The Top Ten Superyacht Builders
Billionaire compiles a selection of the best yacht builders of 2018.
Trying to compile a list of the best yacht-builders is akin to choosing between the world’s finest restaurants; at this level it’s entirely subjective and different establishments cater for different tastes. If you are fortunate enough to be cherry picking among this select group, there is sure to be one that floats your boat.
German shipbuilder Nobiskrug had been producing innovative military and commercial ships for almost 100 years before it took aim at the superyacht market with Paul Allen’s ground-breaking 92m MY Tatoosh. That was in 2000 and she still looks fantastic now. However, Nobiskrug’s fleet of distinguished steel-hulled superyachts is eclipsed by arguably the most epochal private yacht ever built: the divisive 143m Sailing Yacht A. The huge Philippe Starck-designed ‘sail-assisted’ motoryacht pushed the boundaries of technology and styling, and set several records in the process. Her three masts (the middle of which is 100m in length) are the largest free-standing composite structures in the world and manufactured in Portsmouth, UK.
Royal-appointed Dutch shipbuilders Feadship is truly in a class of its own and its clients form an exclusive club of the world’s most discerning yacht owners. Feadship’s shipbuilding roots date back to 1849 and it is now comprised of two shipyards (Royal Van Lent Shipyard and Koninklijke De Vries Scheepsbouw) and an engineering centre in Haarlem. Feadship has created some of the most recognisable and reputable superyachts, such as the Philippe Stark-designed 78m MYVenusand the sublime 84m MY Savannah. One of Feadship’s most notable recent launches is the sinuous RWD-designed 97m MY Faith, with its distinctive flared bow and razor-sharp forepeak.
Benetti yachts’ varied portfolio, spanning semi-custom and fully custom yachts from aluminium, steel and FRP all exude la dolce vita. The Azimut-owned marque has four shipyards in northern Italy and has been building private yachts since the 1960s. Of all the major superyacht brands, Benetti has made the most impact in the nuanced Asian superyacht market and earned several loyal brand ambassadors in China and Hong Kong. As such, its latest concept, in collaboration with UK designers RWD, Oasis 135 is tailored towards the Asian market and strategically launched at the 2018 Singapore Yacht Show.
There is something reassuringly fantastic about walking on board one of the new Princess yachts. With the subtle influence from LMVH, the Plymouth-based yard has reached a harmony with layout, design and materials, which at once feels liveable yet stylish. What they lack in extravagance is made up for in the understated Britishness of the styling and the cleverness of the well-proven architecture. The Princess line-up has evolved over six decades, offering true superyachts with its M range of vessels. While Princess offers customers bespoke design, each of the available options has been carefully selected so as not to stray too far from the marque.
Perini Navi, Italy
Sailing-yacht specialist Perini Navi is based in Viareggio, nestled among its motor-hearted brethren in the spiritual heart of the Italian superyacht industry. Founded in 1983 by Fabio Perini to build large singlehanded sailing yachts, the company has been at the forefront of computerised sail-handling systems. Its trailblazing reputation and a rare coalition of visionary owner, pioneering naval architect and radical designer enabled Perini Navi to create arguably the most iconic private sailing yacht ever made: the 88m three-masted schooner, SY Maltese Falcon. In 2007 Perini Navi entered the luxury motoryacht sector with its distinctively sailboat-inspired Vitruviusmotor yachts (now also under the Perini Navi brand). The latest of its three motor and 59 sailing yachts sees Perini Navi in its sweet spot with the 60m aluminium ketch SY Seven.
As with all Dutch shipyards, Mulder can trace its lineage back through generations and has a rich heritage in yacht-building spanning back to 1938. While Mulder has carefully established a reputation building impeccable dayboats and cruisers from 13-25m it has recently shown its hand with the introduction of its Claydon Reeves-designed semi-displacement motor yachts, which take the brand firmly into superyacht territory. The 34m MY Solis and 36m MY Delta One may be small in comparison to its fellow Dutch superyacht yards but the surface finish, quality and performance is certainly on par.
A young gun on the superyacht scene and building an antidote to sober Germanic leviathans is Italian brand Wider. A vivacious Italian design provenance shows with audacious exterior styling and Thunderbirds-esque functionality. It is small surprise that the company’s roots can be found in Pershing with founder Tilli Antonelli and designer Fulvio de Simoni. While Wider’s first yacht was the Wider 42, a 13m day cruiser with a radical expanding cockpit, its latest launch is the considerably larger MY Bartali. At 46m and with accommodation for 11 guests she is a bold statement from the independent Italian yard. Bartali is soon to be surpassed by the Wider 165 launching later this year.
If asked to name a famous superyacht, chances are you would name a Lürssen, with a fleet that includes Paul Allen’s 127m MY Octopus, Roman Abramovich’s 163m MY Eclipseand the world’s largest superyacht, the gargantuan 180m MY Azzam, the Bremen-headquartered shipyard doesn’t so much move the bar as own it. Remarkably, it has remained family operated since Friedrich Lürssen founded the company in 1875 and now in the capable hands of the charismatic Peter Lürssen. In 2016 Lürssen acquired ailing yacht-builder Blohm+Voss to bolster its refit and repair facilities, and, in doing so, made it the largest superyacht builder by a country mile. If one brand encapsulates the audaciousness of the superyacht industry, it is Lürssen. The Andrew Winch-designed 85m MY Areti was launched last July and made its debut at the Monaco Yacht Show.
In 1973 five guys decamped from respected yacht-builder Nautor to set up on their own with the single-minded mission to build the lightest, stiffest and fastest luxury yachts in the world. Headquartered in Ostrobothnia on the west coast of Finland, where boat building can be traced back as far as the 16th century, Baltic creates custom luxury sailing yachts for dyed-in-the-wool sailors. A series of collaborations with renowned designers such as German Frers and Malcolm McKeon in recent years has elevated the brand still further. 54m SY Pink Gin VI was possibly the finest sailing yacht on display at the Monaco Yacht Show last year and the Blackcat 50 project designed by Malcolm McKeon Yacht Design looks set to achieve the impossible when she is launched in 2020 — a sexy catamaran.
San Lorenzo, Italy
San Lorenzo is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. The Viareggio yacht builder has gone from strength to strength over the past few years and practically bought the Cannes Yacht Show to a standstill last year with the debut of its incredible 27m SX88. While the current range spans either side of the arbitrary ‘superyacht’ definition (24m load length if you are interested), even its smallest yachts feel distinctively rarefied compared to production yachts of the same size.