Dubai is hot on the heels of Monte Carlo to become the yachting haven of choice. Holly Sands finds out what's powering the trend.
Owning a yacht was once the exclusive preserve of the rich and famous, leaving the rest of us no choice but to gaze on enviously. And more often than not, we wondered why a vessel so deliriously attractive had been named something as odious as "Doodle-B-Dinkle".
However. recent statistics suggest that there's a change in the wind. Dubai Maritime City has forecast a 15% rise in Dubai's boat ownership over the next 12 months, citing the increase in berthing space and better equipped maritime facilities as the main cause.
It comes as no surprise, then, to spot a healthy portion of Dubai's resident population armed with platinum credit cards and ploughing their way through 800 exhibitors at the Dubai International Boat Show.
While the famous Maltese Falcon is currently the most expensive luxury saling yacht in the world, boat builder Neorion is responsible for the world’s most expensive super yacht, Alysia, worth a total of US$116.7mn.
It's reported that some 25,000 visitors put in an appearance, enabling exhibitors to process a record number of sales worth tens of millions of dollars.
A sum like this suggests that there's nothing to stop the city becoming the next great yacht-spotting destination on the map, alongside St Tropez and Monte Carlo - both of which have an international reputation for their rows of extravagant yachts.
St Tropez has reigned supreme in Europe since the 50s, when Hollywood stars first began to infiltrate this charming port on the French Riviera. And today, as ever, keeping-up-with-the-Jones competition is fierce.
Gleaming vessels are lined up side by side, while their owners parade along the jetty, taking pains to ensure that they boast the largest Jacuzzi, the best-kept façade and, of course, the most humungous yacht.
Meanwhile, Monte Carlo is viewed as the unofficial capital of Monaco, a country bursting at the seams with unimaginable personal wealth and flamboyant personalities. All of this, reflected in the luxury yachts on show, leaves many yearning for a vessel of their own, in the hope that they too may adopt this fantasy lifestyle.
Should you find yourself in a position to buy a luxury yacht and live the dream, there are a few names you should look out for. Unless you know boats, you are unlikely to know the name of a good boat builder, as they are predominantly based in the U.S. and Western Europe alongside yacht charter companies.
But following the increased demand for luxury and super yachts, these can now be found more frequently in Asia, Eastern Europe and Australasia.
Still, European boat builders continue to dominate the market for high-end, luxury yachts, including Lürssen Werft, Ferretti Group, Azimut-Benetti, Neorion and Feadship.
And while the famous Maltese Falcon is currently the most expensive luxury sailing yacht on the market, it is boat builder Neorion that lays claim to the world's most expensive super yacht, Alysia, worth a whopping US$116.7million.
On board, the master suite sprawls across 1,300 square feet, with windows looking out over its private deck and boasting 180 degree views.
In total, this majestic vessel houses five decks connected by elevator, and includes a sundeck with a barbeque, bar and a main deck saloon replete with grand piano.
Relaxation can also be found below deck, with the entire midsection devoted to a ‘spa' room, housing a gym, beauty salon, massage room, suites devoted to facial treatments and hydrotherapy, a mud bath suite, saunas, steam rooms and a main spa area with a queen-sized Jacuzzi.
Since they were first created, yachts have always been about being bigger, faster and better.
However, it won't be a long reign for Alysia because yacht builder Fincantieri is hot on its heels and set to deliver a record breaking US$278million vessel in 2010.
The yacht, currently known as "Hull 6154", will measure 438 feet, holding 15 state rooms fitted with high-tech entertainment systems, marble bathrooms with gold finishings and Jacuzzis.
Its top deck will have three sections; a sun deck, a helipad and a gym with 360 degree views, while inside it will boast a sea-water swimming pool and storage for a small submarine, should you feel the need to submerge yourself.
What's more, the undisclosed future owner has decided that one extraordinarily large boat is simply not enough, and so the vessel has been customised to carry either five jet skis or two reasonably sized speed boats. And that's just the exterior.
Every luxury yacht needs as much attention to interior design as it does to the outward façade. Hull 6154 is set to be designed by Pascale Reymond, a man with an impressive portfolio of over 16 private yacht projects, while Alysia was given the greatest care and attention Alpha Marine Design could offer.
Top-end yacht building companies usually employ specialised designers to deal with high-spec requests from their clients. Some companies will offer a range of services, while others may only cater to one aspect of the design.
For the most part, these companies provide everything from full interior architectural design and concept design, through to interior decorating. Surprisingly, the process is similar to having the family home redecorated by a professional.
If the boat is being custom-made at the request of a client, the design company will meet directly with the future owner to discuss ideas, preferences and, quite possibly, whether a solid gold mast is feasible. After this, a written quotation is presented to the client with a scope of the works to be done and a tentative timeframe is set.
While many interior design companies offer special ranges such as custom-made linen and marine mattresses, owners are increasingly choosing to install homely furnishings in their yachts. Amid rapid advances in construction technology and the sheer availability of luxury, proprietors are keen for their vessels to be as opulent as their stately homes.
This means that it's out with the generic leather yacht sofa, and in with the gold footed, antique chaise lounge. No-one wants the specially sprung, latex mattress anymore, because it's all about the king-sized Californian mattress and the 600 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets.
Since their conception, yachts have always been about being bigger, faster and better. The vessel was originally designed to be a fast way of traveling, and utilised by the Dutch navy as a law enforcement tool on sea.
But nowadays, speed is taken for granted, and instead the yacht has retained its prestige by becoming the most opulent status-symbol a person can own. Many owners have houses that pale in comparison to their waterborne property.
And while tastes are constantly changing, the core attraction here will always remain the same - ‘my yacht is fancier than your yacht'.
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