Antigua Charter Show Report

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The sultry weather of the Caribbean in winter is perfectly suited to the slow pace of island life, but our days were anything but slow on a recent trip to Antigua.

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The Antigua Charter Yacht Show celebrated its 50th anniversary in December and yachts of all sizes turned out in force for the occasion, everything from compact catamarans like the 70-foot Damrak II to Top 100 contenders, such as the brand new Feadship Air. Hosted in three locations along the southern coast of the island—Antigua Yacht Club Marina, Falmouth Harbour and the historic Nelson’s Dockyard—this charter trade show provides brokers, vendors and press the chance to not only tour many of the boats available this season in the Caribbean, but to evaluate crew and get a sense of life onboard.

During the show, yachts host lunches onboard to show off the skills of their chefs and stewardesses. There is also a competition for best meal, best coffee, best table settings, and best use of the number 50 celebrating a half-century in Antigua. We had the good fortune of joining three of these lunches and they alone were they worth the trip. Andromeda la Dea provided a beautiful three-course meal topped with a gold-foil-encased custard and homemade ice cream. The crew of the newly renamed Koi (ex-Surprise) laid out a beautiful table on her sun deck and fêted us with another three-course meal including a delicious salad of roasted beetroots, maple walnuts and mint. Onboard Damark II, the chef impressed us with an inventive dessert of puréed kiwi, champagne and ice. Despite the obvious benefit of incredibly delectable food, these lunches also gave the brokers and press the chance to see (and taste) firsthand the talents of the crew.

New, old, classic, contemporary, large, small, sailing or power—it seemed as though everything was represented in Antigua. This bodes well for charterers this winter, as they will have a wide a selection of yachts from which to choose. A few yachts boasted relatively recent refits, such as the 208-foot (63.4-meter) Lürssen Polar Star. Her English country manor style interior with plush couches and soft colors evokes the feeling of an actual home on the water. It doesn’t hurt that she’s equipped with a host of extraordinary luxuries, including an opulent owner’s suite, and a high-definition screen and projector on the aft deck for enjoying both a movie and the scenery.

Several boats at the show were returning to the charter market after a long hiatus. Huntress, a 180-foot (54.86-meter) Feadship built in 1997, follows this line. Paraffin, a 197-foot (60.1-meter) Feadship built in 2001, is another. Both have undergone refits in recent years and are rejoining the charter market. Huntress’ neutral color palate and comfortable décor will appeal to a wide variety of guests whose comfort will be assured in any of the five spacious cabins. The interior is filled with natural light, thanks to large windows and portholes, but guests will probably spend most of their time outdoors enjoying the Jacuzzi, numerous sun pads and alfresco dining areas, as well as the yacht’s water toys and tenders. Paraffin’s dark woods and rich fabrics will attract guests looking for an elegant flair to their charter yacht, but her somewhat formal feel doesn’t mean the boat lacks the amenities necessary for playtime. She is equipped with a Jacuzzi, gym, games table, bar, entertainment system packed with the best and latest music and movies and plenty of tenders and toys.

One of the biggest draws at the show was the beautiful, and awe-inspiring, Hemisphere, which at 145 feet (44 meters) holds the title of the world’s largest sailing catamaran. This yacht has been a long time in the making and has been in the hands of both Derecktor and Pendennis shipyards before finally coming home to her owner late in 2011. Her inviting textured, colorful and exotic décor is as eye-catching as her size and her dark-blue hulls, but the real treat is the thoughtfully designed layout that proves how much energy and devotion went into the construction of this superyacht. The incredibly well-stocked dive locker opens directly onto the beach club of the portside hull, allowing crew easy access to the vast array of SCUBA equipment and water toys. The starboard hull hides the Jet Skis.

The show’s reigning belle, though, had to be the impressive (and somewhat controversial) Air. This 266-foot (81-meter) Feadship first draws your attention by sheer size, but your eye takes in her strong lines magnified by the matte-black hull and, love it or hate it, your attention is caught. The Rémi Tessier-designed interior was another point of contention among those lucky enough to step onboard this closely guarded superyacht. Contemporary, minimalistic and monochrome, this yacht utilizes white onyx—some beautifully backlit to show off the designs and imperfections of the stone—as well as limestone. Some thought it too minimalistic, but the décor brings your attention to one of the yacht’s most notable features—and my personal favorite: the windows. Large and numerous, the windows ensure that no matter where you are within the yacht, you don’t miss anything in the world outside.

Other notable recent additions to the ranks were 106-foot (32.3-meter) Lazzara Stop the Press, the 141-foot (43-meter) Vitters Koo, the 128-foot (39-meter) Feadship Go, the 179-foot (38.4-meter) Marie, and two Proteksan Turquoise launches, the 182-foot (55.4-meter) Turquoise and the 191-foot (58.2-meter) Baraka.

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