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Motor Yacht A Is a $300 Million Exercise in Disruptive Design, From Hull to Moving Walls
What is the point of doing something if you don’t try to make it your own? Imitation might be the most sincere form of flattery, but it is also regress where French designer Philippe Starck is concerned. So, when he was tasked with designing a megayacht for a Russian billionaire, Starck made sure to throw the rule book out the window.

Motor Yacht A Is a $300 Million Exercise in Disruptive Design, From Hull to Moving Walls

Motor Yacht A, designed by Philippe Starck and built by Blohm & Voss in 2008 ($300 million)Motor Yacht A, designed by Philippe Starck and built by Blohm & Voss in 2008 ($300 million)Motor Yacht A, designed by Philippe Starck and built by Blohm & Voss in 2008 ($300 million)Motor Yacht A, designed by Philippe Starck and built by Blohm & Voss in 2008 ($300 million)Motor Yacht A, designed by Philippe Starck and built by Blohm & Voss in 2008 ($300 million)Motor Yacht A, designed by Philippe Starck and built by Blohm & Voss in 2008 ($300 million)Motor Yacht A, designed by Philippe Starck and built by Blohm & Voss in 2008 ($300 million)Motor Yacht A, designed by Philippe Starck and built by Blohm & Voss in 2008 ($300 million)Motor Yacht A, designed by Philippe Starck and built by Blohm & Voss in 2008 ($300 million)Motor Yacht A, designed by Philippe Starck and built by Blohm & Voss in 2008 ($300 million)Motor Yacht A, designed by Philippe Starck and built by Blohm & Voss in 2008 ($300 million)Motor Yacht A, designed by Philippe Starck and built by Blohm & Voss in 2008 ($300 million)Motor Yacht A, designed by Philippe Starck and built by Blohm & Voss in 2008 ($300 million)Motor Yacht A, designed by Philippe Starck and built by Blohm & Voss in 2008 ($300 million)Motor Yacht A, designed by Philippe Starck and built by Blohm & Voss in 2008 ($300 million)Motor Yacht A, designed by Philippe Starck and built by Blohm & Voss in 2008 ($300 million)Motor Yacht A, designed by Philippe Starck and built by Blohm & Voss in 2008 ($300 million)Motor Yacht A, designed by Philippe Starck and built by Blohm & Voss in 2008 ($300 million)Motor Yacht A, designed by Philippe Starck and built by Blohm & Voss in 2008 ($300 million)Motor Yacht A, designed by Philippe Starck and built by Blohm & Voss in 2008 ($300 million)Motor Yacht A, designed by Philippe Starck and built by Blohm & Voss in 2008 ($300 million)Motor Yacht A is a $300 million megayacht designed by Philippe Stark for Russian billionaire Andrey MelnichenkoofMotor Yacht A is a $300 million megayacht designed by Philippe Stark for Russian billionaire Andrey MelnichenkoofMotor Yacht A is a $300 million megayacht designed by Philippe Stark for Russian billionaire Andrey MelnichenkoofMotor Yacht A is a $300 million megayacht designed by Philippe Stark for Russian billionaire Andrey MelnichenkoofMotor Yacht A is a $300 million megayacht designed by Philippe Stark for Russian billionaire Andrey MelnichenkoofMotor Yacht A is a $300 million megayacht designed by Philippe Stark for Russian billionaire Andrey MelnichenkoofMotor Yacht A is a $300 million megayacht designed by Philippe Stark for Russian billionaire Andrey MelnichenkoofMotor Yacht A is a $300 million megayacht designed by Philippe Stark for Russian billionaire Andrey MelnichenkoofMotor Yacht A is a $300 million megayacht designed by Philippe Stark for Russian billionaire Andrey Melnichenkoof
Motor Yacht A (formerly Sigma, SF99) is among the most recognizable superyachts in the world, due to its blade-shaped hull that creates the impression that it’s upside down, and the comparatively small superstructure on top. At an estimated cost of over $300 million, it is also among the most expensive, while its 390-foot (119-meter) total length ranks it among the biggest. When it was delivered in 2008, ranking on both counts was much higher, but one thing where Motor Yacht A can’t be surpassed is its disruptive design.

These days, Motor Yacht A is in the news because of its ownership. It is the second-largest megayacht of EuroChem Group founder Andrey Melnichenko, a Russian oligarch included on all international sanctions list. Sailing Yacht A, his other megayacht, a sail-assisted vessel priced at $580 million and also bearing Starck’s unique styling, was seized in Italy in March this year. Motor Yacht A has, so far, been able to elude authorities, and has gone dark over two months ago by switching off AIS tracking.

The controversial ownership would have been enough to get all attention on Motor Yacht A, but controversy is where this mighty vessel seems to thrive. It’s been mired in it since before launch, from the moment shipyard Blohm & Voss announced the construction plans with Starck’s first sketch. Melnichenko had approached the designer four years prior (in 2004) and, in true Starck fashion, he designed it in under 15 minutes – to which another two+ hours were needed to create the computer simulation.

The brief mentioned only the total length and the number of cabins, which was a relief for Starck, he admitted in an older interview with Boat International. That same interview is also one of the rare times when any representative of the media has been allowed on board the ship, and the main source of information as to what’s up there.

Tasked to create a family vessel, Starck decided to give it his best, regardless of where that might take him. “If I made it just like the other boats – why?” he said. “Why spend this money? I am always sad when people copy because they spend the money of that client for nothing. We always have a duty to bring something new and interesting to advance civilization. When you copy, you regress.”

So he copied nothing with this ship, which was designed with only one word in mind: harmony. Everything on board A is light and continuous flow, but also pure luxury, opulence and comfort. Disruptive design makes A resemble a stealth destroyer, a nuclear submarine or a whale, depending on where you look at it and from what distance. Similarly, though massive (5,959 GT), you can’t tell its exact size from afar – something that Starck describes as the ultimate example of dematerialization.

The hull is A’s most distinctive feature. It has a reverse bow and a tumblehome design, which gives it a very aggressive stance, and the advantage of speed with minimal wake and extra stability. This seemingly upside-down hull gave Starck the opportunity to break with tradition in terms of where to locate the biggest living areas. Instead of placing them aft, Starck moved them to the bow, exposed to the elemetns.

Motor Yacht A features a helipad at the bow, and a large pool with a partly-sheltered lounge area. Two more pools are placed towards the stern, and one of them has a glass bottom, which becomes the skylight for the nightclub below (James Bond would be jealous). Specific features or amenities available were never made public, but there is a brief WSJ interview with Starck onboard, which offers an appreciation of the kind of luxury inside the seven cabins (see it at the bottom of the page).

Accommodation is for 14 guests and 35 crew, and the cabins display some of the quirks Starck became famous for. One room has walls covered in stingray hide leather, while another is covered in hand-stitched calf leather. Of the six guest suites, four have moving walls, which allows for reconfiguring the space depending on the occasion. Mirrors and Baccarat crystals abound, and are even used for furniture pieces. Behind a mirrored wall in the master bedroom, which is only accessible through fingerprint ID, is a secret room, which may or may not be the panic room Melnichenko supposedly wanted for a worst-case scenario. Also for that scenario: bomb-proof glass all around.

The tender garage, which Starck once called his favorite place on A, is unlike any other. It houses three custom tenders, also designed by Starck, but it is styled as a lounge, with comfortable leather chairs and plush sofas. With the tenders out to sea, it can turn into a nightclub, while the hydraulic door is meant to double as a swim platform. That’s a lot of practical thinking for a boat that screams opulence, even when it tries to pass as understated.

Power comes from twin MAN engines, which take this gigantic, oddly shaped vessel to a top speed of 23 knots (26 mph / 43 kph). Range is solid, at 6,500 nautical miles (7,500 miles / 12,000 km) at cruising speed. Motor Yacht A was named that way so it would appear first on shipping registries, but legend has it that it’s also because the owner wanted a name that suggested nothing could precede it on the list of “world’s greatest vessels.”



Editor's note: This article was not sponsored or supported by a third-party.

 
 
 
 
 

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