Koru: the birth of a legendKoru is a sailing yacht and the largest of its kind in the world right now. It was commissioned in 2018 or 2019, presumably based on the award-winning Black Pearl from Oceanco that was delivered in 2018. Black Pearl is a striking vessel with a black hull, white superstructure, and gigantic black sails, but it's not a sailing yacht but a sail-assisted one. It has been said that Bezos saw it and loved the innovation behind such a vessel and how it combined traditional elements with modern ones, reaching out to Oceanco to ask for something even more daring. Bigger isn't always better, but it was here.
This is how Koru, referred to internally as Y721, was born. It is now the largest sailing in the world, the largest vessel to be built in the Netherlands, and has the world's largest shadow yacht in Abeona, a superyacht for Koru's toys and crew, built by Damen Yachting. Koru, which symbolizes new beginnings in Maori, is an innovative vessel, but it's also gigantic and very luxurious and, perhaps more surprising, very controversial.
Earlier this week, Jeff Bezos finally set foot onboard Koru, more or less confirming that he is the direct beneficiary, or owner, of such a spectacular piece of naval engineering. Koru is now sailing around Mallorca in Spain, with Abeona close behind, and Bezos and girlfriend Lauren Sanchez have been photographed onboard doing multi-millionaire things like tanning, lounging, and touring the vessel as they would a small seaside town.
This allowed photographers to get better shots of the vessel and, at the same time, of the figurehead on its bow, which had been kept so carefully under wraps during the final stages of construction. Superyacht watchers had already determined that it was more likely a female figure, but few expected it to bear such a close resemblance to Sanchez. This explains all the hubbub online right now.
What exactly is a figurehead?Back in the day, when heading out to sea meant the most uncertain future, figureheads carried deep spiritual meaning. Egyptians used figureheads on their vessels as early as 3000 BC, but the practice became standard in the 16th century, peaking three hundred years later. By then, figureheads had become massive, heavy pieces of elaborate art, negatively impacting the ship's performance. Builders started to downsize them and later replaced them with today's badges.
In the most basic sense, a figurehead is a decoration that adorns the bow of the ship – like the hood ornaments favored by the late Queen Elizabeth II or the famous Spirit of Ecstasy on a Rolls-Royce. Figureheads would represent anything from mythological creatures or real-life animals, real persons or goddesses, and were often of women – in which case, the figurehead was the only woman onboard. Living women brought bad luck and all manners of curses and disasters, but the figurehead guided the sailors to shore in safety or, worst case scenario, to the realm of the afterlife after the ship went under.
Today's vessels no longer have figureheads because performance is top priority. And because owners have other, way more efficient ways of showing off. But you can still see them on the old sailing yachts that have been preserved and are still in use – and on Bezos' just-delivered Koru.
The familiar-looking siren of Koru, a love letterWhatever treasures Koru hides inside can only be imagined based on the gorgeous, elegant exterior. The three-masted schooner measures 127 meters (417 feet) in total length and boasts a gleaming black hull with a white superstructure, just like the Black Pearl. Its masts and sails are white, and the bow features a gorgeous curvaceous figurehead carved out of a single piece of polished hardwood.
It's difficult to say whether the figurehead is a siren or a woman, but there can be no mistaking the fact that it looks very much like Lauren Sanchez. Fully dressed but somehow not seeming like it, she wears a necklace that resembles the "koru” coil, which gives the name of the megayacht.
This makes the figurehead an open love letter, carved out of hardwood, polished to perfection, and elevated to the level of art. Like the photo of your significant other you keep on your phone's screen but with a much higher (and unattainable, for us) price tag. It's a way of letting the world know of your love and appreciation but on a much larger scale. It also turns Sanchez into a goddess-like figure while allowing Bezos to show off his wealth to us, no longer the illiterate masses but just as poor in comparison to him.
It turns out Koru is more traditional than you imagined.