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Fabulous freedom

An enthusiastic owner extols the pleasures of Heesen’s first ­ all-aluminum semi-displacement 164-foot (50-meter) yacht, the stylish Satori.


Eric Benson and his partner, Valentina Coghlan, are relative newcomers to big-yacht ownership. After spending nearly the whole summer on Satori, they have discovered just how rewarding that life can be. Benson was first attracted to the Heesen brand when he eyed one lying at anchor in Korčula, Croatia.

He is keen on boating in general; he has owned a number of smaller boats and chartered larger yachts over the last few years. Those experiences had him toying with the idea of buying a large sailing yacht. In fact, he traveled to the 2008 Monaco Yacht Show with the primary purpose of visiting one particular Perini Navi—the 184-foot (56-meter) Salute. As fate would have it, he walked by the Heesen display and was once again reminded of the boat he glimpsed in Croatia. He visited the 164-foot (50-meter) Galactica with his broker and was impressed with the functionality, quality and workmanship. Long story short, Benson decided to shift gears and explore the world of megamotoryachts.

He did his homework and investigated a selection of top-rung builders, but was ultimately seduced by Heesen. He negotiated to assume the first build in Heesen’s new 50-meter all-aluminum semi-displacement series, which had been slated for another owner, and he is thrilled with his choice.


In May 2011, Benson’s 164-foot Satori made a dashing world premiere at her christening party during the Monaco Grand Prix. Frank Laupman of Omega Architects designed the general layout and exterior lines, and her singular interior creation is signature Rémi Tessier, a French interior designer with a flair for minimalism. Built to be just less than 500 gross tons, the yacht features naval architecture by Van Oossanen & Associates and Heesen with a hard-chine hull that is an evolution of the previous 44-meter and 47-meter series. Advanced propulsion efficiency is an evident by-product of her successful lineage. Satori’s hydrodynamic hull makes her an extremely smooth and comfortable ride in any seaway. Able to exceed 24 knots with her twin MTU 3,648-horsepower (2,720-kilowatt) diesels, Satori could be the fastest yacht ever in the 50-meter range. When I asked Benson if he chose this model because of her speed, he said that speed for speed’s sake was not his objective. The extra knots, however, can make a difference, which owner and guests had a chance to put to the test, as they contemplated what to do when bad weather headed toward one of their favorite spots off the coast of Corsica. “Western Corsica is typically not a place you want to be if a mistral is building. We discussed how long it would take us to get to a safe harbor and then sat back and made the decision to enjoy the remainder of that glorious day where we were. I am appreciative of Satori’s power and speed because in a situation such as that one, I felt secure knowing that we would safely outrun the impending storm and be in the calm of Saint-Tropez without sacrificing an enjoyable day,” Benson said.

Heesen is historically and currently one of the world’s most successful shipyards, with 12 new orders on the books stretching out to 2015. One of the appealing features to owners is the ability to build very personal yachts on tried-and-true hull shapes. When Benson took over the build of the 50-meter, he took great pride in customizing her to his personal specifications. Captain Mark Lacey served as the owner’s representative and saw the boat through to its completion. But Benson, who was fascinated by the build process, flew to the Netherlands frequently to check on the yacht’s progress. “I am really particular about detail. I like doors to fit right, and lighting that illuminates a space, but in a subtle manner,” he said. He found a kindred spirit in Tessier, also a perfectionist. “I was particularly drawn to Tessier’s work aboard the Perini Navi Riela. When I met him, I liked him immediately. He was passionate about his work and he had an uncompromising attention to detail,” Benson said. The shipyard also was a perfect fit. Benson imparted how impressed he was with Heesen’s engineering, craftsmanship, attention to detail and desire to “get it right.” When Tessier’s palladium leaves on ceiling panels in a particular salon did not quite match, Heesen reworked them until they were perfect.

Benson, who has developed commercial and residential properties, says: “I don’t have one style, I have been gravitating toward contemporary, clean and minimal, but I like a balance. I don’t want my environment to be cold.”

Satori’s interior design and décor has created quite a buzz since her unveiling. During the 21st Monaco Yacht Show, the yacht captured the attention of HSH Prince Albert II and King Juan Carlos of Spain who jointly presented Satori’s owners with the Nymphenburg Prix du Design. While Satori’s interior layout itself is traditional, the overall effect and appearance is anything but. Tessier has transformed the “white box” into a unique space. White leather, stone, stainless steel, palladium leaf and ebony are the prevailing elements. The overall impression is sophisticated without being sterile. The 753-square-foot sun deck hosts a large custom Jacuzzi, a sunbathing terrace, bar and dining area, plus U-shaped enclosed sofas facing a sunbathing area. This is a highly used area of the boat. In the main salon, the service bar is a luminescent stainless with a backlit white onyx countertop. The ceiling and walls are clad in Okavango polished wood. The round dining table can be lowered to coffee-table height, thus creating a second lounge atmosphere in the salon space. A mirror on the forward bulkhead multiplies and opens up the space. The big-screen TV is cleverly concealed behind the mirror. This increasingly popular application is a brilliant move, as a television would definitely detract from the décor. Forward of the main salon is the master suite. Along with the king-size bed is a white leather sofa, dressing table, woven leather rug and a sumptuous bathroom clad in white stone. The stairs leading to the lower deck are a sculptural work of art.

Lighting plays a big part in the décor, changing the atmosphere in every space. On the accommodations deck, any guest would be happy in the two VIPs or two twin cabins. The staterooms’ simple décor features a lot of white and light, with both modern art adding bold and subtle strokes of color. In the master cabin there is what appears to be an ode to artist Yves Klein’s blue period. A beautiful 1959 blue monochrome from the artist hangs above the bed, and what is entertaining is that in the bathroom the two toothbrush glasses set in the white countertop echo the art piece’s blue. Likewise, in another cabin a red painting from artist Richard Prince is reprised in the two red glasses in the ensuite bathroom. The Satori difference is in the details.

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