: The Intriguing Tale of Lady Moura Yacht and Nasser Al-Rashid”

Nasser al-rashid: a glimpse into power and prestige.

Nasser Al-Rashid, a name intertwined with the Saudi royal family, emerged as a prominent businessman and advisor. His academic journey led him through engineering studies, culminating in postgraduate education in the United States. Trusted as a confidant to the Saudi royal family, Al-Rashid’s influence extended far beyond advisory roles, encompassing sectors ranging from construction to energy. His legacy remains inseparable from the growth of Saudi Arabia and its multifaceted development. Navigating Royal Spheres Within the corridors of power, Nasser Al-Rashid’s advisory role to the Saudi royal family was instrumental during the reigns of King Fahd and King Abdullah. His insights and guidance shaped policy matters and strategic decisions, cementing his place as an influential figure who helped steer the nation’s trajectory. Al-Rashid’s dual roles—both as advisor and entrepreneur—cast him as a unique force in Saudi Arabia’s landscape. A Lasting Impression: Lady Moura’s Iconic Presence Lady Moura’s distinctive design and luxurious allure have etched a prominent mark on maritime culture. Its global appearances in prestigious yachting destinations reinforce its standing as an emblem of elegance and sophistication. The yacht’s legacy endures as a testament to both its owner’s vision and its enduring appeal to maritime enthusiasts. As the sun sets on this exploration, Lady Moura’s gleam on the open seas persists. Nasser Al-Rashid’s biography merges seamlessly with the yacht’s legacy, reminding us that in the realm of luxury, the confluence of vision and engineering can yield vessels that capture the essence of magnificence.

Lady Moura Aft Deck

Celestial Elegance on Water: Unveiling the Luxurious Enigma of Super Yacht Lady Moura

Engine Power: Yachts like Lady Moura are typically equipped with multiple engines to ensure efficient propulsion. Given its size and luxury status, it’s possible that the yachts this size could have a combined engine power in the range of several thousand horsepower. The exact power would depend on the specific engines used and their configuration. Range: The range of a yacht depends on various factors including fuel capacity, engine efficiency, cruising speed, and the type of engines used. Yachts of this class might have a range that allows them to cover several thousand nautical miles on a single tank of fuel. This would enable them to undertake transoceanic traveling without needing frequent refueling stops. Top Speed: The top speed of luxury yachts like Lady Moura can vary, but they are generally designed for comfortable cruising rather than high-speed travel. A reasonable estimate for a yacht of this size could be in the range of 20 to 25 knots (23 to 29 mph or 37 to 46 km/h). Keep in mind that yachts of this nature prioritize stability and luxury, so their design may not focus on achieving the highest possible speed.

Lady Moura Interior photo gallery

Lady Moura Bedroom

Nasser Al-Rashid biography

Nasser Al-Rashid photo

Nasser Al-Rashid is a Saudi Arabian businessman who is well-known for his association with the Saudi royal family and his significant influence in various fields. However, please note that my information might be outdated, and I recommend cross-referencing with more recent sources for the latest information. Here’s a general overview of his biography up to that point: Early Life and Education: Nasser Al-Rashid was born in Saudi Arabia, and he pursued higher education in engineering. He studied at King Saud University in Riyadh and then completed his postgraduate studies in the United States. Advisor to the Saudi Royal Family: Nasser Al-Rashid gained prominence as a close advisor to the Saudi royal family, particularly during the reign of King Fahd and King Abdullah. He held various key positions and played an influential role in the Saudi government. He was reportedly a trusted confidant and had significant input on policy matters. Business Ventures: Al-Rashid was involved in various business ventures and investments, both within Saudi Arabia and internationally. He had interests in sectors such as construction, real estate, and energy. He was associated with the Rashid Engineering Group, which was involved in various engineering and construction projects. Philanthropy: Nasser Al-Rashid was known for his philanthropic efforts, particularly in the fields of education and healthcare. He supported various charitable initiatives and projects in Saudi Arabia and other countries. Lifestyle and Influence: Al-Rashid was also recognized for his opulent lifestyle, which included owning luxurious assets such as the yacht Lady Moura. His close ties to the Saudi royal family and his influence in government circles contributed to his reputation as a powerful and well-connected figure.


Lady Moura Popularity

Lady Moura was often spotted in popular yachting destinations around the world, making it a recognizable and iconic presence in the maritime community. The yacht’s striking design and unique features contributed to its popularity, attracting attention from enthusiasts, photographers, and onlookers alike.

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Record Sale: Lady Moura, the World’s First Superyacht, Sells for $125M

lady moura superyacht owner

The superyacht industry emerged around three decades ago, when German ship-building company Blohm+Voss introduced the impressive 105-meter motor yacht, Lady Moura , to the public. Like a mansion at sea, this vessel, with its Luigi Sturchio-designed interiors and innovative seven-deck construction, shattered previous notions of what a yacht could be through its unmatched elegance and extraordinary scale. The ship was built to house dignitaries and statesmen, its high-end amenities and private spaces making it a perfect getaway for the world’s elite. A year and a half ago, however, Lady Moura’s owner placed the superyacht on the market, and in a swift 554-day turnaround, it sold in-house for a record 125 million dollars: the largest superyacht sale by a broker since 2019.

lady moura superyacht owner

Lady Moura’s new captain is now in command of a piece of boating history. In 1990, it became one of the first yachts to feature a beach club area and a hydraulic fold-out balcony, innovations that would later become standard fare for the industry. The vessel’s wide 18.5-meter beam allowed for spacious interiors, much larger than preceding models of the time, and its splendorous family residence area has inspired shipbuilders to up their game and produce even more lavish maritime living quarters. Despite its exquisite reputation, many of the ship’s innermost rooms are a mystery, their designs and layout having never been fully disclosed to the general public. This sense of mystery only makes the vessel more intriguing; when it appeared on the market last year, the yachting world went wild with speculation about who the next lucky owner would be.

lady moura superyacht owner

In addition to its sporty exteriors and sleek architecture, the yacht presents an array of high-end features that have stood the test of time. Onboard, passengers will find a swimming pool, flanked by a shady lounge area, and deck after deck where seafarers can spread out and soak up the sun in style. The vessel’s dining area looks fit for a king, with a long table that stretches from one end of the room to another—ideal for a feast with close friends. Some rooms, like the ship’s office, are accented by vaulted ceilings, while others, like the saloon, feature marble and mosaic flooring, a look that is positively palatial. The fact that most spaces come with windows tall enough to fill each room with natural lighting but modest enough to maintain a sense of privacy demonstrates how much thought went into this innovative craft’s design. One doesn’t have to search high and low to see why Lady Moura turned the tides of the yachting lifestyle decades ago.

lady moura superyacht owner

30 years after she set off on her maiden voyage, Lady Moura is still turning heads, shattering records, and rocking the entire boating industry. This most recent sale, engineered by yachting company Camper & Nicholsons , represents just one chapter in the storied life of this iconic vessel, which continues to stun with its sophistication and timeless flair. The ship’s staggering price tag only underscores its desirability—maturity and majesty wrapped into one magnificent vessel.

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Inside the ‘Lady Moura,’ a Convention-Defying, 344-Foot Superyacht Built to Be a Mansion on the Water

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Lady Moura

When it comes to superyachts with authentic pedigree, few have as much blue blood as the 344-foot Lady Moura . When she was delivered to her owners in 1990 by German shipyard Blohm+Voss, the levels of design innovation and onboard engineering were unprecedented. Built to be a private residence, the yacht has been cloaked in mystery to the outside world for three decades.

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Now that the yacht is for sale for the first time by her original owner, the veil has finally been lifted. Robb Report was one of the first outsiders to tour the yacht recently at a Monaco event hosted by Lady Moura’s broker, Camper & Nicholsons .

“The owner’s intention was to make an impact,” says Captain Matthias Bosse, who first joined the yacht as Staff Captain in 1992. “He wanted to build the biggest yacht, at the best shipyard, with the most advanced technology in the world.”

Bosse adds: “She was built to be a family home, not for cruising.”

Lady Moura

The beach club, now commonplace, was a radical concept in 1990.  Camper & Nicholsons

A family home indeed. Two fully equipped ICU units and a fulltime onboard doctor are not standard protocol on most superyachts. Neither are two galleys—one for the owner, the other for the crew—with up to six chefs and a separate bakery. And few superyachts that spend the majority of their time running between Monaco and Palma carry a permanent helicopter on board. Conforming to the conventions of the world, however, was never the owner’s priority.

Making statements in design and technology were. Well ahead of her time, Lady Moura has one of the first beach clubs on a superyacht , and an entire owner’s deck. The owners also wanted a clean exterior look, so all doors, flaps, roofs, gangways and cranes are hydraulically operated so they can be sealed tight against bulkheads or into floors. Most equipment is hidden behind integrated hydraulic doors, including the yacht’s tenders, anchors, and even a set of navigation lights designed for the sole purpose of traversing Egypt’s Suez Canal (but were sadly never used).

Lady Moura

A helicopter permanently attached to a yacht based in Monaco was considered unusual, but Lady Moura’s owners wanted what they wanted.  Camper & Nicholsons

The yacht has a range of more than 8,000 nautical miles at her full cruising speed of 17 knots. She was never run at full capacity. The farthest, in fact, she ever ventured from the Med was to the Caribbean in 1993. Lady Moura was a homebody.

What a home. Matching her 344-foot length is a huge internal volume of 6,359 gross tons across seven decks, including a deck for the owner’s family. She accommodates up to 26 guests, serviced by 72 crew and staff, and two crew elevators. Painstakingly preserved with regular maintenance and vigilant upkeep, Lady Moura is a museum piece adorned with Art Deco detailing and sumptuous styling.

Lady Moura

The yacht was used as a permanent home by the owners, so areas like the formal dining room were rarely used.  Camper & Nicholsons

Perhaps the most surprising element during our tour is Lady Moura’s immaculate condition. Thirty years after launch, she has all her original flooring, carpets, walls and staircases. The silk walls in the guest cabins look as new as they did in 1990. Not even a new coat of paint has been required to spruce up Luigi Sturchio’s original interior color scheme.

The simple reason for this unusually high level of preservation is that Lady Moura has barely been used, other than by immediate family. The formal 24-seater dining room has entertained guests just three times—the most recent being last month to announce her sale.

Lady Moura

The spa was part of an elaborate beach club on the owner’s deck.  Camper & Nicholsons

Despite her age, Lady Moura feels like a modern yacht. Her beach club was considered revolutionary three decades ago and stacks up well beside contemporary superyachts. Positioned amidships with balconies both port and starboard, the club transformed how the owner could access the yacht from the water. The indoor pool with its retractable roof, gym, spa with sauna, and cinema complete the full complement of entertainment amenities.

The owner’s deck was also a novel concept. Reserved exclusively for family living, the floor contains six guest cabins, and a full-beam master suite. Generous walk-in wardrobes and two en suites pair with enough space for the owner to comfortably remain within his private quarters (as he did when the yacht became his permanent residence in 2018). Below-deck cabins, including a full-beam VIP, are reserved for non-family guests.

The superyacht had an overhaul for seven months in 2017 at Blohm+Voss, and her 2018/19 refit focused on rebuilding the generators and engines, installing new teak decks and refurbishing crew and technical spaces. Captain Bosse, who is obviously partial, believes that Lady Moura represents excellent value, given her condition and design. He calls it “the steal of the century.”

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Step Inside the Lady Moura Yacht

Lady Moura has had just one owner; now, for the first time in her 30-year history, she's up for sale.

By Kim Ayling

lady moura superyacht owner

Towards the end of the 20 th century, the Lady Moura yacht was one of the finest superyachts that could be found anywhere in the world. First delivered in 1990 by German shipbuilders Blohm + Voss, at the time she was one of the largest and priciest yachts the industry had ever seen. While the yachting world has changed considerably during the last 34 years, and yes Lady Moura has been superseded by several newer and larger ships, to some, she was the original superyacht.

Stretching 344 feet in length, when she was originally built, Lady Moura was the 9 th largest yacht in the world. While she has certainly dropped positions in the list since then, her 6,500GT volume remains an impressive figure in the modern market. Despite primarily operating as a stationary vessel, she’s actually capable of covering over 8,000 nautical miles at a cruising speed of 17 knots (however this sizable ship actually maxes out at 20 knots).

For the majority of her life, Lady Moura had a single owner, Saudi businessman Nasser Al-Rashid. However, in 2021 she was purchased by a new owner, Mexican billionaire Ricardo Salinas Pliego.

[See more: Step Inside the Black Pearl Yacht]

As a yacht designed for prolonged onboard family living rather than just short-term cruising, Lady Moura’s interiors are impressively comfortable and luxurious – even by superyacht standards. Despite receiving a significant refit in 2017, Lady Moura has retained much of her original interior, which acts as a testament to the skill of her designer, Italian-born Luigi Sturchio, as well as the impeccable level of care from the crew in her 30-year lifetime.

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The ship offers 27,986 sq ft of private guest space, with the entirety of one of its seven decks dedicated exclusively to family living. The vessel can accommodate up to 26 guests across 13 cabins, subject to PYC compliance, with additional space for 65 crew members, making for a desirable guest to staff ratio. Lady Moura’s interior is lavish: think opulent marble details, plush soft furnishings and rich mahogany furniture in the lounges and bedrooms, with wicker and nautical stripes in the chic beach club.

As you would expect on a luxury yacht of this magnitude, the owner’s cabin onboard the Lady Maura is vast – in fact, the full-beam VIP cabin outsizes the owner’s accommodation in many other ships. Occupying the entire aft half of one deck, the owner’s suite includes the main sleeping cabin that leads directly onto a private terrace, a secondary cabin, a dressing room and a lobby area.

In addition to her extensive accommodations, the Lady Moura yacht is awash with recreational space. On her top deck, you will find an indoor swimming pool complete with a retractable roof, a spa with a sauna and hot tub, and full gym facilities.

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Thanks to the ship’s thoughtful design, the beach club (which was one of the first seen onboard a superyacht) can theoretically be enjoyed open air at all times – even when cruising – making it the height of functionality. Off the beach club are not one but two balconies with boarding platforms, both offering access to the ocean.

[See also: The Best Luxury Yacht Builders in the World]

lady moura superyacht swimming pool

Lady Moura also offers a full-size helipad, which in recent years has received a significant upgrade. Her original blue concrete was replaced with a neutral-colored blue pad for a touch of modernization, which makes it one of the few aesthetic updates that Lady Moura has had in her lifetime. More amenities are discreetly stowed in a mid-level boat garage, including a Boston Whaler, waterski boat and landing craft, all of which are accessed by sleek, hydraulically operated doors.

As a family vessel, children’s entertainment is catered for onboard. Aside from the expansive beach club, Lady Moura also boasts a kid’s room on her bridge deck, which doubles up as a video game zone.

Lady Moura is also the perfect vessel for hosting, with a formal dining room providing space for up to 24 guests and multiple lounges, as well as a movie theatre and DJ booth/dance floor. In the interest of guest safety, there is also a fully equipped medical center onboard.

[See also: These are the Yacht Interior Designers You Need to Know]

superyacht saloon interior

[See more: A First Look at Interiors Onboard Superyacht Somnio]

The truth is Lady Moura isn’t much of an explorer . This isn’t to say she can’t, however – in fact, there is room for up to three months’ worth of provisions on board and she can cruise for up to 12,000 nautical miles without needing to refuel. But to date, her owner hasn’t tested her capacities with any conviction, with her furthest voyage being a trip to the Caribbean in the nineties.

Speaking to BOAT International in mid-2020, Lady Moura’s captain Matthias Bosse revealed that the ship only has around 13,500 traveling hours, which is a remarkably low number for a yacht of her age. Instead of traveling the four corners of the world, the superyacht is usually used as a residential dwelling in the south of France and has never been available for charter.

However, with the spectacular vessel now on the market for the first time, the future may be more adventurous for Lady Moura – her captain was keen to share that apart from the Arctic zones (which require a stronger steel hull), she can navigate virtually any of the world’s vast oceans.

The Lady Moura yacht is listed with Camper & Nicholsons, POA.

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Lady Moura – Superyacht Royalty

lady moura superyacht owner

Arguably one of the most iconic motor yachts on the water and superyacht royalty, this 105m statement of success was the most expensive superyacht in the world at the time of her launch, and the ninth largest.

Lady Moura was commissioned by an experienced owner who paid meticulous attention to every detail. Now, offered for sale by her original owner  and on the market for the first time, Camper & Nicholsons invited us to Monaco to take a tour of this truly standout superyacht.

As her 24-carat-gold-plated name badge suggests, Lady Moura bears only the finest finishes, the most luxurious of lifestyle features, and exudes extravagance.

Exterior photo of Lady Moura as viewed from the stern

The vessel, which has served as a private family property, was built by Blohm & Voss to Lloyds Classification and delivered in 1991. This incredible yacht of 6,359GT underwent significant mechanical refits in 2018/19 and also has an advanced remote monitoring system installed, which allows for condition-based maintenance, real0time troubleshooting and support, enabling an extremely low operating expense for a yacht of her stature.

Lady Moura lead the way for many innovative developments in design. Her balconies, two off the beach club and two side boarding platforms, were an engineering first at the time of her launch and transformed the way an owner could access both the vessel and the water. Lady Moura has a phenomenal 8,000nm range, easily surpassing that of many modern superyachts regardless of their size.

Conceived specifically as a haven for the family to spend time together, but also to serve as a platform for select social engagements, Lady Moura dedicates one of her seven decks exclusively to family living. Along with the opulent full beam owner’s suite on this deck, are six cabins exclusively for use by family members, culminating in a total of 2,600sq.m of private chambers. Lady Moura can accommodate up to 26 guests in total and provides quarters for a complement of 74 crew – a highly desirable crew to guest ratio for a new owner seeking the ultimate levels of service and comfort.

Lady Moura’s resplendent interior was designed by the Italian-born Luigi Sturchio. From inviting lounges with deep cushioned sofas to regal dining rooms and palatial staterooms with en suites finished in marble, every aspect of the design uses indulgently tactile finishes.

Lady Moura's regal dining room

Lady Moura boasts a helipad, movie theatre, DJ room, indoor pool, spa with sauna, gym, owner’s study and medical suites amongst her onboard amenities. She has two galleys, one for the owner and one for the crew, a bakery and separate owner/crew laundry facilities.

The beach club also deserves a special mention. Positioned midships with balconies both port and starboard, this lounge at the water’s edge allows for effortless disembarkation from the tenders and easy access to and from the ocean. In addition to this, Lady Moura has six hydraulic gangways, ensuring a safe and seamless transition from tender to mother ship in any sea condition.

Lady Moura is a unique purchase proposition and the significant position she holds in the timeline of launched superyachts has afforded her a status of superyacht royalty that is assured for years to come. Her new owner will not only be acquiring a superyacht of premium pedigree, but be continuing a legacy of luxury and splendour.

Full profile exterior shot superyacht Lady Moura

Roxanne Hughes

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LADY MOURA Yacht – Refined $250M Superyacht

The impressive LADY MOURA yacht is a superyacht owned by Dr. Nasser Al Rashid.

She features an interior and exterior design from Luigi Sturchio and was built in 1990 by Blohm + Voss, a German shipbuilding company.

The yacht was a cutting-edge vessel when she was built and set trends in personal yachting.

Lady Moura
104 metres 344ft)
Blohm and Voss
Luigi Sturchio
Luigi Sturchio
22 knots
6,539 ton
US $250 million
US $20–25 million

Lady Moura superyacht

LADY MOURA yacht interior

The interior of the LADY MOURA yacht was designed by Luigi Sturchio, a renowned Italian designer.

The incredible yacht was designed to be a floating personal residence, with many people spending more time on the boat than off in the last 20 years.

She has accommodation for 27 guests in 13 cabins that comprises a master suite, a VIP suite, and 11 more cabins. There is accommodation for 71 crew members in 36 cabins.

The interior was kept under wraps for 30 years, but with her sale in 2021, the details have finally been revealed.

The interior design reflects the level of opulence reserved for royalty at the time of her launch as a private vessel. Her sheer size allows for a large number of onboard amenities.

The facilities include a helipad and a hospital suite for guests and crew members.

The yacht has a DJ room and a movie theatre for guests to enjoy. There is a beach club for the perfect indoor/outdoor areas, which compliments the generous swimming pool.

The deck areas are plentiful with al fresco dining options and sunbathing areas.

There is a spa, gym, multiple saloons, and a bakery on board. She features several tenders and water toys, including a limousine tender, a waterski boat, and a landing craft.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 84730889-1024x682.jpg

Luigi Sturchio also designed the exterior of the LADY MOURA yacht. She was built by Blohm + Voss and delivered in 1990, and recently refitted in 2020.

At the time of her launch, she was the most expensive and innovative yacht in the world.

The amazing yacht set a new standard for yacht building 30 years ago. The yacht features a white hull and superstructure made from steel.

The name and the escutcheon are engraved in 24-carat gold onto the yacht’s exterior. The striking yacht is complimented by underwater lights that illuminate her in the dark.



The LADY MOURA yacht has a whopping length of 104m, a beam of 18.5m, and a draft of 5.5m. She can reach a top speed of 22 knots and a cruising speed of 17 knots.

She has a range of 8000 nautical miles and is powered by twin Deutz engines.

She has a displacement of 6439 gross tons. She has at-anchor stabilizers that provide exceptional comfort levels for guests while at the water.

LADY MOURA was built to Lloyd’s Register classification society rules.

Now valued at $125 million, LADY MOURA was rumored to cost more than $200 million to build. The yacht has an annual running cost of $10 to $20 million.


LADY MOURA in Gibraltar

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“Lady Moura”– Famous luxury yacht changes hands

The world’s largest super yachts are a status symbol

They are a status symbol of the rich and beautiful and often cost several hundred million dollars. Trade journalists have reserved the name “giga-yacht” for the largest yachts in the world, which are over a hundred meters long. Often, they do not fit into any harbor and have to anchor in front of it. The dimensions of these floating luxury objects are usually reminiscent of cruise ships, and when they are sold, it is usually from one billionaire to another.

The Century Yacht “Lady Moura”

Probably one of the most famous mega-yachts in the world was completed in 1990 by the German shipyard Blohm + Voss. When she was built, she was considered the ninth largest private yacht in the world. Now she is said to be 48th on the list. The construction of “Lady Moura” is said to have cost around $ 250 million (€ 213 million) when she was completed in the late 1980s. The superyacht is powered by two DEUTZ 6868 HP engines, and each has 5,121 kW of power and controllable pitch propellers. Despite her size, the “Lady Moura” can reach a cruising speed of 17 knots. A world sensation when launched, a sophisticated hydraulic system opens and closes a multitude of doors, flaps, retractable roofs or walls and cranes. Whether things and lifeboats or the anchor, these are hidden behind panels to avoid impairing the aesthetics of the yacht. “Lady Moura” is considered by many connoisseurs to be the epitome of a giga-yacht. Since her launch, she was owned by the Saudi Arabian billionaire Nasser al-Raschid for 31 years. The once 250-million-dollar luxury object has now changed hands for $ 125 million.

The indoor pool with adjoining spa

The indoor pool with adjoining spa

The new owner is a Mexican billionaire

The “Lady Moura” is now said to have gone to a new owner for $ 125 million. Some sources name the Mexican multi-billionaire Alberto Bailleres. The 89-year-old father of seven makes his money from the largest and most productive silver mines in the world. According to Forbes, his fortune is estimated at € 9.3 billion. His mines are said to produce 25 tonnes of gold and 25 000 tonnes of silver per year. It should not have been difficult for the billionaire to meet the asking price for the “Lady Moura”. However, OnLocation knows from a reliable source that actually this billionaire did not buy the giga-yacht “Lady Moura”.

The "Mou" in the name of the Giga-Yacht stands for Mouna Ayoub

The “Mou” in the name of the Giga-Yacht stands for Mouna Ayoub

The new owner of the “Lady Moura” is actually the billionaire Ricardo Benjamín Salinas Pliego, also from Mexico, who with his Grupo Salinas group of companies has holdings in telecommunications, media, financial services and retail. Mexico’s third richest man recently made headlines because he reaffirmed his support for Bitcoin and announced his intention to open the first bank in the country to accept Bitcoin. The sale of the “Lady Moura” sets a record in the brokerage world. The brokers Camper & Nicholsons were able to find a new owner in only 554 days. This represents the fastest known brokerage sale of a vessel over 100 meters in the last 10 years. What persuaded the new owner to put the $ 125 million on the table for the “Lady Moura” is likely to be the lavish and luxurious fittings, the design and the golden lettering.

Juan Carlos and George Bush landed on the helipad

Juan Carlos and George Bush landed on the helipad

The name of the Giga-Yacht “Lady Moura”

The name “Lady Moura” has a special meaning. The “Mou” stands for Mouna Ayoub, one of the most dazzling figures of the jet-set and now ex-wife of the billionaire, Nasser al-Raschid. The “ra” comes from the billionare’s surname. Mouna Ayoub is one of the most colourful women in the middle east. It is said that she has spent $150 million on jewellery, and her annual clothing budget is said to be $3 million. And her fortune is believed to be several hundred million dollars. The woman who looks 40 is actually over 60 years old. Possibly the richest woman in the middle east, she grew up in Kuwait as the child of Lebanese parents, attended a Jesuit boarding school, and had to move to France because of the civil war. She met her future husband, the Saudi Prince Nasser al-Raschid, while working in a restaurant in Paris. At the age of 19, she married him, moved to Riyadh and converted to Islam. But as an Islamic woman at the side of a prince, the palace became a prison, and divorce followed in 1996. What remains of the great love of his life for the billionaire is the name of the giga-yacht “Lady Moura”.

Each letter of the lettering "Lady Moura" is covered with 24-carat gold

Each letter of the lettering „Lady Moura“ is covered with 24-carat gold

Features and design of the “Lady Moura”

“Lady Moura” is often referred to as the world’s first mega-yacht. The iconic ship, which the experts define as a giga-yacht, has seven decks, one of which is dedicated to family life. In addition to the luxurious owner’s suite, there are 13 cabins used exclusively by family members and guests. This area alone covers 2,600 square metres. Italian designer and architect Luigi Sturchio created the entire interior on the super yacht. The mega yacht has total accommodation capacity for 72 crew members and 26 guests. In addition, the “Lady Moura” offers a floating luxury village with bakery, cinema. disco, medical clinic and an indoor pool with adjoining spa. Furthermore, there are hatches in the hull for motorboats or jet skis. Even former King of Spain Juan Carlos and former President George Bush are said to have landed on the yacht’s helicopter pad. The really special highlights of this mega-yacht, however, are the unusually long dining table (24 meters) and the lettering “Lady Moura” on the hull – each letter is covered in 24-carat gold and is said to cost a proud € 12,000. If you would like to see the giga-yacht, it is usually moored either in Monaco or Palma de Mallorca.

The Italian designer and architect Luigi Sturchio created the entire interior

The Italian designer and architect Luigi Sturchio created the entire interior

The Italian designer and architect Luigi Sturchio created the entire interior

Source: On Location Magazine

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  • What Is Cinema?

The Good Life Aquatic

By Mark Seal

This image may contain Transportation Vehicle Helicopter Aircraft Boat Human and Person

‘Have you ever seen anything so cool in your life? ” Jamie Edmiston, the 29-year-old super-yacht broker, has to shout, for we are in a Eurocopter EC130 over the ocean off Antibes, on our way to a yacht called Senses. It’s May of last year, and all the giant luxury boats are clustered on the Côte d’Azur for the Cannes Film Festival and the Grand Prix in Monte Carlo. Having wintered in Palm Beach, the Caribbean, and beyond, the crews have streaked across the Atlantic while their employers jetted over on their Gulfstreams, Citations, Boeing Business Jets, and Bombardier Global Expresses.

Edmiston and I have taken off from the so-called Quai des Milliardaires (“Dock of the Billionaires”) at the International Yacht Club of Antibes, which was begun in 1999 to berth the big boats. As we fly over the seagoing behemoths, Edmiston points certain ones out: the Leander, parking-lot tycoon Sir Donald Gosling’s stately home on water; Aussie Rules, built by golf star Greg Norman and recently sold to Miami Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga, which has a swimming pool, a movie theater, and a dozen smaller boats on board; Sokar, the pride of Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed, on which his son, Dodi, and Princess Diana spent their last days, in 1997.

We’re 12 miles offshore, the minimum requirement for a helicopter to land on a boat along the Riviera, approaching Senses, a 194-foot exploration yacht, one of the largest in the world, with interiors by Philippe Starck and an abundance of “toys,” a yachting term that can mean anything from a Jet Ski to a submarine. Edmiston cries, “Look at the dolphins!” The copter tilts sideways, and I can see dozens of dolphins, leaping into the air and leading us straight toward the boat, as if they had been sent to fetch us. When we land on the fourth and uppermost deck, the yacht’s co-owner, Alan Gibbs, 65, the New Zealand inventor, takeover artist, and telecommunications mogul, is standing there in his bathing suit with two ravishing young women in string bikinis at his side—Emma, his daughter, a neuroscientist, and Sandra Baker, his Tahitian girlfriend.

Gibbs leads us to the sundeck for lunch. “It’s about freedom to, not freedom from, ” he says to explain the thrill of owning a yacht. “We’re free to do, free to go, is how I see it. We’re not going to fly to the moon from here. But it would be hard to find a better way to explore the earth than on this.”

The boat beneath us is a $40 million Goliath with a 120-ton fuel tank that costs $80,000 to fill and can keep the yacht at sea for a good part of the summer. Gibbs has taken Senses halfway around the world. “We were the first large yacht that actually visited Tunisia,” he says. “They couldn’t quite cope with it. The helicopter just drove them nuts—that some private person would have a ship that looked like the navy and wanted to fly all over Tunisia in a helicopter.”

Suddenly he shouts, “Get the toys in the water!” There is an instant buzz of walkie-talkies, and 14 crew members scurry out. Up goes the yacht’s helicopter, and down go the 42-foot tender, the 32-foot sailing yacht, and six Jet Skis. Then Gibbs yells, “Launch the Aquada!” A hatch opens, and the world’s first high-speed amphibious car, Gibbs’s invention, seven years in development and coming to the market soon, glides down a ramp into the sea. As its wheels retract, it turns into a speedboat. Gibbs drives, and the women sit atop bucket seats, spume wetting their hair as they seem to push the limits of extravagance. Back on board minutes later, Gibbs says, “That was really James Bond stuff out there. But Bond is only mucking it up. We’re really doing it!”

‘Ever larger boats have replaced palaces, estates, and art as the ultimate symbols of wealth, which is not altogether surprising, given the fleeting and disposable nature of our society,” says Mark Getty, the son of Sir J. Paul Getty Jr., as he shows me around Talitha G, which was launched in 1929 by the head of Packard, sold to the chief of Woolworth’s, requisitioned by the U.S. Navy during World War II, rescued by Saturday Night Fever movie producer Robert Stigwood, and immaculately restored by J. Paul Getty Jr. in 1993. Named for his second wife, Talitha G has six staterooms, open fireplaces, Lalique glass doors, period art and furnishings, and the latest technology. Hollywood superstars and captains of industry can charter her for $350,000 a week, excluding gas and gratuities.

It’s the day of the Grand Prix in Monte Carlo, and from *Talitha’*s aft deck Mark Getty and I are gazing out on a sea full of super-yachts. We can hear the Formula One race cars buzzing around curving hillsides above us and the crowd’s cheers. But the bigger race is definitely here in the harbor, Port Hercule, where 111 boats pack every available slip—at a cost of $25,000 to $50,000 a week each—while dozens more that can’t find space or are just too big to fit are moored around the harbor’s rim. As big as cruise ships, super-yachts have names to match— Giant, Kingdom 5KR, Hedonist, Huntress, Limitless, Seawolfe, Passion, Nectar of the Gods, Naughty by Nature, Big Roi.

This image may contain Transportation Vehicle Boat and Yacht

Sir J. Paul Getty Jr.'s Talitha G , restored in 1993 by the late Jon Bannenberg, long considered the world's foremost yacht designer.

In order to see them up close, I descend three decks and get into a Wally Tender, the motorboat used to ferry owners, guests, crew, and supplies from ship to shore and yacht to yacht. Like everything else in yachting, the Wally Tender is over the top; this $670,000 propeller-powered Batmobile is considered a necessary accessory by everyone from the designer Valentino to Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. I’m traveling with Luca Bassani, the owner of Wally Yachts, who has revolutionized yachting, first with sailing yachts and then with power ones. He slams the tender into gear, and the boat almost levitates, quickly bringing us right up alongside the huge vessels.

They rise up from the ocean like monoliths. There’s the vanilla-colored, $100 million Pelorus (378 feet), one of four super- yachts owned by the Russian oil billionaire Roman Abramovich. Pelorus is equipped with bulletproof glass, a missile-detection system, two helicopters, a submarine, and high-intensity “paparazzi lights,” designed to obliterate the film of any interloping photographer. Beyond that is Lady Moura (344 feet), owned by Saudi billionaire Dr. Nasser al-Rashid, with an 80-member crew, a fully equipped hospital, an onboard sand beach, and a 59-foot dining table. Next is Greek shipping tycoon Stavros Niarchos’s 379-foot Atlantis II, which has rarely left the harbor since his death, in 1996. Then comes Delphine, launched in 1921 by American automobile magnate Horace Dodge and requisitioned by Franklin Roosevelt for meetings with Winston Churchill and Vyacheslav Molotov during World War II; restored, it rents for $60,000 a day.

Moored outside the port is Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s Octopus, making its debut in the Mediterranean, having just sailed from New Orleans, where Allen used the boat to promote his company’s new software at a convention of cable-TV executives. Built at a cost that reportedly escalated from $250 to $400 million, with a crew of 60 that includes former navy SEALs, Octopus is, at 413 feet, the world’s largest privately owned yacht, so huge that the lifeboats strapped to its side look like tiny toys. Anchored by means of a dynamic positioning system that enables the captain to stop with perfect precision, it’s a skyscraper with seven decks, two helicopter landing pads, a swimming pool, a basketball court, an infirmary, a garage, a movie theater, and, in its belly, a port to house many of the 14 tenders. These include a custom-built submarine that can remain underwater with 10 people for two weeks and a remote-controlled robot for exploring the ocean floor. There’s a concert space for 260, a massive guitar sculpture that rises up through the entire height of the boat, and a recording studio, which is a second home to musicians ranging from Dan Aykroyd to Robbie Robertson. On the lowest level is an observation lounge with a glass bottom and stadium-strength lighting that illuminates the depths, for watching sea creatures.

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This colossus has everything on it but torpedoes, which Allen declined when the builder suggested them for security. Meanwhile, Allen’s great rival, Oracle’s Larry Ellison, has just completed Rising Sun, 47 critical feet longer than Octopus, a new record for length. As J. P. Morgan once said when asked about the cost of his yacht, Corsair III, which, at 300 feet and with a crew of 70, was the world’s largest in the early 1900s, “If you have to ask how much it costs, you can’t afford it.”

In the shadow of these monsters in the harbor is an array of smaller yachts, which are still big enough to be classified as “mega-,” or “super-,” a category that includes all powerboats and sailboats more than 80 feet long, according to Diane Byrne of Power & Motoryacht magazine. There are between 5,000 and 6,000 super-yachts in the world, and the number is growing steadily—622 were launched in 2003 alone.

“It’s a grand traveling home,” says Dr. Charles Simonyi, one of the pioneers of Microsoft and a driving force behind the invention of its Excel program, as he relaxes on the sundeck of *Skat—*Danish for “my darling.” A slate-gray, 231-foot vessel that is sometimes mistaken for a battleship, it serves as the bachelor’s home and office six months of the year. Decorated with Victor Vasarely and Roy Lichtenstein paintings and Arne Jacobsen “egg” chairs, Skat is the result of Simonyi’s failed search for satisfying apartments. “I tried Montréal, I tried Monte Carlo, I tried Copenhagen,” he says. But why, he finally decided, join the dogfight for locations and suffer the indignities of local taxes, constant maintenance, and zoning restrictions when you can sail into the heart of the capitals of the world on a luxurious, fully staffed fortress? “In all of the Scandinavian capitals—Oslo as well as Copenhagen and Stockholm—we are always docked next to the king’s or queen’s palace,” he says. “We are occupying the best real estate, and I have the nicest bathroom and a fantastic restaurant.” Although Simonyi insists that he uses Skat as a base to run his businesses, life on board most boats is pretty sybaritic—breakfast until noon, lunch until 3, cocktails at 6, dinner until 12, and drinks until dawn.

When the Grand Prix winner is announced, every yacht in the harbor blasts its horn, and they sound like an armada of whales, drowning out the applause coming from Monte Carlo’s natural amphitheater above. Within hours most of the boats will depart, untangling themselves from one another’s anchor lines and heading out to sea.

If you don’t own a yacht, you can always charter one, at prices ranging from $203,000 a week for the 175-foot Perfect Prescription (which Jaguar leased and lent to Brad Pitt, George Clooney, and Matt Damon during the filming of Ocean’s Twelve ) to $850,000 a week for Annaliesse, a 279-footer with 18 staterooms (instead of the usual 12). On the day of my visit, Annaliesse has been chartered for a wedding. Lionel Richie is on board to serenade the party, and the bride and groom and 100 guests arrive by helicopter, all of them dressed in white bathrobes.

With the exception of Tiger Woods, who owns a 155-foot boat he christened Privacy, celebrities tend to lease or rent. Denzel and Pauletta Washington rent a yacht almost every summer; so do Magic Johnson, rap star Jay-Z, Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw, and Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson. If you can’t charter, you can visit friends who do or, as they say in the yachting world, go hopping. “Yacht-hopping,” explains fashion model Naomi Campbell, who took her first cruise a decade ago, on Mohamed Al Fayed’s yacht. When I meet her, she’s staying on Formula One racing impresario Flavio Briatore’s Lady in Blue. Today, she says, she’ll hop from Lady in Blue to Valentino’s TM Blue One to the Brazilian party boat called Bossa Nova. “Boat to boat,” she says. “It’s disgusting. When I say, ‘yacht-hopping,’ I mean I go to say hi to my friends.”

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Darwin Deason with his partner, Katerina Panos and their crew and security force, ready to greet guests for cocktails.

I’ve been invited to spend some time on the Apogee, at 205 feet the 62nd-largest yacht in the world, according to *Power & Motoryacht’*s 2004 rankings. It cost $50 million and charters for $320,000 a week. “Welcome to the Apogee, ” says the steward who scoops up my luggage from the dock at Cagnes sur Mer and deposits it in a tender. Speeding through the soup of Jet Skis, minnow speedboats, and midsize yachts, I can see the Apogee and its owner, Dallas-based international computer-services titan Darwin Deason, and his glamorous partner, Katerina Panos, waving from the aft deck. They are flanked by the 17-member crew, standing in two neat lines.

They greet every guest this way, 12 of us all together, with the whole crew shaking our hands and introducing themselves before they escort us to the six guest staterooms, each named for a Greek island. Our bags are unpacked for us, and Deason gives us a tour of the interior’s 26,000 square feet: the wood-paneled upstairs and downstairs saloons, the Apogee Club Bar, the disco dance floor with a Wurlitzer juke-box, the formal dining room—all the way up to the fourth-level sundeck, where we forgo the fully equipped gym and the 12-person Jacuzzi to bake in the sun until cocktails are served. By then the twin Caterpillar engines are purring and we’re cruising the five miles to Monte Carlo.

‘A yacht is a demonstration of wealth,” says yacht broker Nicholas Edmiston, Jamie’s father. Formerly C.E.O. of the venerable yacht-sales-and-charter company Camper & Nicholsons, Edmiston created his own business in 1996 to focus on selling and chartering “really big yachts,” which he says means upwards of 150 feet. Business is booming, with yacht construction up 22 percent over last year and a $950 million increase in sales, according to industry experts. “There has been a huge expansion in big yachts over the past six to seven years, with even bigger ones on the drawing board,” says Edmiston. “More than ever in history—because we’ve got more rich people. A yacht is probably the most expensive single purchase that anyone is ever going to make.”

Nothing else comes close. A jet? A mansion? They are mere starter kits for yacht enthusiasts. “There was a huge prime estate that just came on the market in England—3,600 acres, the most beautiful grade-one house, designed by Sir Christopher Wren’s protégé. Immaculate. And that is $75 to $80 million. I’m selling yachts today for $150 to $200 million.” He looks out over the port of Monte Carlo. “I always say to people, ‘Never spend more than 10 percent of your net worth on buying a yacht.’ So the guy that wants to buy a yacht for $25 million is worth $250 million.”

Time is of the essence, Edmiston says, because once you have enough money to buy a boat, chances are you don’t have nearly enough years left to enjoy it. “From the beginning of the planning to taking delivery is three to four years,” he says. “So if you’re the 67-year-old billionaire standing on the dock here with a young woman on your arm and she says, ‘Honey, I’d love one of those!,’ can he risk waiting four years to get it built? Or is it better to say to the guy who just paid 50 million for a new yacht, ‘How about if I give you 65?’ I know what I’d do.” A new yacht from a German or Dutch shipyard can appreciate approximately 25 percent the minute it hits the water, he says.

“Roughly 10 percent of the price of the yacht is what it costs every year to run it,” adds Edmiston, listing the costs: captain and crew (plus helicopter pilots, personal maids, guides, masseuses, hairdressers, etc.), insurance, harbor fees, maintenance, fuel—which industry experts say can run as high as $300,000 for a summer’s fill-up for Paul Allen’s Octopus. Edmiston motions across the harbor to a 300-footer. “To paint a yacht like that is around $4 to $5 million,” he says. “Of course, you don’t have to do it every year.”

Most owners charter their yachts, but the super-rich never do; they want them in constant readiness. “I was on a big yacht down in Sardinia not long ago, and the owner was complaining that he couldn’t get any decent fresh fruit,” says Edmiston. “It’s a nice place, Sardinia, but not really noted for agriculture. So there was a helicopter on the yacht, which I sent to the market in Cannes, a 400-mile round-trip. He got his raspberries and strawberries and was very happy.” The fruit probably cost $4,000 in fuel and other expenses. “Who cares?” says Edmiston. “What I cared about is that the owner got what he wanted.”

‘This yacht took two years in dreaming, three years in building,” says Mexico City industrialist Carlos Peralta, standing on his seventh boat, a Swarovski-crystal-encrusted fantasy called Princess Mariana, for his wife. It has six decks, six bars, 1,600 movies, 16,000 pre-programmed songs, three chefs, a cellar with 2,000 bottles of wine and 1,000 bottles of tequila, a laundry, a wall that opens to turn a bedroom into a terrace, and such high-tech features as fingerprint-identification pads to secure staterooms and other areas. We’re bobbing in the bay off the Hôtel du Cap, surrounded by yachts, including Barry Diller’s two-masted ketch, The Mikado. Peralta tells me that covetous Saudi princes have been circling his boat all week in powerboats, and that he has turned down several offers to sell it at an enormous profit. “It’s the most expensive thing you can build,” he says, “but it gives you pleasure like nothing else.”

“I’ve bought a second boat that I call the Lady Lola Shadow, a 186-foot, 20-year-old supply vessel, and I’ve just loaded her with toys,” says Idaho-based newspaper magnate Duane Hagadone, who, in commissioning his 205-foot Lady Lola, admonished the designers, “Give me some sizzle!” The result includes the 18-hole Lady Lola Golf Club, where golfers hit floating golf balls off a retractable tee on the sundeck toward 18 floating pins and have their games tracked by satellite and displayed on a television screen. “The second boat follows along behind the Lady Lola. I’ve got a custom-made wooden boat, a 150-mile-per-hour speedboat, a submarine, landing boats, canoes, kayaks—17 boats, plus the helicopter, in the Lady Lola fleet.”

“Most people don’t even know they want a yacht,” international boat broker Steve Kidd says of his clientele, powerhouses who think they’ve done it all until someone leads them onto a yacht and into another dimension. “Fifty kilograms of Iranian beluga at $500,000, 300 bottles of Dimple scotch, 300 bottles of Johnny Walker Black, 50 cases of champagne, 40 pounds of foie gras, close to 100 pounds of Niman Ranch beef—bill just shy of a million,” says a provisioner of one boat owner’s memorable order. London-based designer Donald Starkey adds, “I’ve personally put on one yacht alone a Picasso, a Dubuffet, two Utrillos, two or three Chagalls, and more. The value of the art is probably three times the value of the yacht.” Valentino’s rep Carlos Souza says, “Whenever guests come to TM Blue One, they make sure they pack lots of cashmere, because Valentino likes the temperature subzero, the air-conditioning running full blast.” Public-relations executive Lara Shriftman tells me, “On one boat I went on, they had a different set of designer china for every single meal. The crew cleaned the boat morning, noon, and night. In the bathrooms they had 20 different kinds of shampoo in a basket for a lot of high-maintenance girls. All the linens were Pratesi—600-thread count.”

What is it about a yacht that bewitches the super-rich? “Abandonment, an immediate yes,” says the actor George Hamilton without hesitation. King Edward VIII engaged in his romance with Wallis Simpson, which led to his abdication, during a 1936 charter on a steam yacht called Nahlin. But the allure of a yacht goes beyond mere romance. Occidental Petroleum magnate Armand Hammer had three wives, but the only photograph he carried in his wallet was of his yacht, according to Nancy Holmes in her book The Dream Boats. Fiat chairman Gianni Agnelli, whose yachts included Agneta, a teak beauty with rust-colored sails, liked to say, “You can tell what a man is like only by his boat and his woman.”

After dining on Gloria and Loel Guinness’s yacht, Sarina, in the 60s, Elizabeth Taylor told Richard Burton she wanted one. “We chartered a sweet old lady, whose original name I’ve forgotten, to go to the Greek islands,” Taylor tells me, describing the dilapidated, 165-foot motor yacht built in 1906 that she and Burton bought for $200,000. They named her Kalizma, an acronym for their children Kate, Liza, and Maria, and spent a reported $2 million in restoration. “She wasn’t pretty at all on the interior—all navy and nautical trim—and yet there was something so charming about her. Richard and I fell in love with her immediately, although it meant doing a complete revamp. I hired a decorator and asked him to remove every trace of the nautical theme. We put in diesel engines and stabilizers and transformed her into a cozy, comfortable, pretty little house, very romantic and colorful. We hung our paintings in the dining saloon and put Louis Quatorze chairs in the living room. The bedroom was all yellow and white. I think it was the prettiest one we ever had. There were rooms for all the kids, and we used her as a floating home. We took her up the Thames and kept all of our dogs on board because of the quarantine laws in England. Other boats would pass by and shout that we had the largest floating kennel in the world. She gave us more pleasure and fun and was the best present we ever gave each other.”

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The exterior of the yacht, Christina O .

I’m on a tender off the coast of Cap-Ferrat, sailing toward the mother ship of super-yachts, the Christina O. On this 325-foot former Canadian Navy frigate, which Aristotle Onassis bought in 1954 for $34,000 and transformed at a cost of $4 million, the Greek tycoon invented yacht culture: living on his boat for months at a time, conducting his international business empire from his master suite, seducing in his “lucky” stateroom such fabled women as Maria Callas, Greta Garbo, and Jacqueline Kennedy. “So this it seems is what it is to be a king,” Jackie Kennedy allegedly said when she first stepped onto the Christina in October 1963.

King Farouk called the Christina “the last word in opulence,” and in Jackie’s day it had a crew of 60, two French hairdressers, three chefs, a masseuse, a maid for each of the 12 staterooms, and a small orchestra. Restored for $50 million and relaunched as the Christina O in 2001 by a syndicate, the yacht was booked for a cruise for $1.54 million for two weeks during the 2004 Olympics, in Athens.

“This boat is a place of fire, burning fire, a place of romance, power, and beauty!” says Michel Blanchi, of the Christina O Partnership, as he takes me through the Callas Lounge, which has a Steinway piano in it; the Lapis Lounge, with its famous lapis lazuli fireplace; the aft deck, with the hydraulic swimming pool whose bottom rises to become a dance floor; the master suite, with a painting by Renoir in it; and into Ari’s Bar. The handles on the bar are whales’ teeth carved with pornographic scenes from The Odyssey, and the seats are covered in the foreskins of whales’ penises. Once, leading Garbo to the bar, Onassis said, “I’m going to sit you on the biggest prick in the world.” She responded, “Mr. Onassis, you are a presumptuous man.” But she soon succumbed to his advances.

Onassis’s arch-enemy, fellow Greek shipping magnate Stavros Niarchos, not only married Onassis’s first wife, Tina, but also had the gall to compete with him in boats. When Onassis converted the Canadian frigate Stormont into the Christina, he added about 30 feet so that it would be bigger than Niarchos’s boat. When Niarchos dared to build an even bigger yacht, the Atlantis II, 55 feet longer than the Christina, with a gyroscopically controlled swimming pool whose water remained steady in rough seas, Onassis went ballistic. “I was actually there, and Onassis was furious!” says Peter Evans, author of two books about him, Ari and Nemesis. “Making phone calls around the world, to see if he could get a gyroscope adapted for his pool.” Evans smiles. “Rivalries and silliness. But it mattered to these people.”

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Left, a spiral staircase on the Christina O , the Onassis yacht; Right, the notorious bar on the Christina O , with barstools covered in the foreskins of whales' penises; here Aristotle Onassis romanced such fabled women as Maria Callas, Greta Garbo, and Jacqueline Kennedy.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis unwittingly became a bellwether of the coming craze for yacht supremacy. Having heard all about her husband’s sexual conquests on the Christina, Evans says, she almost persuaded him to sell it and design a new yacht from scratch, to be called Jacqueline. She even had the perfect designer to suggest: Jon Bannenberg.

‘Nobody needs a yacht,” Jon Bannenberg liked to say, so instead of designing yachts for practicality, he created yachts that spoke to his clients’ dreams. “He opened the floodgate of imagination,” says Jim Gilbert, the founder of ShowBoats International magazine. “When he came into the business, teak and mahogany were the only woods; blue and white and the occasional forest green were the only colors. This guy starts telling people that the same principles that apply to fashion should apply to yachts, that a yacht should stimulate all of the senses, not just the nautical senses.” One Dutch shipyard added $1 million to the cost of every Bannenberg-designed yacht for what it called “the Bannenberg factor.”

“My father never lost sight of the fact that all of us in this amazing business owe our livelihoods to people who spend, well, you know the sums, so he always made the whole process the most fantastic, exciting experience,” says Dickie Bannenberg, who has run Jon Bannenberg Ltd. since shortly before his father’s death, in 2002. A Sydney-born interior designer, Jon Bannenberg began his yacht-designing career in the early 1960s, when one of the clients of his London firm asked him what he thought about the plans for the yacht he was building. “It’s terrible,” Bannenberg said. When the client dared him to do better, Bannenberg did, and thereby embarked on a career that would span four decades and the creation of about 200 yachts. He introduced many of the features that are standard on today’s big vessels: bold hull and window shapes, split-level saloons, elevators, back stairs for crew, his-and-her baths, movie theaters, and such special touches as aft-deck garages for automobiles.

His creations included Carinthia V, for German retail tycoon Helmut Horten (who, after it sank on its maiden voyage, commanded Bannenberg to build another, bigger and faster); the Highlander, for Malcolm Forbes; the Lady Ghislaine, for British media baron Robert Maxwell (whose drowning off the yacht in 1991 remains a mystery); the Southern Cross III, for Alan Bond, the Australian industrialist who won the America’s Cup; the restoration of Talitha G, for Sir J. Paul Getty Jr.; and the 316-foot Limitless, for the Limited-store magnate Leslie Wexner.

The yacht that shocked everyone was the $70 million Nabila, which Bannenberg designed for Adnan Khashoggi. When it was launched, in 1979, it was the most opulent yacht in the world. Nabila Khashoggi, the daughter of the notorious arms dealer, meets me in a Sunset Boulevard coffee shop, in her home base of Los Angeles. In her mind the Nabila is as new as it was on the day it was launched, when she was 15. “Your baba made a boat!” she remembers being told before being led, with her eyes covered, by her stepmother, Lamia, and her nanny to a slip at the Benetti shipyard in Viareggio, Italy, where the Nabila stood on stilts. “I opened my eyes and . . . first, the size!” she remembers. “I just burst into tears.”

The 270-foot silver yacht had twin engine exhausts that resembled wings, a crew of 40, three chefs, 11 staterooms, a helicopter, a movie theater, a disco, a hospital with rotating crews of surgeons (and coffins, just in case), 296 telephones, and a fortune in revolving art. “It looked like a silver bullet,” Nabila remembers. When it was launched, hundreds of doves were released and priests and imams said prayers. Soon celebrities the world over began streaming on board, and spectators packed docks whenever the vessel pulled into port.

“I went on the Nabila with Elizabeth Taylor,” says George Hamilton. “A plane was sent for us. You would have thought you were landing on the Titanic. I don’t think Elizabeth ever wanted to leave. There were helicopters that would take you wherever; if you wanted to go to another country, you were on a plane in 15 minutes.”

Khashoggi also filled his yacht with a steady supply of beautiful, consenting young women. “Oh, definitely,” Nabila says. “My father certainly lives life to the fullest, but there’s an elegance about him. So it wasn’t like a frat party. But there were a lot of girls . . . when my stepmother wasn’t there.”

The party ended in 1989, when Khashoggi was jailed on charges of mail fraud and obstruction of justice. (He was acquitted the following year.) The first thing to go was the yacht, which he sold to Donald Trump for $25 million, after deducting $1 million on the assurance that Trump would change its name. Trump called it Trump Princess. The vessel was later sold to Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud, currently the world’s fourth-richest man, according to Forbes, who renamed it Kingdom 5-KR and who also bought Trump’s stake in the Plaza hotel. “If I wanted revenge on Donald, I’d marry this guy and get everything back,” Ivana Trump said as a joke while I was interviewing her about her own yacht, M/Y Ivana.

“Just recently, I was walking with my father on the Croisette, in Cannes, and Prince Alwaleed was sitting at a coffee shop, and the Nabila, now the Kingdom, was in the bay,” says Nabila Khashoggi. “He invited us to sit with him, so there were the three of us sitting and talking about the boat, how beautiful it was. It was very sweet, because to me Prince Alwaleed called his boat the Nabila. ”

Size matters is the message on Michael Breman’s T-shirt. Breman is sales director of Lürssen, the German shipyard, and we are bobbing on a dinghy beneath the blue bow of Paul Allen’s Octopus. Lürssen built it as well as Larry Ellison’s Rising Sun, and “Size matters” is the shipyard’s unofficial slogan. Beside Breman is Espen Øino, the Antibes-based designer of Octopus and other breakthrough yachts. They were together in Øino’s office in 1998 when the “brief,” or purchaser’s outline for a new yacht, came through Øino’s fax machine.

“Wow, this is the boat I would build if I had the money,” Breman remembers saying when he read the fax, although the two men refuse to identify the client and will discuss only the yacht, which several other designers and shipyards also made bids to build. “The client didn’t want a flashy little Mickey Mouse yacht,” says Breman. “He wanted a yacht in ship’s clothing,” says Øino.

As we circle Octopus, we can see many of the 46 antennae for every imaginable communications device as well as the two life-boats capable of rescuing the crew of 57 and 26 guests. Using the Finnish icebreaker Fennica as a model, Øino won the commission for the boat, which took three years to build. As always, Breman consulted his daughter, Josi, then seven, when he was trying to come up with a name. “Octopus,” she said, and the name stuck.

Like Allen, Larry Ellison had been stricken by the notion of the perfect yacht. Like Allen, too, he already had three yachts, including the Katana, formerly owned by Mexican TV titan Emilio Azcárraga Milmo, who pushed his designer, Martin Francis, to create a wonder, according to Øino, who worked on the boat with Francis. “He said, I am a very private person and I don’t want to be seen. But when I do go to port, I want my presence to be felt through my boat.’” The result was one of the world’s fastest and most stylish vessels, with a gas-turbine jet engine, three decks of cyclopean windows, and a 260-foot oil tanker so that El Tigre, as Azcárraga was known, could refuel at sea. Ellison bought the yacht from Azcárraga’s estate in 1998 for $25 million, spent $35 million overhauling it, and recently sold it for $68 million. But this almost perfect yacht only “drove him to contemplate what the perfect boat would be like,” Matthew Symonds writes in Softwar, his biography of Ellison. The perfect yacht would be “a proper ship, not some ghastly floating palace,” Ellison told Symonds. After interviewing every conceivable designer, Ellison walked into Jon Bannenberg’s office off London’s Kings Road in late 1999 and found the man to interpret his dreams.

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Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's 413-foot Octopus has seven decks, two helipads, and a concert space for 260.

Bannenberg didn’t live to see *Rising Sun’*s completion, but he finished the design. “It’s not only the greatest yacht that I have ever built but the greatest that has ever been built in the tradition of great yachts going back to 1810,” he told Symonds.

A longtime bitter rival of Paul Allen’s in business and yacht racing, Ellison originally called the boat by the code name LE120, for its 120-meter length (393 feet). But Ellison eventually decided to extend Rising Sun to 460 feet, 47 feet longer than Allen’s Octopus. “The boat is very beautiful—a kinetic sculpture made of metal and glass,” Ellison told Symonds. “But in a post September eleventh world it seems excessive. Now everything that’s not essential seems excessive. Beautiful gardens and beautiful boats have lost their place in the dangerous new world we live in. They no longer promise an escape from the world. There is no escape anymore.”

The race, however, is hardly over. “I’m presently designing a yacht that will outsize Rising Sun considerably, but I can’t tell you any more,” Espen Øino informs me.

In addition to luxury and size, the super-yachtsman yearns for speed. Larry Ellison almost died for it, pushing himself and his crew to sail through a hurricane-force storm in which five boats sank, six men died, and at least 55 sailors had to be rescued by helicopter, to win the Sydney-to-Hobart race in 1998.

Robert Miller, the Hong Kong based owner of Duty Free Shoppers, the international chain of stores, forsakes everything for speed. “He likes the action, the shit fight, when things get hairy,” says the captain of the Mari-Cha IV, the world’s fastest monohull racing yacht, of his boss and skipper. An engine-room fire 400 miles off the coast of Brazil, sharks in Madagascar, and hellish storms around Cape Horn are all occasions to which Miller has risen. His captain, Jef D’Etiveaud, says that the 72-year-old tycoon is happiest when awakened in his bunk—a hammock swinging in an otherwise empty cell—to steer his ship through a churning sea.

“When you get to a certain speed, she sings, she tingles, and she roars—she loves the speed,” the soft-spoken, Massachusetts-born Miller tells me as we step onto his yacht, a 140-foot sailboat emblazoned with a red dragon logo, which he commissioned at a cost of roughly $10 million for one purpose only: to break world records. (Most recently he did the San Francisco to Hawaii run in just over five days.) He can have all the comfort he needs on his other boat, Mari-Cha III, with its museum-quality art, John Munford interiors, and Honduran mahogany paneling, in the company of his Ecuadoran wife, Chantal, and their three daughters and 10 grandchildren.

On his racing yacht, Miller does whatever it takes to win: spending weeks with his crew of up to 26 (which has included his son-in-law Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece), rationing water, eating freeze-dried astronaut food, and living in a stripped-clean hull with nothing to weigh it down. Miller is proud of his current dominance in racing, and he’d like to see if he can break the monohull record for sailing around the world, which stands at 93 days. He expects Mari-Cha IV to continue winning for at least another year, by which time someone will have managed to build a faster boat. “I’ll be very unhappy,” says Miller, knowing that when that happens he’ll be back at the drawing board.

‘I’m on the world’s most luxurious sailing yacht, and I have to live up to it,” says Mouna Ayoub as the moon rises over Cap-Ferrat and her stewards serve us a six-course extravaganza of nouvelle-French fish dishes on the everyday Christofle by Bernardaud china—not the 150-year-old Meissen, which is reserved for royalty. Our hostess is wearing white fox, a Galliano gown, and big diamonds, and we are on Phocea, her magnificently restored four-masted schooner, which has a 16-member crew and sycamore interiors by Viscount David Linley, nephew of the Queen. Having divorced one of the world’s richest men, the extravagant couture buyer oversees every aspect of her yacht, which she charters out for 197,000 euros a week.

She calls her acquisition of the boat “a love story about a woman who was deprived of freedom since she was five, a love story about a woman who found love and freedom. It’s not a man who gave me this. It’s Phocea. ” She spotted Phocea in the Bay of Volpe, off Sardinia, in 1992 and fell in love with it. Back then she was ensconced on Lady Moura, now the seventh-largest yacht in the world, the 344-foot possession of Saudi Arabian Dr. Nasser al-Rashid, which, when it was launched in 1991 at an estimated cost of $100 million, was the most expensive yacht ever built. Ayoub had designed the interiors, “the whole boat, every inch,” and its name was an acronym of her name and Rashid’s. The couple divorced in 1996.

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World-class clotheshorse Mouna Ayoub on Phocea , which she bought in a dilapidated state for $5.35 million and restored at a cost of $30 million.

In her memoir, La Vérité, she wrote that her life as the wife of a Middle Eastern magnate was a prison from which she could escape only in an abaya and veils, but tonight she refuses to discuss her ex-husband or his boat. She recalls the morning in 1992 when she left Lady Moura on a tender for a jog along the Bay of Volpe and first saw Phocea. She swam up to it and asked for a tour. Her request was denied because the owner, entrepreneur Bernard Tapie, who owns the Olympic Marseille football club, was asleep.

Back on Lady Moura, Ayoub stood on the A Deck and gazed at Phocea. “I knew that with those sails I could go anywhere, even without an engine,” she says. She made a vow: “One day she’s going to be mine, and nobody is going to prevent me from coming on board.” Even before her divorce, she went after Phocea, and after its owner was convicted of bribery, the yacht ended up, she has written, “sad and neglected, in Port Vauban, where she lingered for months begging for love and care. I decided that I should be the one to save her.” Though the chief engineer of Lady Moura told her Phocea was a wreck, Ayoub bought it at auction for $5.35 million and launched a $30 million restoration.

Yachtsmen speak about porn boats, yachts with all-female crews, and yachts with stripper poles and endless lines of “trolley dollies,” those loose young women forever eager to roll their suitcases down gangplanks. But the template for misbehavior at sea is docked in Monte Carlo’s Port of Font-vieille, the low-slung, two-masted schooner called Zaca, the infamous yacht of the late actor Errol Flynn, who, the six-member crew insists, still haunts the boat on which he slowly went insane, despite an actual exorcism by the Anglican Archdeacon of Monaco in 1978.

“We feel him here; things happen that we just can’t explain,” says the captain, Bruno dal Paz, leading me into *Zaca’*s saloon, which has been restored by an Italian businessman and hung with a 1943 Picasso. Captain Bruno opens a thick scrapbook of yellowed press clippings. In 1946, Flynn, after beating the charge that he had committed statutory rape on his first yacht, Sirocco, fled Hollywood. “Instead of killing myself I bought a new boat,” he wrote in his autobiography, My Wicked Wicked Ways. Perhaps Zaca, Samoan for “peace,” was cursed from the start; at its 1930 christening, the champagne bottle failed to break on its bow, always a bad omen. On one of Flynn’s first voyages, Zaca sank. On another, his crew mutinied. On what was supposed to be a “make-up” cruise, Orson Welles split from his wife, Rita Hayworth. After two wives left Flynn, the swashbuckler fell into a delirium of booze and drugs on the boat—a descent that included orgies, drug smuggling, a trip to Mexico to help a friend who was a Nazi evade an arrest warrant, and a second rape charge, by a woman barely of legal age. At 50, Flynn was “drinking vodka for breakfast and keeping a condom full of cocaine in his swim trunks,” according to a clipping in *Zaca’*s scrapbook. “I’ve squandered seven million dollars. I’m going to have to sell Zaca, ” Flynn lamented in an interview just before flying to Vancouver with his 17-year-old girlfriend, Beverly Aadland, to sell it for $150,000. The sale never took place, however, because Flynn had a heart attack, or committed suicide, just before signing the papers.

There are approximately 30,000 people working on yachts. Moving from one giant vessel to another, I was amazed at how young, attractive, well educated, and multi-lingual the crews all were. I soon discovered that, for every crew member employed, there are hundreds waiting to join a career that comes with unlimited perks (I watched the crew of Skat eating rack of lamb and drinking Taittinger for dinner) and excellent pay (a captain’s annual salary is $1,000 per yacht foot, and crews are usually paid in cash, says Dallas-based international financial consultant George Kline, who invests many a captain’s and crew member’s earnings). Even off duty, they refuse to mention specific owners or yachts, because they generally sign confidentiality agreements with their employers.

“On a boat I’m not going to mention, we had a group of Americans out for the Cannes Film Festival,” says Sebastian Frazer, a steward. “One night they went into the Jacuzzi with five women, but then the men went to bed, leaving the women, who began a full-on porn show. By then we’d lifted anchor from the Bay of Cannes, and they were going at it, completely oblivious that there were boats on both sides. The funny thing was that the Jacuzzi wouldn’t get hot enough, so we were boiling water and running up three levels with kettles to warm it, while also serving them Dom Pérignon. Even though the women hadn’t chartered the yacht, any guest that comes on board you still treat as a paying guest.”

In the mid-90s, a yacht owner placed one of the first ads to offer charters in a Moscow newspaper, and newly rich Russians swarmed to pony up $250,000 for a week on the boat. “ Whiskey beer! ” was all the first Russian on board said, at eight in the morning. “I took a step back, and he repeated it three times. Bring whiskey beer!’” remembers a steward named Gabriel, who arranged multiple brands of whiskey and beer on a silver tray, which he presented to the guest, who immediately began slugging down a succession of boilermakers. Soon a party was raging. “Six guys, 15 prostitutes—behavior that would send shivers down your spine,” says the steward. “Every horizontal surface on the boat gets some action. When the crew’s around, they generally give us a wink ... and keep going.”

Americans currently lead the world both in buying and chartering yachts, but soon the Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich may surpass all others. The 37-year-old father of five, who started life as an orphan and whose wife is a former Aeroflot stewardess, chartered his first yacht in 1998, according to Abramovich: The Billionaire from Nowhere, by Dominic Midgley and Chris Hutchins. He then quickly began snapping up super-yachts as capriciously as he’d bought oil rights in Russia and the Chel-sea Football Club. First he paid an estimated $25 million for Sussurro, a 161-foot gas-turbine Feadship, a product of the famed Dutch shipyard. Next he paid between $80 and $100 million for the 370-foot Le Grand Bleu, previously owned by cellular-telephone king John McCaw. The largest American-owned private boat when it was launched in 2000 and now No. 6 in the world, it’s complete with an Austin Powers—style bottom-level viewing port, around which guests sit to watch the sea life, which Abramovich summons by shooting out food via remote control. After that he bought the 377-foot Pelorus, the world’s fifth-largest, from Saudi billionaire Al Sheik Modhassan. Then, last summer, he took possession of his new, 282-foot, $100 million Feadship, which he christened Ecstasea, and went with his full fleet of four yachts to Portugal. “He always comes on with his family. They don’t drink, they don’t smoke, they eat healthy, they work out,” says a source who has been on the boats. Another source adds, “He likes to have breakfast on one yacht, lunch on another, dinner on the third, and, of course, he’s got a different set of chefs on each yacht.”

P. Diddy Combs is another celebrity who has thrust himself into yacht culture. In the summer of 2002, after yacht-hopping for years on St. Barth’s, he decided to charter a boat. He settled upon the 170-foot Samax, whose former owner had named the boat Tits and the tenders Nipple I and Nipple II . P. Diddy took Samax to his favorite spot on the French Riviera, Saint-Tropez. “He spent $25,000 on clothes,” remembers Fonzworth Bentley, Combs’s former assistant.

Immediately, tabloid headlines blazed with allegations of all manner of misadventures and mayhem at sea. The reality, says Bentley, consists mostly of cannonball competitions off the top deck, endless games of spades, round-the-clock apple pie à la mode, and constant surveillance by local authorities. “Two years ago, Puff got a speeding ticket on the WaveRunner off of Saint-Tropez,” says Bentley. “The thing is, Puff didn’t actually do it. Someone else from the group got the ticket. But he was on Puff’s boat and he was black, so it was just Puff. The reality is we’re still black. I don’t care if you’ve got a yacht and you’re in Saint-Tropez. The police is watching.”

Still, Bentley admits, life on a Diddy-chartered boat is a 24-hour party.

“This man was on Broadway!” he exclaims, referring to P. Diddy’s run in the 2004 revival of A Raisin in the Sun. “If I was on Broadway as long as he was, on the last day either I would have ran through Times Square butt-naked screaming or got a phat yacht and went crazy overseas. So he chose the latter.”

But, he adds, the super-yacht world is equally insane. “You hear about how black people like to flaunt their wealth? But the level of flaunting of the wealth on a yacht is far more ridiculous.” Bentley and P. Diddy call it flossing. Bentley explains: “You staying on a yacht? O.K., how big is your yacht? It’s not only the size of the yacht, it’s also the width. Then it’s: How good is your dock space? Then it’s: How many times does your crew change from daytime to evening? Then it goes to: What kind of wood is your dinner table made out of? Ours is padauk wood from India . . . ”

‘You see the planes? I organized!” says Formula One racing king Flavio Briatore on his spectacular yacht in the Bay of Volpe as a squadron of jets does crazy loops overhead. The air show is impressive (it was actually organized by the state), but the show is just as good on Briatore’s new yacht, the Lady in Blue, with its stunning Alberto Pinto interiors, Fernando Botero paintings, César sculptures, and a lunch table crowded with beauties in bikinis. Last night, at the opening of his Billionaire Club in Porto Cervo, where the jewelry shops stay open past midnight, Flavio was surrounded by gorgeous young women. The paparazzi screamed, “Flavio! Flavio!,” and his club’s video screens flashed endless photos of him: Flavio holding up the trophy he and his Renault Formula One team had won at last year’s Monaco Grand Prix; Flavio with his harem of famous women, which has included Naomi Campbell, Elle Macpherson, and the mother of his baby daughter, Heidi Klum; Flavio in close-up, climbing out of a swimming pool.

“Why do women love yachts?,” I ask Flavio, who is sitting in the saloon wearing a sarong. Before he can answer, Naomi Campbell, who’s staying on the Lady in Blue, explains. “I can’t imagine a woman who would say, ‘I don’t love a boat, I don’t love a private plane.’ I mean, when I met Flavio, I didn’t know what he did, who he was. But I think the yacht’s part of his whole mystique, his appeal. It’s a whole package.”

Once lovers, they are now friends. After their first date, a dinner in Athens, where Naomi was on a modeling assignment, Flavio flew her to the shipyard in Genoa and showed her his yacht, the first Lady in Blue, which was being refitted. When the work was completed, he gave Naomi the ultimate gift: his yacht on her birthday. Last year marked the fifth such birthday party, off Saint-Tropez, with a performance by Cirque du Soleil, fireworks, and 400 guests, including U2’s Bono. “That’s the old Lady in Blue, ” says Flavio, motioning out into the bay, which is littered with super-yachts, from New Sunrise, the mammoth vessel of the Israeli businessman Sami Ofer, to Kisses, the fabulous Art Deco—filled Feadship of former Philadelphia Eagles owners Norman and Irma Braman. The original Lady is now called Sirahmy and is owned by the head of Telecom-Italia.

“It was very sexy,” Flavio says of his former yacht. But the new one, three years in development, is even sexier—“the top boat, technically, at this moment,” he says proudly.

(A scant three months after taking delivery, Flavio sold his new Lady in Blue to Miami developer Jeffrey Soffer. “The yacht wasn’t for sale, but Flavio said, Everything’s available at the right price,’” says Soffer’s father and business partner, Don Soffer. The boat was sold fully furnished, but Flavio insisted on keeping several major pieces of art, as well as his captain, Luigi del Tevere, who had previously captained the yachts of Adnan Khashoggi, the Sultan of Brunei, the Swarovski-crystal family, and Mohamed Al Fayed. “Mr. Briatore already has a bigger boat, which he is calling Force Blue, ” says Captain del Tevere.)

‘For me, everything comes from the sea, and a boat is a kind of laboratory, a quarry,” the architect Renzo Piano says on his yacht, Kirribilli. Based in his hometown of Genoa, the birthplace of Columbus, Piano has spent his career transferring his yacht designs to his architectural projects. The ferro-cement he developed for his yacht is now on the roof of the Menil Collection art museum he designed in Houston. The idea of a “ship like Jules Verne would design in the middle of the sea” established the overall theme of Paris’s Pompidou Center, which he co-designed. The carbon-fiber antennae on Kirribilli will soon appear in a gigantic steel replica atop the new New York Times Building on Eighth Avenue.

Just as Piano applies his yacht designs to his architectural projects, some of the world’s most famous designers transfer their fashion showmanship to oceangoing vessels. Diego Della Valle, the Milan-based fashion magnate and owner of Tod’s, sitting in his all-mahogany Marlin, formerly John F. Kennedy’s motor yacht, whose auction Della Valle heard about through a Christie’s newspaper ad, says, “I went to see it, and after 10 minutes I made my offer. That same day, Ralph Lauren invited me to lunch at his house. His phone rang, and Ralph answered and passed the phone to me, saying, ‘Diego, you have bought a boat!’ After renovation, the Marlin began to cruise the Mediterranean, still holding the American presidential flag.”

Clothing designer Roberto Cavalli is another boat-lover. Of his new, 132-foot yacht, RC Roberto Cavalli Freedom, he says, “So special! So unusual! So Cavalli!” The motor yacht’s iridescent exterior changes colors, from papal purple to emerald green, “taking the reflection from the water down and the sun up,” Cavalli explains. There are leather-covered floors, python armchairs, lacquered goatskin walls, a profusion of animal horn, and Cavalli’s signature leopard-print and purple bedspreads with white mink throws. “The most important thing about the yacht is the color, like my clothes, and to be special, like my clothes!” he says, then whispers conspiratorially, “And it’s a little bit sexy, too, like my clothes.”

“My mother was a very elegant woman, and I think my boat has that same sort of elegance,” says Giorgio Armani, sitting on his super-yacht, Mariu, named for a song his mother sang to him as a child. The boat’s hull is the silver of Armani’s hair, and its interior is an homage to Armani’s world, from the 16-member all-male crew decked out in Emporio Armani to stem-to-stern Armani Casa furnishings.

Probably the most ferocious design force to hit the yacht world is Philippe Starck. We are sailing on Virtuelle, the silver sailing yacht Starck designed for Carlo Perrone, the Genoa-based businessman and great-grandson of the 19th-century arts patron Marie-Laure de Noailles, whose Paris mansion now houses the Baccarat Gallery-Museum. “One day I was in my office in Paris, and a very elegant woman arrived, who said, Can you design me a yacht of something like 80 meters [250 feet]?,’” Starck remembers. He didn’t know the woman, but he knew he would never design a mega-yacht. He had followed the escalating gran-diosity of these vessels with outrage, even lambasted the refrigerator-white gin palaces so vehemently in speeches at yacht-society meetings that people left the room. “I’m sorry,” he told the woman. “I love boats. I have seven boats of my own. But I shall not design for you a big powerboat.”

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Owner Carlo Perrone, the Genoa-based businessman, and French designer Philippe Starck aboard Virtuelle , the silver sailing yacht.

She asked why, and he let rip. “Vulgarity!” he said. “All of these big boats are just purely vulgar! People build and buy these boats to show the money they have, the power they have! For me, it’s social pollution! For me these boats are . . . gold shit!”

Starck had unleashed his fury on Hala Fares, wife of the Lebanese deputy prime minister Issam Fares and one of the world’s most stylish women, famous for her taste, evident in her clothes and the interiors of her homes and the family’s 727 jet.

“She did not speak for one minute,” says Starck. “Finally she said, ‘If I challenged you to make a yacht elegant, what would you do?’ So I was trapped!”

For five years, Fares, Starck, and Feadship collaborated on the Wedge Too. As with all of her design projects, Fares built the yacht without any hindrance from her husband, who would not even see it until it was completed, during the 2002 Christmas holidays in Monaco. “We invited our president and First Lady for Christmas, and oh, my God, my heart was beating,” Fares remembers. But the moment her husband saw the yacht’s two-level superstructure of oiled teak panels and stepped onto the 7,530 square feet of hardwood flooring, covered with Starck’s outrageous yet handsome furnishings and interior design, he smiled. “This is great!” he said, and the 20-member crew broke out the champagne. The next year Wedge Too won the ShowBoats International award for the most innovative motor yacht.

Although he still despises conventional super-yachts, Starck has nonetheless joined the yacht race. He’s now designing “the most advanced, the most modern boat in the world,” a 300-plus-foot mega-vessel whose plans look like Titanic meets 2001: A Space Odyssey. The client? “A young Russian genius of mathematics, a Russian Bill Gates,” says Starck. “[Aesthetically] we are deeply in love.”

‘We had Gregory Peck, Frank and Barbara Sinatra, Michael Caine, Harry Belafonte, Sean Connery, Julio Iglesias, Roger Moore, Hubert Givenchy, Alan King, Anna Magnani, Adnan Khashoggi, Gina Lollobrigida, Rex Harrison, Don Hewitt and his wife, Marilyn, who were married on the boat—on and on and on,” says Simone Levitt. From 1972 to 1982, there was no more coveted invitation than a lavish, all-expenses-paid, two-week vacation on La Belle Simone, the 250-foot “floating Taj Mahal” of William J. Levitt, the developer of the post–World War II housing projects called Levittowns, and his beautiful French wife, Simone. “It was a fairy tale,” says Simone Levitt of her life on a yacht so big that it ignited a feud between her husband and Revlon founder Charles Revson, whose Ultima II was 15 feet shorter, and so grand that it was used as the *Christina—*instead of the actual *Christina—*in the 1976 movie about Onassis called The Greek Tycoon.

Then, just like that, the yacht was gone, sold to Saudi Arabia’s former OPEC minister Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, along with every last penny and possession. Before Bill Levitt died, in 1994, at the Levitt Pavilion of New York University’s North Shore University Hospital, which he’d underwritten, he repeated something he’d long before told his wife: “A yacht is a furnace that just burns money.”

Things got so tough that Simone Levitt was reduced to serving as a hostess on a cruise ship. Today super-yacht life for her is reduced to framed photographs on her bathroom wall. “We were good schnooks, my husband and I,” she says. “Oh, my God, they drank our champagne and ate our caviar. He played the piano and I sang. When I had the boat, everybody is kissing your you-know-what. But after my husband died, people aren’t rushing to invite me.”

She continues: “Do you realize what I would give now to have the money that we spent on the champagne, the caviar, the trips, the crew, the oil, the gasoline? It cost a million a year. My God, I could live like a queen today. We just gave and gave, and sometimes, when we went onshore, they had the audacity not to pay for dinner. Once in a blue moon, yes, but most of the time my husband put his hand in his pocket.”

She insists that she’s not bitter. “I had a woman approach me at a party and say, ‘Oh, my dear, it must be terrible to have been all the way on top and fall all the way down.’ I said, ‘If someone told you that for 10 years you could have anything in the world—a yacht, a Rolls-Royce, sables, minks, diamonds, emeralds, sapphires—but at the end of the 10 years you would have to give it back, would you not do it?’ She said she’d rather not have it at all. But now my memories are my wealth, and no one can take them away from me.” She adds, “Everything ends, nothing is forever. A yacht is a fantasy, and whoever believes it’s going to be there forever is going to be hurt.”

Tonight I’m dressed as a Renaissance fop in one of the costumes flown in from London for a bash on the 180-foot super-yacht Amnesia, on which I’ve sailed from Naples to Capri to Sardinia. Across the rose-petal-strewn dinner table sit my host, Daniel Snyder, the 40-year-old owner of the Washington Redskins, who has chartered the boat for two weeks, and his wife, Tanya, dressed as Romeo and Juliet. Next to them, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and his wife, Gene, are costumed as Sir Lancelot and Guinevere, and nearby are original CNN anchorman Bernie Shaw and his wife, Linda, dressed as Henry VIII and one of his wives. In a few hours former superagent Michael Ovitz and his wife, Judy, whose yacht, Illusion, is moored nearby, will join the party. Docked between Ultima III, owned by Revlon’s Ronald Perelman, and Te Manu, owned by Mel Simon, co-owner of the Indiana Pacers, we’re having a feast. Our crew, whom we’ve come to love like family, are also in Renaissance apparel, and the chef has cooked a suckling pig.

I’m so up, enjoying all this opulence, that I halfway believe I belong, until a stewardess, dressed as a serving wench, whispers in my ear, “And what time will you be departing in the morning, sir?” When I return to my stateroom, my old suitcase has been placed beside the bed.

The next morning a new group of guests arrive, and I hear the crew laughing at their jokes, as they recently did at mine, and pouring them champagne. As a crew member holds out his hand to help me onto the tender that will deposit me back on dry land, I hesitate, longing to hang on to Amnesia like a suckfish on a whale, but for me the party’s over. On 6,000 super-yachts around the world, however, the party never ends.

The Most Fabulous Yachts at Sea

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16 superyachts owned by Russian oligarchs

Western sanctions over moscow's invasion of ukraine led to many luxury vessels being detained in europe.

Two superyachts linked to Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich were spotted on the Turkish coast on Tuesday, 'Eclipse' and 'My Solaris'. Mr Abramovich is among several wealthy Russians added to an EU blacklist as governments act to seize their yachts and other luxury assets. AP

Two superyachts linked to Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich were spotted on the Turkish coast on Tuesday, 'Eclipse' and 'My Solaris'. Mr Abramovich is among several wealthy Russians added to an EU blacklist as governments act to seize their yachts and other luxury assets. AP

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Several luxury yachts owned by wealthy Russians have been detained across Europe this month.

It comes after the West imposed sanctions on oligarchs over Moscow's invasion of Ukraine .

Some have taken evasive action – two such superyachts linked to billionaire Roman Abramovich were spotted approaching the Turkish coast on Tuesday. A group of Ukrainians tried to stop one of the yachts from docking in Turkey.

Chelsea FC owner Mr Abramovich is one of several oligarchs who were added to an EU blacklist last week as governments acted to seize yachts and other luxury assets owned by the billionaires.

Western sanctions resulted in many large vessels relocating from Europe in the past few weeks. Several have headed to places such as the Maldives, which have no extradition treaty with the US.

Where is the Abramovich-owned yacht heading?

Mr Abramovich's yacht Eclipse was seen heading towards Marmaris on Tuesday, according to data compiled by monitoring site Marine Traffic, which was seen by Reuters.

The previous day, his superyacht Solaris was moored in Bodrum, about 80 kilometres from Marmaris, data showed, after skirting waters of EU countries.

There was no suggestion Mr Abramovich was on board either of the yachts.

Ukrainians attempt to stop Abramovich's yacht docking in Turkey

Ukrainians attempt to stop Abramovich's yacht docking in Turkey

Which yachts have been detained?

On Monday, a superyacht linked to another Russian billionaire was detained by authorities after docking in Gibraltar.

The Axioma , believed to belong to Dmitrievich Pumpyansky, moored at Gibraltar on the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula, Reuters TV footage showed.

Mr Pumpyansky, who is under UK and EU sanctions, owns Russia's largest steel pipe maker TMK. Data shows the 72-metre vessel is owned by a British Virgin Islands holding company called Pyrene investments, Reuters reported. An article published as part of the Panama Papers leaks names Mr Pumpyansky as a beneficiary of the holding.

On March 12, the world's biggest sailing yacht, called Sailing Yacht A and owned by Russian billionaire Andrey Igorevich Melnichenko , was seized by Italian police.

Several other luxury yachts have also been detained across Europe, including in Gibraltar, Mallorca in Spain's Balearic Islands and the French coast.

Here are 16 superyachts linked to wealthy Russians

1. Eclipse , a superyacht linked to sanctioned Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich , was this week spotted heading in the direction of Marmaris in Turkey.

2. Solaris , belonging to Mr Abramovich , moored in Bodrum at the start of the week.

3. The Axioma superyacht, belonging to Russian oligarch Dmitrievich Pumpyansky , who is on the EU's list of sanctioned Russians, was detained by authorities after docking in Gibraltar on Monday.

4. The Crescent , which was seized by the Spanish government in Tarragona, Spain, on March 17. The ship's owner is not publicly known, although it is believed to belong to Russian Igor Sechin, head of Rosneft Oil in Moscow.

5. Ragnar , owned by former KGB officer and Russian oligarch Vladimir Strzhalkovsky, who is not on the EU sanctions list.

6. Tango , owned by Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, who was sanctioned by the US on March 11.

7. Lady Anastasia , owned by Russian arms manufacturer Alexander Mijeev, is retained at Port Adriano, Mallorca, as a result of sanctions against Russia and Belarus issued by the European Union.

8. Valerie was seized by the Spanish government in Barcelona, Spain, on March 15. Spanish newspaper El Pais reported that the ship is linked to Rostec State Corporation’s chief executive Sergey Chemezov.

9. The $578 million Sailing Yacht A owned by Russian billionaire Andrey Igorevich Melnichenko was seized by Italian police in the port of Trieste on March 12.

10. The 156-metre Dilbar superyacht is owned by Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov.

11. La Datcha belongs to Russian billionaire businessman Oleg Tinkov.

12. Lady M , owned by Russian oligarch Alexei Mordashov, was seized by Italian police on March 5.

13. Amore Vero was seized in the Mediterranean resort of La Ciotat on March 3 by French authorities. The yacht is linked to Igor Sechin, a Putin ally who runs the Russian oil giant Rosneft.

14. Quantum Blue , owned by a company linked to Russian billionaire Sergei Galitsky, the head of Russian oil giant Rosneft, was seized in southern France on March 3.

15. Superyacht Luna is owned by Russian billionaire Farkhad Akhmedov.

16. Triple Seven is owned by Russian billionaire Alexander Abramov, according to media reports. The yacht was last up for sale in 2020 for €38 million ($41.85 million).

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A 459-Foot Mystery in a Tuscan Port: Is It a Russian’s Superyacht?

As European authorities go after the luxury assets of oligarchs close to Vladimir Putin, a superyacht cloaked in secrecy has come under investigation.

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By Michael Forsythe ,  Gaia Pianigiani and David D. Kirkpatrick

From Germany’s North Sea ports to the French Riviera, open season has been declared on superyachts. Across Europe, authorities are hunting down luxury vessels tied to Russian oligarchs in the effort to inflict pain on President Vladimir V. Putin’s allies.

In Marina di Carrara, a small Italian town on the Tuscan coast, one of the world’s biggest, newest and most expensive superyachts — called the Scheherazade — is under scrutiny by the Italian police. Almost as long as a U.S. guided-missile destroyer, it dominates the waterfront.

The yacht, estimated by the website SuperYachtFan to cost about $700 million, has two helicopter decks and is studded with satellite domes. Inside, photos supplied by a former crew member show, is a swimming pool with a retractable cover that converts to a dance floor. Then there’s the fully equipped gym and the gold-plated fixtures in the bathrooms.

In the rarefied world of the biggest superyachts ( only 14 that are at least 140 meters, or 459 feet long), the Scheherazade is alone in that no likely owner has been publicly identified. That has spurred speculation that it could be a Middle Eastern billionaire or a superconnected Russian — even Mr. Putin.

The ship’s captain, Guy Bennett-Pearce, a British national, denied that Mr. Putin owned or had ever been on the yacht. “I have never seen him. I have never met him,” he said. He added, in a phone interview from the yacht, that its owner was not on any sanctions list. He did not rule out that the person could be Russian, but declined to say more about the owner’s identity, citing a “watertight nondisclosure agreement.”

Captain Bennett-Pearce said that Italian investigators had come aboard on Friday and examined some of the ship’s certification documents. “They are looking hard. They are looking at every aspect,” he said. “This isn’t the local coppers coming down, these are men in dark suits.” A person familiar with the matter, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss it, confirmed that the Italian financial police had opened an inquiry.

On Monday night, Captain Bennett-Pearce said he had “no choice” but to hand over documents revealing the owner’s identity to the Italian authorities. He said he would do so on Tuesday and had been told they would be handled with “confidentiality.”

“I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever that this will clear the vessel of all negative rumors and speculations,” he wrote in a message to a New York Times reporter.

The mystery about the ship’s owner arose because — even for the hyper-confidential world of superyachting — there is an unusual degree of secrecy surrounding this vessel. Not only do contractors and crew members sign nondisclosure agreements, as on many superyachts, but the ship also has a cover to hide its name plate. And when it first arrived at the port, workers erected a tall metallic barrier on the pier to partly obscure the yacht from onlookers. Some locals remarked that they had never seen anything like it for other boats.

In his State of the Union address last week, President Biden announced a Justice Department task force to go after oligarchs close to Mr. Putin and facing sanctions in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Sanctions have been imposed against hundreds of people, and the list keeps growing.

Last week, French authorities seized the yacht Amore Vero near Marseille as it was preparing to depart, claiming it was owned by a man on that list: Igor Sechin, the head of the Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft. In Italy, police in Sanremo impounded Lena, a yacht belonging to Gennady Timchenko, a Putin friend who controls an oil exporting company. In nearby Imperia, police also impounded the Lady M, a yacht belonging to Alexei Mordashov, Russia’s richest man. The fate of the Dilbar, one of the world’s biggest yachts that the United States says belongs to the oligarch Alisher Usmanov, is unclear. It is in Hamburg, and German officials said the vessel could not leave without an export waiver, Bloomberg News reported .

Some of the biggest superyachts are owned by Russians who are not on the sanctions list. The world’s second-largest, Eclipse, which has a missile defense system and a mini submarine, is owned by Roman Abramovich, the billionaire who is selling his ownership stake in the British soccer club Chelsea. Andrey Melnichenko, a billionaire coal baron, owns Sailing Yacht A.

Determining the ownership of assets that the wealthy want to keep hidden is difficult, especially without a warrant, because they are often zealously guarded by private bankers and lawyers and tucked away in opaque shell companies in offshore secrecy havens. The Scheherazade is flagged in the Cayman Islands and its owner, Bielor Assets Ltd. , is registered in the Marshall Islands. The yacht’s management company, which Captain Bennett-Pearce says is also registered in the Cayman Islands, works from the ship and uses his rental villa in nearby Lucca as its address.

One trade website, which bills itself as “the global authority in superyachting,” claims that the vessel’s owner is “known to be a Middle Eastern billionaire.” The Scheherazade shares a name with the female storyteller in “The Arabian Nights,” and it made one brief foray into the Red Sea in September 2020, calling at the Egyptian port of Hurghada. But mostly it stays in Marina di Carrara, where it has been moored since last September.

Locals have their own theory about the ship’s ownership. Some have heard people onboard speaking Russian. And Scheherazade is also the title of a symphonic work by the Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.

“Everybody calls it Putin’s yacht, but nobody knows whose it is,” said Ernesto Rossi, a retired clerk who was taking a walk along the marina’s promenade on Friday. “It’s a rumor that’s been going around for months.”

In Italy, the phrase “Putin’s yacht” has become shorthand for a mysterious and ultra-luxurious ship. It’s also a joke among the dozens of crew members, Captain Bennett-Pearce said. “I’ve heard the same rumors.”

Another, smaller vessel, the Graceful, has long been tied to the Russian president and is known as “Putin’s yacht.” It was tracked leaving Germany for the Russian port of Kaliningrad just weeks before the invasion of Ukraine. (U.S. government officials point out that Mr. Putin owns little outright; many of the luxurious homes or ships he uses are owned by oligarchs.)

Mr. Putin appears to have a penchant for big pleasure boats. During his time as Russia’s leader, he’s been photographed on yachts from Russia’s northern reaches to the Black Sea in the south. Last May, he and Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, took a cruise on a yacht at the Black Sea resort city of Sochi.

The Scheherazade’s builder, Lurssen Group, whose website promises customers “complete confidentiality,” declined to comment about its ownership. Until June 2020, when the completed ship left the pier in Bremen, Germany, it had the code name “Lightning.” The same company built the even bigger superyacht the Dilbar. A similar gigantic yacht, code-named “Luminance,” is now being built at Lurssen, scheduled to be completed next year.

“Of course, all orders and projects of the Lurssen Group and its subsidiaries are treated in accordance with the applicable laws and regulations,” said Oliver Grun, a company spokesman.

About 70 percent of the Scheherazade’s crew is Russian, Captain Bennett-Pearce said. And during each of the past two summers, it has sailed to Sochi, the last time in early July 2021, according to MarineTraffic, a top maritime analytics provider. The ship’s construction was managed by Imperial Yachts, a company in Monaco that, Reuters reported , manages the Amore Vero, Mr. Sechin’s seized yacht. Nick Flashman, who oversees construction of large vessels at Imperial Yachts, declined to comment.

One former crew member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the nondisclosure agreement, said that shipmates called it “Putin’s yacht.” The person said the ship was manned by an international crew during “boss off” times; when it was “boss on,” the crew was replaced by an all-Russian staff. In the weeks before the Scheherazade’s 2020 trip to the Black Sea, the foreign crew was dismissed, the person said.

The former crew member supplied photos of rosters of both international and Russian crew members. The Times reached out, via social media, phone or email, to at least 17 of them. Few responded.

One of the Russians said only that he had worked on the Scheherazade, citing a nondisclosure agreement. Another person said it would be dangerous to talk. One man denied serving on the vessel; another said he hadn’t worked at sea in 25 years.

Captain Bennett-Pearce said “categorically there is not a European crew that comes on and a Russian crew that comes on.” Many of the ship’s senior officers are from Britain, New Zealand and Spain. Many international crew members were dismissed in 2020, replaced by Russians who didn’t demand the high salaries and benefits that their predecessors had, the captain said. “It came down to economics,” he said.

Given the antipathy that people outside of Russia have toward Mr. Putin, if the Russian president really were the owner or principal user of the yacht, keeping non-Russian senior crew members like him on staff would make no sense, Captain Bennett-Pearce said.

“If there’s a European crew onboard it’s the biggest smoke and mirror and the biggest risk I’ve ever heard of,” he said.

Reporting was contributed by Dmitriy Khavin , Christoph Koettl , Julian E. Barnes , Jason Horowitz , Rebecca R. Ruiz and Eric Schmitt .

Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article referred imprecisely to the new task force announced by President Biden in his State of the Union address. He announced a Justice Department task force to pursue and seize the assets of oligarchs associated with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, not a joint task force with partners in Europe, which was previously announced.

How we handle corrections

Michael Forsythe is a reporter on the investigations team. He was previously a correspondent in Hong Kong, covering the intersection of money and politics in China. He has also worked at Bloomberg News and is a United States Navy veteran. More about Michael Forsythe

Gaia Pianigiani is a reporter based in Italy for The New York Times.  More about Gaia Pianigiani

David D. Kirkpatrick is an investigative reporter based in New York and the author of “Into the Hands of the Soldiers: Freedom and Chaos in Egypt and the Middle East.“ In 2020 he shared a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on covert Russian interference in other governments and as the Cairo bureau chief from 2011 to 2015 he led coverage of the Arab Spring uprisings. More about David D. Kirkpatrick

Our Coverage of the War in Ukraine

News and Analysis

President Vladimir Putin of Russia warned the United States and its allies that he is willing to arm North Korea  if they continue to supply Kyiv with sophisticated weapons that have struck Russian territory.

The Biden administration will rush Patriot missiles to Ukraine  by delaying certain weapons shipments to other countries, a move that a White House spokesman described as “difficult but necessary” given Russian advances.

Mark Rutte, the departing prime minister of the Netherlands who has guided more than $3 billion in Dutch military support to Ukraine since 2022, is poised to become NATO’s next secretary general .

Inside Russia’s Chechen Units: After hundreds of years of enmity with Russia, Chechens are deploying to Ukraine to fight Moscow’s war .

Narrowing Press Freedoms: Journalists in Ukraine say they are subject to increasing restrictions and pressure from the government , adding that the measures go beyond wartime security needs.

Belugas Escape Ukraine: A pair of beluga whales were transported out of danger in Kharkiv to an aquarium in Spain in an incredibly complex rescue .

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