Now this is fun. It’s yet another sunny day in the Caribbean – blue sky, 27C, gorgeous beaches, divebombing pelicans – and I’m discovering the thrills of wakesurfing with a Centurion Enzo SV244 speedboat. Purpose-built for this exhilarating sport, where you surf behind the boat on a driver-controlled ridge of surf, its most striking feature is an overhead arch with four large speakers out of which are blasting the not-mellow tunes of Daft Punk, Cut Copy and Disclosure.
As our party takes turns to slalom over the waves, flip wakeboards and come a glorious cropper (all caught on GoPro, sorry guys), it all seems a deliciously 21st-century version of the age-old pleasure of messing about in boats.
Except that this is just the beginning. The Centurion is merely one in an arsenal of watersports “toys” that can emerge from the twin flip-up doors of the tender garage of the 280ft superyacht Solandge. Launched in October 2013, and based in St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands, this gleaming navy-blue and white six-deck ship of dreams costs a cool $1million (£650,000) to charter for a week. At least.
That’s the price here in the Caribbean; come summer, when Solandge will flit between the glittering parties of Monaco, the hidden coves of Sardinia and the marinas of Montenegro, the price tag is €1million (£743,000). Then there are the extras, such as APA (Advance Provisioning Allowance – allow a third more to cover food, drinks, fuel and port fees), crew gratuities (say 15 per cent), and the DJ you loved in St Barts…
What makes a motor yacht so special only billionaires can afford to join the party? Perfection, prestige, maybe a secret stash of rare Port Ellen whisky (£1,500 a bottle). Conceived by its owners in 2007, Solandge is a yacht which has been planned meticulously, from the walnut, olive ash and masur birch veneers gracing the bedside tables to the wagyu beef fillets awaiting their moment in the galley’s walk-in freezer.
This class act has been master-built by the veteran German shipyard Lürssen, which unveiled the world’s largest private yacht, the 590ft Azzam, in April 2013. The acclaimed Norwegian designer Espen Oino created the dynamic exterior, with its strong silhouette tempered by long fluid lines – but don’t let that fool you into thinking the interiors will be all forest hues and Nordic minimalism.
“This is the owners’ home,” (one of several, for sure) a stewardess explains. “And their style is not for plain Janes.” You could say that. Solandge is a maritime des res decorated without fear of colour, extravagance or self-expression. Tutankhamen would have felt at home in the glisteningly gold elevator. Catherine the Great would no doubt have appreciated the amber notes in the tank deck head. Liberace would have loved the faux fireplace and Bechstein piano adorning the main salon and Tony Soprano could well have been found lighting a celebratory cigar in the top-deck Jacuzzi. Barbra Streisand might still sing about the 52ft “Tree of Life” installation with its tower of 1,200 Murano glass flowers.
As we voyage through the green and Edenic islands of the Caribbean, one thing is clear: aboard Solandge you are looked after in sublime style – thanks to the genial Aussie chef who can cook any dish under the sun, the Californian therapist well versed in cellulite treatments, Espresso Limón slimming oils and pumpkin-spice facials, and the bouncy young staff with Bluetooth earpieces who respond to our every need like a well-drilled team of Grand Prix mechanics.
But that’s just standard superyacht procedure. What makes Solandge stand out, says its British captain, Paul Messenger, is its “exceptionally generous outdoor deck space”: 3,767sq ft of ultra-smooth, fanatically maintained woodwork. Specifically designed for al fresco living with family and friends, or a floating party for 60 guests should you wish to throw one, its amenities are beyond munificent.
As Noah famously understood, the best things come in twos, and so this opulent ark has both an upstairs and downstairs sauna, an indoor and outdoor cinema, a hydrotherapy bath in the spa and yet another in the ladies’ bathroom suite of the owners’ deck, this time framed in rose quartz.
Capping all this magnificence is one killer fact: Solandge is only for, at most, 12 guests. Space has long been one definition of luxury. Another is endless possibility, something I only appreciate when I learn that Solandge has a range of 6,000 nautical miles. So yes, we really could set sail for Rio tonight, darling.
Sailing from golden bay to castaway island to picturesque harbour, I also realise how, at this stratospheric price-point, simply having all the bells and whistles isn’t enough. There has to be a sense of magic too, a Gatsby-like allure. For me, this becomes most apparent at night. This is when Solandge’s decks are lit up like some minor outpost of the Milky Way, and the grand teak staircase adorning its stern is so dazzling it could feature in the finale of a Busby Berkeley musical.
Solandge certainly turns heads – as I discover one morning when I decide to swim ashore for a walk on a long and busy beach. Suddenly I realise there are an awful lot of eyes on me as I mosey along its palm-lined sands. “They probably think you’re the owner,” a deckhand explains. And I have to admit, that’s a rather nice feeling.
By Nigel Tisdall Courtesy The Telegraph Luxury