By Kenny Wooton, YI editor-in-chief
I'm a stone-cold sucker for lists. I’ll take “10 Celebrity Plastic Surgery Disasters” over another piece on Washington gridlock any day. Or “9 Frightening Airplane Facts Your Pilot Won’t Tell You” over a piece on the eternal ebb and flow of the stock market. Seriously though, lists—sober, legitimate ones anyway—are a great way to absorb a quick snapshot of a topic. Who among us doesn’t love a list of the best or the biggest of something that reflects our passions?
We—you, me, the staff of Yachts International—have always been pushovers for the annual lineup of the world’s largest yachts. It’s safe to say that most of us likely will never own a yacht such as 180-meter (590-foot) Azzam, but it’s patently cool to see where the race to the top has gone. After a lull following the Gilded Age, a push toward ever-larger yachts has progressed inexorably during the past several decades, resulting in some unimaginably outsized examples of the breed. The Lürssen-built Azzam has occupied the top of the list since her launch two years ago, but her status is under threat by still larger yachts in the pipeline.
While it’s fascinating to watch LOAs balloon, what’s inside top-tier superyachts is no less remarkable, from super-tenders worthy of the designation yachts themselves to submarines, spas, gyms, masterworks on the walls and levels of overall opulence not seen since Rockefellers, Vanderbilts and European royalty ruled the waves. The largest yachts possess technical attributes worthy of NASA while still serving as platforms for the mission we all share: to indulge our passion for being on the water.
I was in Italy in late spring visiting shipyards. With some notable exceptions, the yachtbuilding industry there appeared healthier than I’ve seen it in years. While “booming” would be an overstatement, activity was considerable in most of the yards I visited. Several had mammoth vessels in build and new sheds under construction able to handle yachts over 90 meters (295 feet). At others, bays were full and production was proceeding on semi-custom models scheduled to debut in Cannes, Monaco and Fort Lauderdale this fall. After the dark days since 2008, skies seemed to be brightening.
I hope the same will soon be true for the yachtbuilding industry in North America, which continues to suffer residual struggles from the downturn. If a prolific builder nation such as Italy is showing signs of life, maybe our native industry will pick up pace soon. The passion we all share is on the upswing, and I sincerely hope the industry will gain strength with rising demand.
Our current issue contains a list of the 100 largest yachts in the world today. We’ve integrated our annual review of the 10 largest yachts launched in the past year, all of which made it into the top 100. I guarantee you’ll enjoy this list much more than “10 Intriguing Prehistoric Women” or “Top 10 U.S. Prison Gangs.” Whether you practice your passion on a 100-meter superyacht, a 40-foot Downeast cruiser or a kayak, any day is better when you just add water.