Super yachts--the ultimate toy.

Author:Wells, Rhona



Super-yacht ownership seems to be riding the wave of the global recession with Middle Eastern interest on the increase. The Gulf states of Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE are recognised as being among the fastest growing markets in the world for recreational boats.

Traditionally, it was the Greeks who owned the most prestigious boats. Aristotle Onassis's yacht, Christina O, hosted Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Eva Peron and Sir Winston Churchill amongst others. Then, as the oil money begun to flow, the Arabs--with their long history of seafaring--became involved. Shortly before her death, Diana, Princess of Wales, was famously photographed sunbathing in the South of France on Jonikal, the yacht owned by Egyptian millionaire Mohamed Al Fayed. Now the Russians have entered the fray.

According to a recent survey of the world's 100 largest yachts, approximately one third are owned by Arab nationals, with the top five located in Dubai, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The yachts, ranging in size from 140-160 metres, include such luxury features as helicopter pads, swimming pools, gymnasiums with squash courts, a fully equipped hospital and a mosque.

A standard super yacht now costs between 40m [pounds sterling] and 100m [pounds sterling] depending on the interior specification, with running costs averaging out at about 5m [pounds sterling] a year for the bigger vessels. Ten years ago, a yacht of 60 metres was considered extravagant, now it must be 90 metres or more to enter the Top 100. The average length of Middle Eastern super yachts is 95 metres, compared with 77 metres in Europe.

Dubai's Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum owns My Dubai, the Top 100's number one vessel, which was purpose-built by Platinum Yachts of the UAE. At 164 metres long, there is nothing quite as luxurious as this floating palace, the world's largest and most expensive super yacht. The boat currently ranked second in the world is the Al Said, owned by Sultan Qaboos of Oman and moored at Mutrah.

Simply known as "A" and number 11 in the Top 100, is the vessel owned by Russian billionaire Andrey Melnichenko. At 120 metres long, "A" cost its owner around $300m. From the outside, the yacht--created by French designer Philippe Starck--is reminiscent of the most advanced stealth warships and cuts an unusual dash amongst the more traditional yachts with its axe bow and small superstructure. The interior of...

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