As she neared completion, Elena, the 10th in Heesen’s 47-meter series, found her perfect match.
By Alan Harper
Every yachtsman ultimately would prefer a custom build, one that perfectly suits his needs and taste. Shipyards, on the other hand, naturally prefer production-line projects because it’s a lot easier to make something you’ve made before. The superyacht business is increasingly about meeting in the middle: giving the customer the tailor-made yacht he wants while allowing the shipyard to benefit from economies of scale, standardized work flows and greater potential for profits.
The beautiful 153-foot (46.7-meter) Elena is the 10th of her type to roll out of the construction halls at Heesen Yachts in Holland. She’s different from each of her predecessors, but in terms of machinery, hull design and basic layout, she’s also substantially the same. Heesen began her construction long before a customer had been found—quite a long time before, as it turned out.
It’s not exactly a return to the build-on-spec years that preceded the global economic crash at many shipyards, but rather a response to new concerns of clients post-recession. The plain fact is, these days many customers are unwilling to sign up for a three-year build because they worry about whether the shipyard will still be around at the end of it, says Mark Cavendish, Heesen’s director of sales and marketing. Coming in with a year to go until completion, though, you still get to specify the interior of your choice, and there’s less waiting time. It’s the shipyard taking the risk instead of the customer.
A 10-hull series of 150-foot yachts must be counted as a resounding success, and it’s easy to see the appeal of Heesen’s 47-meter class. It’s about as big a yacht as you can get without crossing into more heavily regulated and, thus, more expensive 500-gross-ton territory. The series has a beautifully sculpted, efficient displacement hull, a 15,850-gallon fuel capacity and a range of 4,000 nautical miles at 12 knots. The interior spaces are expansive. The full-beam, main-deck owner’s stateroom is nearly 30 feet (9.1 meters) across, and another four big guest cabins are below. The crew accommodations in the bow, built to the now-mandatory MLC 2006 regulations, are exceptionally comfortable. And the yacht is built to first-class Dutch standards.
Elena’s interior was designed by Omega Architects, where Frank Laupman’s team found itself working for a phantom client. Yet strangely, this wasn’t really a problem. Omega was chosen two years into the project, with still no buyer in sight, because of the firm’s track record in creating “classic contemporary” designs. The shipyard felt that anything too sharp-looking wouldn’t suit a steel-hull, displacement superyacht.
“The big risk to us is when we start on the interior,” Cavendish says. “That’s when we go down a particular path. We choose the designers according to the style we think will fit.”
Laupman knew Heesen well. Before he set up Omega 20 years ago, he worked in Heesen’s design department and helped establish the shipyard’s design style.
“You can be pretty confident about what buyers will expect,” he says. “If you work with two or three of them, you can start to understand the tastes of the typical Heesen customer.”
Aboard the completed yacht, nothing betrays the fact that the designers were working blind. They didn’t play it safe. The interior is neither a beige wasteland nor a Scando-modern waiting room. It’s inviting, confident and coherent. Any number of quirky features and fixtures lend real character to the yacht, including occasional tables and light fittings that seem to be assembled from twigs, fabrics imbued with the textures and patterns of stylized flowers and leaves, and even a head in the master suite whose central focus is a metaphorical hot spring emanating from a symbolic tree of life.
It works so well that it’s almost as if the absence of an owner finding fault or making well-intended suggestions helped the Omega designers to focus on expressing their central concept. Elena’s interior is strongly themed around the idea of the natural world with the dining salon intended to evoke the feeling of a forest, the owner’s stateroom designed to suggest a pond, the guest suites on the lower deck reflecting the embrace of an elemental earth and the sky lounge, with its gold and blue … you get the picture.
Tying the whole thing together is that unreachable place where the earth and the ocean meet the sky.
“We have a horizon in the design—a horizontal line,” explains Omega’s Jolanda Gerrits. “Below the line, we use darker-colored materials and warm earth tones, like stained and natural walnut and Emperador marble. Above the line it’s light-stained oak, cream and off-white leathers and fabrics, and travertine marble.” Light greens, pale blues and soft purples provide restful visual interludes.
As her launch date approached in Heesen’s Oss shipyard, Elena still didn’t have an owner. She didn’t even have a name. The yard knew her as Project Margarita.
“We would normally expect to have sold her about a year before delivery,” Cavendish says. Things were getting a little close to the wire, and management began to think about hiring a crew and taking her down to the Med to see if they could stir up interest. It all sounded rather expensive.
Summer was well on the way when everything finally came together. A customer from eastern Europe visited the shipyard to view some 37- and 40-meter designs. He wanted a private yacht he could use with his young family, and he hadn’t owned one before. After he spotted the almost-complete 47-meter, he was offered a tour. Told that she was available almost immediately, in time for the start of the season, he pondered. He had another look around. His questions became more detailed. Then he made his decision, and everyone at Heesen stopped holding their breath.
“You could probably hear the collective sigh of relief all over the world,” Cavendish says with a smile.
When Elena was exhibited at the Monaco Yacht Show last fall, her veteran Austrian captain, Mario Merl, described her sea trials in the North Sea in rough weather, which she came through with flying colors. Then came an extensive shakedown cruise in Norwegian waters with the owner and his family, followed by a long and satisfactory passage south to the Mediterranean via Gibraltar. Between then and the Monaco show, she had logged thousands of miles in the Adriatic, around Corsica and Sardinia, and all along the South of France. After the show, the plan was to head for the Suez Canal, join a convoy past Somalia and then discover the Seychelles.
It may have taken a while for Elena to find her owner, but she’s certainly making up for lost time.
For more information: +31 (0) 412 66 55 44, heesenyachts.com
LOA: 153ft. 2in. (46.7m)
LWL: 131ft. 4in. (40m)
BEAM: 29ft. (8.83m)
DRAFT: 10ft. 4in. (3.07m)
DISPLACEMENT: 400 tons (half load)
GROSS TONNAGE: 499
ENGINES: 2 x 1,340-hp MTU 8V 4000 M63
PROPELLERS: Schaffran 5-blade 63in. diameter
FUEL: 15,850 gal. (60,000L)
WATER: 5,283 gal. (20,000L)
SPEED (max.): 15 knots
SPEED (cruising): 12 knots
RANGE: 4,000 nm @ 12 knots
GENERATORS: 2 x 99 kW Kilo-Pak
STABILIZERS: Naiad Dynamics zero-speed fin
CLASSIFICATION: Lloyds 100A1 SSC YACHT LMC Large Commercial Yacht Code LY2/MCA
NAVAL ARCHITECTURE: Heesen Yachts
EXTERIOR DESIGN: Omega Architects
INTERIOR DESIGN: Omega Architects
GUEST CABINS: 1 master, 4 guest
CREW: 10 crew in 5 cabins
BUILDER: Heesen Yachts