WRITER: Esther Barney PHOTOGRAPHY: David Churchill & Jeff Brown
Historically, the attention a new superyacht generates tends to correlate to its length. But now that vessels over 90 metres have become pretty unremarkable, it goes to show that size isn’t everything.
Given that Lürssen’s staggering 180-metre Azzam, which launched earlier this year, is the longest private yacht in the world, it would be understandable to assume that our 2014 Ultimate Yacht would go to something equally sizeable. But it is an altogether more diminutive, yet outstandingly innovative superyacht, that we feel stands out as this year’s winner.
At ‘just’ 65 metres, Galactica Star is the largest vessel to be launched by Dutch shipyard, Heesen Yachts and the world’s first aluminium yacht with a fast displacement hull. Her groundbreaking hull shape, sculpted below the waterline by Van Oossanen Naval Architects, has improved the Galactica Star’s efficiency by 30 per cent over any other conventional displacement yacht yet tested. It’s also brought down her fuel consumption by 20 per cent while still ensuring the owner the thrills and convenience of an impressive 28-knot maximum speed. Throttled down to a cruising speed of 14 knots, Galactica Star’s 90,000-litre capacity could take her over 6,750km. To put that in perspective, you could cruise from Beirut to Barcelona and back again without refuelling.
Those statistics alone confirm that the Galactica Star is a truly modern and groundbreaking superyacht but what she also brings to the table – and which has clinched her our nomination as Yacht of the Year - is an elegant exterior design by Omega Architects and a striking contemporary interior by Bannenberg & Rowell, both executed to the notoriously high Dutch yacht-building standards.
The accolades have been rolling in over the last few months since her delivery; the 2013 Monaco Yacht Show & Baccarat Prix du Design, Yacht Design’s Nautilus Shell award for Best Yacht Design, the Yacht Club de Monaco’s La Belle Classe Crest and the Robb Report China’s Best of the Best Award in her category.
Overall the Galactica Star took more than four years to complete, from initial concept in June 2009 to final delivery. Eighteen months of painstaking research and development resulted in a totally new hull design. Using computer modelling followed by tank testing, she was a labour of love for father-and-son team Piet and Perry van Oossanen. “We started with a blank sheet of paper and when our first results produced over 20 per cent less resistance, compared with a hard chine hull, I realised we were on to something,” Perry told me, of the revolutionary project.
The efficiency gained by their novel hull form – which combines the elements of a specific bulbous bow, slender fore body and shallow transom area to the aft – multiplies the advantages of the owner’s experience. Less power is needed for the vessel to reach a given speed and reducing the engine size needed brings down the cost of the project to the builder, which is passed on to the owner. Then there’s the lower rate of fuel consumption, which not only lowers the cost of running the yacht but also means more prized real estate onboard. What would have been taken up otherwise by larger tanks can be used instead for guest or service space. In addition, smaller engines result in less vibration for passengers, a great plus for superyacht owners and guests.
The groundbreaking hydrodynamic platform created by the naval architects was then enhanced by Frank Laupman and his team of exterior designers at Omega Architects. Having first worked in-house at Heesen and then collaborated on numerous projects since, Laupman has an instinctive ability to draw on signature Heesen themes, while introducing new elements to each build. He and his team took the Van Oossanen building blocks and were tasked with creating a superstructure like no other that Heesen had built. The Galactica Star’s iconic Heesen pelican bow is a nod to the yard’s signature look but innovative elements are plentiful.
Her profile is elongated and sporty. Laupman likens the shape to a speed cyclist’s helmet, with aerodynamic elements. An uninterrupted horizontal line extends fully from the stern of the yacht to the bow, with flying buttresses connecting the hull and superstructure to the aft, keeping the profile low and sleek and providing an impressive feeling of space on the aft deck.
The gull wing tender garage, located just below the foredeck, brings the support boats to the front of the vessel and provides exceptional space for one of the increasingly popular features on modern superyachts: the beach club.
These lower-level lounge areas create a feeling of connectedness to the water that can otherwise be lost on a superyacht. There are few vessels that can claim a more expansive beach club area than Galactica Star. In total, over 100 square metres of space is capitalised upon, including a 22 square-metre swimming platform, a side platform that also brings extra light and space to the beach club’s interior and a 77 square-metre air-conditioned lounge with extensive seating, a bar, a plasma screen and a sauna. Indoor light is further improved by the glass-bottomed infinity pool on the deck above.
Galactica Star’s interior design and execution displays a painstakingly intricate attention to detail throughout that is testament to the skill of the team at Bannenberg & Rowell, as well as the craftsmen at Heesen Yachts Interiors and Sinnex.
“What really drove the interior design was the yacht’s beautiful exterior and the new direction it represents for the shipyard,” explains Dickie Bannenberg, studio principal at Bannenberg & Rowell, whose late father Jon is still considered one of the most revolutionary designers of luxury yachts to this day. “We wanted to come up with a fresh, graceful and exciting style that complemented Frank’s contemporary exterior lines.”
The visual textures from the multiple tones of wood, leather and stone employed throughout could have been overwhelming had they been created by a less experienced team. “There is no formal theme as in our previous projects for Heesen,” says Simon Rowell, creative director of the company. “We were given free reign to develop a new design language that is taut and disciplined, yet also flows throughout the interior, from one space to another.”
In particular, the contrast of mid-toned Wenge next to the lighter grey rippled Sycamore in a striped veneer that is used throughout the yacht, ties together the various living areas. The rich, deep tones of Macassar Ebony are put to use to great effect, especially in the bar area between the aft deck and salon and on the elliptical spiral staircase that spans all four decks. Marbles are found again and again, from the walls of the previously mentioned staircase to the meticulously matched surfaces of the master bathroom.
The Galactica Star sleeps 12 guests in six suites, including a 72 square-metre, full-beam master suite with private balcony, a VIP bedroom on the upper deck and four elegant lower deck double suites. Hospitality is always a prime consideration on a superyacht but Galactica Star’s guests have a particularly modern and unusual choice when it comes to enjoying the crew’s hospitality. From the chef’s table concept in the galley (a trick borrowed from the world’s leading restaurants) to the warm and welcoming bar by the salon, to the relaxed cabana-cool of the beach club, there are more than 10 dining locations around the vessel.
In many ways, Galactica Star’s best qualities are an antidote to the obsession with increasing size. Although she is the largest yacht delivered by Heesen Yachts to date, many of her most impressive elements are related to reduction: reducing fuel consumption through a more efficient hull form; paring back and simplifying lines in the exterior styling; focusing on a selection of materials and textures throughout the interior to showcase craftsmanship. All reasons why for us, and many others, this particular Star shines so very brightly.
WHAT Galactica Star
WHO Heesen Yachts
DELIVERED End of June 2013
WHY In a world in which size is now just a number, this yacht is truly super for the clever, sophisticated way it delivers more for less.