Billionaires sail of the century: Have you got a spare £150m? Join the queue at Monaco Yacht Show – Daily Mail

Life in Britain may be full of energy worries, soaring bills and the petrol pumps running dry — and even fears of a new winter of discontent.

But in Port Hercule, Monaco’s gorgeous natural harbour on the Cote d’Azur, it’s clear that in some places things are as rosy as the chilled Whispering Angel wine that pours from magnum-sized bottles.

I’m at the Monaco Yacht Show, the largest and most prestigious display of yachts, where the world’s wealthiest have descended to buy and sell the most spectacular luxury vessels on the planet.

Last year, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, the show was cancelled for the first time in its 30-year history.

The event and the wider yachting industry are witnessing a boom, with the pent-up spending power held captive during the pandemic now fully unleashed on the French Riviera.

The event and the wider yachting industry are witnessing a boom, with the pent-up spending power held captive during the pandemic now fully unleashed on the French Riviera.

The event and the wider yachting industry are witnessing a boom, with the pent-up spending power held captive during the pandemic now fully unleashed on the French Riviera.

But now, the event and the wider yachting industry are witnessing a boom, with the pent-up spending power held captive during the pandemic now fully unleashed here on the French Riviera.

Tanned, European lotharios in blue shirts, chinos and diamond-studded watches throng the streets, accompanied by women swathed in Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Balenciaga, dripping with ostentatious jewellery and sporting expensively frozen faces.

The superyachts themselves bob in the harbour, which is dominated by the Prince’s Palace, built as a Genoese fortress in 1191 and which today bestows a royal glamour entirely in keeping with the Belle Epoque architecture of this billionaire’s playground.

The Kismet will set you back £144 million or charter hire for £1 million per week

The Kismet will set you back £144 million or charter hire for £1 million per week

The Kismet will set you back £144 million or charter hire for £1 million per week

From supersubs to crash-proof choppers, ultimate boys’ toys 

The Project Neptune submarine costs £3m

The Project Neptune submarine costs £3m

The Project Neptune submarine costs £3m

PROJECT NEPTUNE

What: Submarine (above). 

USP: Designed by Aston Martin and Triton Submarines, it ‘represents the pinnacle of luxury’. Available in ‘Zaffre Blue with a matching Cote d’Azur interior’ and adorned with the Aston Martin wings, it’s the James Bond water toy.

Key specs: Depth of 500 metres with eight-hour endurance. 

Price: £3 million.

 

KISMET 

What: Megayacht  

USP: Champagne and caviar-themed interiors sourced from the finest rare woods, fabrics and marbles. 12-metre mosaic pool, fire pit, basketball court, sports bar/night club.

Key specs: 95 metres long. Can accommodate 12 guests. 

Price: £144 million or charter hire for £1 million per week.

 

IJE

What: Megayacht.

USP: The largest yacht on show, with beach club, two fold-out water terraces and a gym.

Key specs: 108 metres long. Can accommodate 22 guests.

Price: £150 million.

 

ZEFHIR

What: Helicopter.

USP: First ever helicopter with a ballistic parachute. Essentially a ‘crash-proof’ helicopter with giant parachute in case of emergencies. This is the first helicopter with this technology.

Key specs: Max speed 115 mph. Seats two passengers. 

Price: From £500,000.

Even some of the boats’ names flaunt the owners’ wealth: Foie Gras, New Era and, for one hard-pressed workaholic, Time Off. This last is a ‘support vessel’ designed purely to carry an owner’s toys around and costs £14 million. 

Shopping for a new yacht is serious business, with hundreds of millions changing hands in a single transaction — but it’s clear plenty of pleasure goes with the territory.

Here in Monaco, there are liquid lunches galore, with flush-cheeked old-boys back-slapping each other and making deals.

For the super-rich, it seems, the pandemic is over — and now it’s time to spend, spend, spend. As the middle classes have seen their living standards freeze or fall, shares and other assets have soared in value during the pandemic — and the biggest beneficiaries have been the rich.

This is the largest and most shamelessly ostentatious display of yachts in the world, in a place where one in three residents is a millionaire — not least thanks to the very generous tax laws of this curious principality.

The event is endorsed by no less than Monaco’s ruler, HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco, who proudly proclaims: ‘I embrace the tight-knit relationship between the Monaco Yacht Show, my government and the yachting industry.’

The event’s unofficial motto could be: If you’ve got it, flaunt it.

This year there are more than 100 yachts on display, almost 40 of which are new and making their world debuts for sale here. Most of the 88 motor yachts are ‘superyachts’ more than 24 metres long. Nine are classed as ‘megayachts’, over 80 metres long — as large as a passenger ferry.

As if things couldn’t get any more James Bond, in the harbour I spot the megayacht Quantum Of Solace, which features a cinema room, ‘full beam spa’ and ‘beach club area’, as well as a steam room, ‘chromotherapy Jacuzzi pool’ and ‘massage therapy room’.

She is owned by American John Staluppi, the son of an electrician, who started life as a petrol-station mechanic in Brooklyn before making a huge fortune in car dealerships.

Largest in show this year is IJE, previously owned by Mariah Carey’s ex, the Australian billionaire James Packer, who named the boat using the initials of his three children.

 At 108 metres, she features a cinema, night club, pool, barber’s salon and lifts to reach her seven decks. During the pandemic, she failed to find a buyer and is now on sale to anyone with £150 million to spare.

Moored beside her in the dock is Kismet (Arabic for ‘fate’), 95 metres and yours for £144 million. Both yachts have had ‘serious offers’.

The world of yachting is a never-ending game of one-upmanship, and in this year’s designs, outrageous accoutrements and accessories abound. Cloud 9, on sale for £50 million, has a glass-bottomed pool, while Polaris, which is worth some £58 million and which is on display at the show (but not currently for sale), has two waterfalls, including one on the private terrace of the master suite.

In the towering shadow of Artefact, recently crowned Motor Yacht of the Year at the World Superyacht Awards, Monaco Yacht Show spokesman Johan Pizzardini tells me: ‘This is superyachting. We use superlatives but, generally speaking, yachting is superlative.’

Last year, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, the show was cancelled for the first time in its 30-year history

Last year, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, the show was cancelled for the first time in its 30-year history

Last year, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, the show was cancelled for the first time in its 30-year history

Now the pandemic has begun to wane, a 'boom market' has started, according to experts

Now the pandemic has begun to wane, a 'boom market' has started, according to experts

Now the pandemic has begun to wane, a ‘boom market’ has started, according to experts  

He says that, as the pandemic has begun to wane, a ‘boom market’ has started. The rich, he insists, have reassessed their lives and ‘now want to have fun’.

‘Covid has changed the behaviours of those buying yachts,’ he adds. ‘People want to escape their homes. Now it’s carpe diem. They think: I need to socialise, I want to have fun with my kids, wife, husband, friends, family.’

Once you’ve picked your yacht, you need to decide how to fit it out.

Those who think a superyacht’s toys amount to little more than a pair of jet skis are in for a shock. Today’s playthings are as ambitious as the vessels themselves.

Fancy your own submarine? No problem. One company, SeaMagine, builds a model that features military technology and can reach depths of up to 500 metres.  

The superyachts themselves bob in the harbour, which is dominated by the Prince’s Palace, built as a Genoese fortress in 1191

The superyachts themselves bob in the harbour, which is dominated by the Prince’s Palace, built as a Genoese fortress in 1191

The superyachts themselves bob in the harbour, which is dominated by the Prince’s Palace, built as a Genoese fortress in 1191

‘One of our clients took this to Tahiti,’ the exhibitor tells me. ‘And on a submersion they spotted a shark. They snapped a photo of it with an iPhone camera through the glass, then asked some scientists which breed it was. It turned out to be a new species.’

The price? A mere £7 million — and one client has bought three of them.

At the Zefhir Helicopter stand, which is showcasing its newest model featuring a ‘ballistic parachute’, an exhibitor tells me she has had ‘around 20 serious offers’ for the chopper, which starts from half a million pounds.

‘We didn’t know what kind of appetite there would be this year, but we were pleasantly surprised,’ she says. ‘People want to have fun now and are ready to spend more money.’

Luxury boats are seen during the Monaco Yacht Show, one of the most prestigious pleasure boat shows in the world

Luxury boats are seen during the Monaco Yacht Show, one of the most prestigious pleasure boat shows in the world

Luxury boats are seen during the Monaco Yacht Show, one of the most prestigious pleasure boat shows in the world

There are builders, designers, brokers, captains, crew, and, for novice buyers, the show even hosts a special ‘summit’ to offer training into what to look out for — or a guide in how not to waste £100 million in a morning.

There are builders, designers, brokers, captains, crew, and, for novice buyers, the show even hosts a special ‘summit’ to offer training into what to look out for — or a guide in how not to waste £100 million in a morning.

There are builders, designers, brokers, captains, crew, and, for novice buyers, the show even hosts a special ‘summit’ to offer training into what to look out for — or a guide in how not to waste £100 million in a morning.

Even the yacht show’s on-site Portaloos include videos advertising robotic lavatories, while the humble orange life buoy has been given a high-tech upgrade. Technology company nSpear has two prototypes for an artificially intelligent flying ‘drone life buoy’, which can pull a drowning person to safety.

There are builders, designers, brokers, captains, crew, and, for novice buyers, the show even hosts a special ‘summit’ to offer training into what to look out for — or a guide in how not to waste £100 million in a morning. 

‘It’s ‘seducation,’ ‘ says Pizzardini. ‘We seduce and we educate them. The main idea is to know why you need a yacht. If you have a family with kids, it will be different from if you are single and you want to have a party with your friends.

‘Then you need to design it: for example, whether you want a large sun deck or a silent room because you are working and your family is having fun on the other side of the yacht. And do you want to stay in the Mediterranean or explore Antarctica? Everything starts from a blank sheet.’

Yachts are moored at the Hercules Port in Monaco

Yachts are moored at the Hercules Port in Monaco

Yachts are moored at the Hercules Port in Monaco

The event is endorsed by no less than Monaco’s ruler, HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco

The event is endorsed by no less than Monaco’s ruler, HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco

The event is endorsed by no less than Monaco’s ruler, HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco

This year there are more than 100 yachts on display, almost 40 of which are new and making their world debuts for sale

This year there are more than 100 yachts on display, almost 40 of which are new and making their world debuts for sale

This year there are more than 100 yachts on display, almost 40 of which are new and making their world debuts for sale

Once a yacht is ready to be commissioned, the final handshake takes place on board a luxury charter — a comparative snip at £500,000, considering the multi-millions spent on a yacht. The big buyers here are U.S. and Russian nationals, and always are,’ one regular attendee tells me.

‘Some people assume it will be those from the Middle East, or the Greeks, but that’s not the case.

‘As with the fallout of the 2008 financial crash, the Americans and the Russians saved the yachting industry, and now they have saved it again following Covid-19.’ 

As the sun set yesterday on the world capital of luxury yachting and champagne corks popped long into the night, it was clear that the billionaires’ bankers are going to be busy in the post-pandemic travel boom. For me, though, it’s the easyJet flight home back to reality.

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