x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Huge yachts are the choice of the wealthy for the ADGP

Forget swanky suites, hust as in Monaco during its Formula One race in May, the most coveted "hotel" of all is one of the big yachts in the marina.

The most coveted vantage points will be from the yachts moored in the Marina.
The most coveted vantage points will be from the yachts moored in the Marina.

While no one in their right mind would sneer at spending Grand Prix weekend in one of the Yas Hotel's 400-square-metre Presidential Suites, each with a terrace and private pool overlooking the track, it is not the most prestigious address for this weekend's Formula One season-ending extravaganza.

Just as in Monaco during its Formula One race in May, the most coveted "hotel" of all is one of the big yachts in the marina.

Chartering one will cost you considerably more than a hotel suite - from €22,000 (Dh113,379) a day for the 43-metre Le Yana to €90,000 a day for the 90-metre Lauren L, which was a regular fixture in Monaco before being sold this year to a member of one of the UAE's Royal Families and making Abu Dhabi its permanent home.

Both yachts will be at Yas Marina this week - as will the 72-metre Rabdan (now privately owned and not available for charter) and the 50-metre Platinum (€33,000 a day).

Surprisingly, these rates are not artificially inflated for either the Monaco or Abu Dhabi grands prix.

"We charge the standard high-season rate," says Neil Hornsby, the charter director of Burgess Yachts, which manages Platinum and Le Yana, among others. "Where you do pay through the nose is for berthing, at least €20,000 for the Monaco GP."

That, Mr Hornsby says, is driven simply by scarcity and demand but getting a berth is not just a matter of waving the biggest cheque.

"In Monaco, priority is always given to owners and charterers directly involved in F1: the teams, their sponsors and suppliers," Mr Hornsby says.

In Monaco, Vijay Mallya, the owner of the Force India F1 team, had prime spot on T-Jetty, in front of the swimming pool, for his 95-metre Indian Empress. The 43-metre Element, chartered by TW Steel watches, a new F1 sponsor for Renault, was among those along Quai des Etats-Unis towards the chicane.

It's not only size that matters. There's a clear pecking order when it comes to position in the Monaco marina and the reasons are not always obvious to outsiders. Despite having no known F1 business involvement, the British retail magnate Sir Philip Green was next to Indian Empress on his 63-metre yacht Lionheart. Indian Empress and Element were both notable for the glitzy parties they hosted in May but high-profile entertaining is not the point for many of the owners and charterers who pitch up to such events.

Yachts provide them with the ultimate in privacy and security - and they are considered by the world's billionaires to be an excellent business tool, both for reinforcing their position in the scheme of things and as venues for private meetings.

"An ideal GP charter yacht will have a very private and quiet area for top-level meetings," says Mr Hornsby. "It's essential for both F1-related business and the other business meetings that these events create the opportunity for."

On Lauren L there's a spacious owner's office and a formal dining room tucked away from the main saloon and entertaining areas.

What else makes a yacht ideal for an F1 weekend? "Lots of deck space, ideally on more than one level, for watching the race," says Mr Hornsby. Also important are good kitchen facilities on all decks "so service can be seamless and constant.

"And a well sound-proofed main salon so people can get away from the noise when it becomes too much. Because it really is noisy."

While the number of guests on board always swells during the day, staying overnight is for only a very privileged few. Apart from several exceptionally large yachts that have been certified as ships, international rules limit guest numbers to 12.

As well as being cared for by crew members whose skills may surpass those of five-star hotel staff, those 12 guests will enjoy an on-board gym, spa, medical suite and full-service beauty salon - all standard on today's large yachts - as well as a swimming pool and, often, a helipad.

The 162-metre Dubai can land a Black Hawk - the type of helicopter used by the US military - and also provides a squash court and a small submarine for extra entertainment.

It goes without saying that the material and furnishings used for the interiors are the best that money can buy - whether the style is palatial or more modern and pared-down.

As a spokesman for Dubai's Greenline Yacht Interiors - one of the world's leading makers of custom-built interiors - pointed out, nobody actually needs such yachts.

"For owners, this is the ultimate expression of their personality and therefore, there's no question whatsoever of compromising on the interiors," he says. "Often, the yachts are not just as good as their homes; they are better."

Certainly better than a hotel suite.