This could be Monaco, or an exclusive resort on the Med as the world’s most lavish superyachts jostle for space. Their perfectly scrubbed decks bristle with security guards, while hot tubs bubble and helipads wink at the sky.
This is the playground of billionaires, oligarchs and A-list celebs. There are rumours that Roman Abramovich’s sumptuous $1billion boat will arrive tomorrow.
At 557ft, the Russian tycoon’s Eclipse is the largest private yacht in the world. It has two swimming pools, two helipads, a dedicated disco hall, 30 cabins, a cinema, a mini-submarine, and even its own missile defence system. Abramovich’s master suite is armour-plated and protected by bullet-proof windows and a laser system designed to dazzle long-lens photographers.
But where is this mecca for the mega-rich? Cannes perhaps? Or the crystal-clear waters off Antibes?
Improbable though it may seem, this is gritty East London — with all the spent industrial allure of down-at-heel Beckton to gaze on, for example.
Yet some of the world’s richest people used to mega-luxury and the most gorgeous, exclusive hideaways on earth are heading here — just in time for the Olympics.
Over the coming weeks the Thames will be transformed into a glamorous floating village of luxury and excess. Up to 100 superyachts are due to arrive and a glittering string of parties are scheduled.
Billionaires who are planning to berth their giant luxury vessels in London for the summer include Microsoft founder Bill Gates whose superyacht Gogypus will drop anchor at the Royal Docks in East London, five miles from the Olympic Stadium.
Microsoft co-founder, billionaire Paul Allen, is expected aboard his 414ft superyacht Octopus, manned by a 57-strong crew. Other superyachts believed to be on their way to London include The Maltese Falcon, owned by the Greek millionairess Elena Ambrosiadou, and the 246ft Leander, owned by Donald Gosling, the NCP car park tycoon.
The £80 million Illona, owned by Frank Lowy of the Westfield shopping centres, has already docked near Canary Wharf.
For those too penurious to run their own superyacht, there are charter yachts aplenty. The Seanna, a 213ft superyacht, is being chartered out to wealthy visitors for the duration of the summer. Yours for £294,000 a week.
The Harle, a comparatively modest 146ft charter yacht, is moored nearby with its crew of nine. It can be hired for £143,000 a week.
Officials at the Royal Docks complex, which looks after the Royal Albert Dock, the Royal Victoria Dock and the King George V Dock, believe they will have 20 of the world’s biggest yachts moored to their bollards by the time the Olympics open.
An estimated 800 security guards are expected to be hired and Mike Luddy, of the Royal Docks Management Authority, says: ‘It will be a real sight to behold and there will be a considerable return for us.’
At West India Docks near Canary Wharf, they are expecting ten or 11 privately-owned boats, reaching maximum capacity. There is also space for 19 super yachts at nearby St Katharine Docks.
Prime Central London berths, such as at Tower Bridge Upper, next to HMS Belfast, have been booked months in advance.
Such spots aren’t cheap. A 230ft superyacht will cost £64,000 for two weeks of the Games in mooring fees alone.
Once the yachtsmen have disembarked, parties and VIP treatment await. The yacht advisory company MGMT has organised a string of concierge services for the superyacht invasion. The company can arrange VIP tickets to Olympic events — and transfer by helicopter or speedboat.
Among the Hollywood stars reportedly attending are George Clooney and his girlfriend Stacy Keibler, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
The market for superyachts has defied the economic crisis. After a brief dip in demand following the financial crash of 2007, the market in luxury yachts is buoyant once more.
The dull blue-and-white interiors of old are long gone, and an army of glitzy yacht designers have sprung up to fulfil their clients’ every outrageous whim. In the world of top-end yacht design, what the client wants, the client gets.
One of the most sought-after interior designers is Tara Bernerd, who is currently overseeing the design of a 150ft superyacht being built for clients in Turkey.
‘They are three brothers, based in Istanbul — a sporty family who love swimming, canoeing and water skiing.’ They are building the six-bedroom yacht so they can share family holidays. Bernerd took on the project in October, and it is now nearing completion.
Before embarking on the design she undertook an in-depth analysis of her clients’ needs: ‘Where they will eat, how much salon space they need.’
An entire deck has been turned into a sky-lounge ‘with a cool club feel and floor to ceiling windows’.
She adds: ‘The heat is so intense in southern Turkey that being indoors part of the day is a necessity.
‘Everything has been so overblown on these vast yachts with cinemas and so forth, but this is far more elegant.’
The main deck is a vast salon, with a bar on one side. A second bar in the sky-lounge area will create a ‘moodier more evening feel’. On the top deck is a whirlpool bath. The interior is done out in a palate of soft greys.
Bernerd says: ‘The client prefers a more contemporary, fresh feel. When you walk in, you’re met with subdued grey limestone, and a sleek grey wood floor.
'The ceilings are in white lacquer, and there is layered off-white leather. It is very sleek.’
A huge bespoke bookcase is the main feature in the library, again made of grey wood. The main staircase is made of polished plaster, with grey oak stairs and burnt orange detail on the handrails.
Bernerd says the scale of the vessel in dry dock is immense.
‘It reminds me of being taken to the London Science Museum as a child,’ she adds. ‘It’s like a dinosaur skeleton, the scaffold of ribs, and the height. It towers over you, the scale is overwhelming’.
Bernerd is also working on the art collection that will adorn the interior of the finished yacht.
Dickie Bannenberg is another London-based designer with yacht design in his veins.
His late father Jon pioneered yacht design in the Sixties, creating classic boats including Saudi Arabian arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi’s yacht Nabil, which is now owned by Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal Alsaud. Jon Bannenberg also designed the interiors of John Paul Getty’s 262ft yacht Talitha G.
His son says: ‘While there is still a big middle ground of a fairly corporate and anodyne look, designers are increasingly trying to introduce some sort of individuality, on the basis that anyone commissioning this sort of yacht, with the price tag it commands, has a right to expect something that is one-off.
‘You don’t want to walk onto an impressive 150ft vessel and find it has a slightly ho-hum feel.’
For the 150ft yacht Raasta, Bannenberg’s studio commissioned a sculptor to make a series of handmade bronze wall lights at £2,000 apiece.
And for the 200ft Bacarella, the British sculptor Richard Kindersley carved a large stone map to be placed in the bridge deck lobby. Made from five pieces of Lake District slate, it depicts sea horses and dolphins, alongside marine-inspired quotes from Yoko Ono.
But that’s nothing compared to a project recently completed by yacht designer Remi Tessier, who created a five-storey atrium in polished stainless steel and glass, studded with tiny LED lights making the walls sparkle like diamonds.
The billionaire U.S. industrialist Dennis Washington has just completed a four-year project building a superyacht, Attessa IV.
He says: ‘I set out to build the ultimate family boat. I’ve tried to make every room an experience. A great gym and spa, just to make it fun for family and friends.’
It is believed he spent $50 million on the yacht — and an extraordinary $200 million refurbishing it. But, then, he can afford it. Gucci stainless steel lounge chairs decorate the decks, while a huge pool dominates the outside.
A helicopter perches at one end of the vessel, waiting to ferry guests to shore. It has four guest cabins, and everything from the curtains to the air conditioning is operated by remote control.
The outrageous cost, quite simply, doesn’t matter. As Monte Fino yacht designers say: ‘Quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten.’
As Camilla Storey, a PR executive co-ordinating Olympic party events, says: ‘We will have the entire financial industry, everybody from the worlds of business, sport and entertainment, all coming together. That is a unique opportunity.
‘Do these people want to be lost in the hubbub, immersed in the tourist crowds, or do they want to be watching it, waited on hand and foot, from the top of one of the world’s most exclusive yachts?'