The owner of Shark tells Grace Trofa how he finally got his hands on a very special Rybovich yachtfish...
I was raised between Switzerland and the Bahamas. We’ve owned an island there since the 1980s. My father and grandfather were in the shipping business and their Sitmar Line was the second-largest immigration service to North America. By the 1960s, airplanes became the preferred way to travel and my father, Boris Vlasov, became the first ship owner to turn a liner service into a cruise business, the forerunner of today’s cruise line industry. Ultimately he sold the business to Princess Cruises.
My father’s first boat was a Riva Aquarama. He named her Shark because he felt when you viewed it from the water, it looked like a shark. His next boat was a secondhand Benetti, and being the serious engineer that he was, he felt he could improve on the engineering. He spent 3,000 hours putting together specifications for his next motor yacht and awarded the build to Abeking & Rasmussen. The 148ft [45m] Shark was a very famous yacht and lives on today. I was seven when I got my first boat, a 10ft Zodiac with a 2.5-horsepower Seagull engine. At 17, I had Revenge, a 22ft Boston Whaler followed by a multitude of 25 to 35ft center console outboard engine boats.
My first big boat was a 1986 40ft [12m] Magnum Marine; I was not even 30. When you are young in Europe you get into sailing. I sailed Opti, Sunfish, and I still pretty much competitively sail a Laser. As a hobby that has become more than a hobby, with two buddies of mine (who were world champions in 2018), we sail a three-man keelboat called a 5.5. I was recruited for the team by Craig Symonette, one of the Bahamas’ most renowned sailors.
My favourite boat of all time was a 1972 Rybovich yachtfish (built as Margaret). The owners – Don and Lula McCullough – were friends of my parents. From the time I was a teenager, I thought that boat was the coolest and they were the coolest. After Mr McCullough passed away, I called her and invited myself to tea. She was the godmother of sailing at the New York Yacht Club, mentor to Dennis Conner, and she invented the NYYC Cruise. The boat was named Wildcat after her; she was a real player. After tea and cookies, she asked me what I wanted, I acknowledged the death of her husband and then laid out my desire to purchase the 75ft [23m] Wildcat, the world’s most beautiful yacht. She really and truly told me to eff off. I had to wait another six years till she passed away, made a sensible offer to the estate and got it. I have spent 25, 30 years loving and taking care of that boat.
This was the first boat I dared call Shark in honour of my father. It is the only Rybovich of its kind, a motor yacht with a fishing cockpit, designed to do 35 knots all day long. She has had several restorations, but I have kept the boat as original as possible, maybe made her more original with the help of Mike Rybovich.
Funny detail, I was born in 1968 and have been a member of the Monaco Yacht Club since 1964. My father got wind of this members-only yacht club and rumour had it the spots would fill up quickly, so he put my name on the list as X Vlasov.
My son, now in college, is a very capable boat operator. For his 21st birthday I got him an 18ft [5.5m] Bertram. My friend bought the mold, built three, and number three is for Boris. He doesn’t know about it yet so it would be funny if he hears of it for the first time here. He deserves it so much. I am not even sure how genetically it is even possible for this child to be so good.