Shahid Khan's 95m superyacht Kismet boasts a winning combination
by Marilyn Mower
As owner of NFL franchise the Jacksonville Jaguars and Fulham Football Club, yacht owner Shahid Khan knows the sporting maxim: you don’t change a winning team. So when he wanted a new, bigger, better yacht, he knew exactly what to do to create his new 95 metre Lürssen Kismet. Launched in July, 2014, Kismet took a win at the 2015 World Superyacht Awards, claiming top spot in the Displacement Motor Yachts of 1,3000GT to 2,999 GT of 75 metres and above category.
When Shahid Khan ordered his first Kismet, in 2004, the gist of the brief to his design team was “make it impressive”. Not only would his family be using the boat for their own enjoyment, but Khan wanted it for corporate entertaining as well as for charter service. That 68 metre motor yacht, launched in 2007 by Lürssen, was successful on all counts, but in the intervening years Khan’s business and his corporate guests have both increased in size. He now owns two football teams, one in the UK and the Jacksonville Jaguars in the US. The American footballers, in particular, mean that Khan does have some pretty bulky guests to accommodate. Sixty-eight metres just wasn’t cutting it.
The brief for Khan's Kismet
Enter the new Kismet, launched last year, all 95 metres of her. Her size alone is impressive. Then there is the four metre silver statue of a jaguar, its paw resting on a football helmet, that graces the bow on game days; the two helipads and all that space – enough for his Jacksonville Jaguars to stage a practice. The number of decks for owner and guest use – five – is the same as on the previous yacht, but the scale of those decks, the accommodation afforded by eight suites, and especially the size of the areas dedicated to entertaining, are where the new Kismet really scores.
There are obvious advantages when the team responsible for a successful superyacht project is reassembled for an encore and, indeed, the owner brought all the original Kismet players back together: Moran Yacht & Ship, to develop the specification package and oversee the build, which again was at Lürssen; Espen Øino, for the exterior design; and Reymond Langton for the interior. Just as important in ensuring that the new yacht functions as smoothly as the first, is the fact that Captain Kyle Fultz and his wife Gerry, who serves as purser, have crewed for Shahid Khan for 15 years and have the benefit of knowing how the family lives, works and entertains. The Fultzes made frequent visits to the yard over two and a half years implementing the owners’ wishes for the new luxury yacht.
“They made it what it is,” Shahid Khan says. “Sometimes they would have to take on the yard, sometimes the designers and sometimes they would have to take on the owners,” he chuckles. “They would say to me, ‘yes, you can have that but you would have to give up this function.’ I knew the design of Kismet had to follow the function.”
Superyacht owner Shahid Khan
Khan, who left Pakistan as a teenager to attend the University of Illinois, personifies the American dream with a story that starts with him washing dishes and selling ice-cream, takes in marrying his college sweetheart Ann and results in him owning a $4.4 billion auto parts company with 13,000 employees. He first tested the waters of yacht ownership in 1999 by purchasing a 39 metre Feadship named Gallant Lady from his friend and customer, the late Jim Moran, a car dealer and philanthropist. He told yacht broker Rob Moran, founder of Moran Yacht & Ship, that if he liked yachting, he would have a boat built. Apparently, he found yachting more than suitable and, after several years aboard the Feadship, started talking about building from scratch.
“We were six months into the specs for his next boat when the economic crisis began,” Moran recalls. “Two weeks after Lehman Brothers collapsed, we had a meeting. The market was falling about 1,000 points a day. We were prepared to hear [Khan] say he was halting the project; instead he said: ‘Everybody thinks I’m mad but I’m going to do it.’ He’s a forward-thinking progressive and he makes decisions other guys wouldn’t.”
They started with a design of about 85 metres. “What was originally offered is not what you see today,” says Moran. “He challenged the designers a lot. He’s heavily influenced by automotive shapes and he pushed the designers to the max.” The max became 95 metres.
Kismet's dramatic interior design
Pascal Reymond, of interior design firm Reymond Langton, says: “He asked us to scale up the drama of the first Kismet; he had seen [our work on 134 metre] Serene and wanted that level of detail.” Her lead designer on the project, Jason Macaree, credits a collaborative process. “She (Ann Khan) has a clear idea of what she wants things to look like and he (Shahid) drives things to be at the edge. He presents ideas, they are good ideas, and we would work on them, bounce them back and then they would just grow.”
One example of this process is the video walls in the space separating the main saloon from the forward section of the main deck and flanking the stairs to the deck above. Originally a pair of curved stairs, like a double helix, was envisioned to rise between the floors through an open atrium and the renderings showed curved artwork surrounding the staircases. “Then it was Shahid’s idea to have one staircase only with a video wall and open space opposite. Ann said she thought there might be room for a piano there and that led to the idea of creating a more intimate lounge in that space. We made a presentation on that idea and, in the middle of that presentation, she asked if the piano could be integrated into a bar. Well, you’ve seen it, it’s a piano that can be heard through two decks and it’s a bar, but it’s really a work of art. That’s the way this entire project evolved,” says Macaree.
It is why Kismet, despite her size and the fact that her remit is to charter, is so intensely personal. Shahid Khan says he has space to host parties for 270 people and yet there are also comfortable places to go when he’s alone on the boat.
The video walls – with one extending two decks high – are a unique piece of work, made up of 42 individual 140-centimetre monitors. Yes, they can show Fulham's football games, news or films, but they are also programmed to show digitised, high-definition moving artwork as a backdrop to life on board. The system, installed by Atlanta’s Techno Gurus, also links to a pair of high-def cameras mounted outside that can convert the walls into virtual windows.
The massive art deco staircase between the video walls leads from the main saloon to the upper deck lounge, but is not, in fact, the yacht’s centre of circulation – that is farther forward and comprises a lift and offset stairs leading to all decks. But it is the link between the four primary indoor guest entertainment areas on two decks: saloon and cinema on main deck and dining room and lounge above. It’s a feature, amongst others on board, that had Lürssen’s engineers scratching their heads.
Creative design solutions for Kismet
“There were, of course, many challenging design features both inside and outside, which gave our engineers some headaches but as expected we were able to solve them all,” says Peter Lürssen, the yard’s CEO. “Particularly, the level of detail on the exterior furniture with its decorative features, was something we hadn’t done before to this extent. And the stunning staircase is a feature that has brought many engineers and craftsmen a few more grey hairs. But that’s our job."
An etched glass walkway spanning the atrium connects the bar with the dining room. It is a masterful way to keep the party connected between decks while exterior stairs link the two aft decks. During inclement weather, sliding glass panels flanking the aft owner’s deck turn that space into a winter garden and outside dining area in all but the worst winter or tropical downpours. The adjacent V-shaped bar – back-lit onyx with RGB colour controls – is party central, but to get celebrations off on the right foot, the aft main deck begins with a convivial outdoor bar. The entire area becomes one big social loop. Add in the bridge-deck lounge above, which looks out over the aft helipad, and the spacious sundeck higher still, with both pool and spa pool, and large-scale entertainment is guaranteed.
Designing Kismet's intimate spaces
One of the challenges Reymond Langton faced was in creating enough intimacy for family use or small charter parties on such a big yacht. Smaller spaces such as the up to date cinema, which is adjacent to the six guest cabins on the main deck and doubles as a guest saloon or reading room, the bridge deck lounge up top and the gym and spa below, show that they have not forgotten the value of cosiness. In fact, there are four fireplaces aboard to ensure just that.
Kismet really shines in details. Each of the five guest suites has not only a unique colour scheme, but uniquely themed door trim. Their position on the main deck means that the suites are wide and multi-windowed. It also has an unusual feature called a sea cabin, carefully placed on the lower deck on portside amidships, where motion will be at a minimum for guests who suffer from seasickness. Of course, its placement adjacent the guest gym, the spa and the starboard side fold-down tender dock would make it equally coveted for other reasons.
“You can go one of three ways with a spa,” says Pascal Reymond. “You can either put it up top and make it surrounded by glass walls for light and views; you can put it adjacent to the beach club at the stern, but that ambiance might suffer when the stern door is closed, or you can put it deep in the ship where it’s naturally going to be dark and cosy and restful with little motion. This is what the owner chose for Kismet. It’s very much a meditative space.”
Indeed it is. Dark stones and interesting juxtaposed textures – from smooth flat rocks to glass to various wood surfaces, including a door that had patterns routed into its face and then was singed for effect – provide just the right amount of physical stimulation while the hammam, spa pool, cold plunge pool, steam shower and massage room are focused on relaxation. The light is soft and soothing.
Kismet's operations and crew areas
Behind all the beautifully, exotically finished owner and guest areas lies the heart of the yacht: not just the engine room, which is a typical two-deck Lürssen paean of efficiency, but rather the attention that has been put into the operation side of things, or “back of the house”.
“The first Kismet was the first Lürssen with the ‘Moran cathedral’ engine room: two storeys, with a separate control room,” says Khan. “Some people thought it was a waste of space, but we have factory experience and know how much good visual connection improves the work.”
The crew passages and their connectedness to stores, exteriors and the areas they need to access quickly and repeatedly for service are brilliantly thought out. The main deck placement of the galley, for example, might be considered atypical yet it was arranged to service interior and exterior dining areas above and the social areas on the main deck as well as to receive provisions. The spa also has hidden access so crew or visiting therapists do not travel through owner areas.
The under-deck crew passage contains copious amounts of linen storage and connects to the laundry on the same deck. Like most of the things aboard this yacht, it is well worth the space allocation and adds to function and maintenance: key design elements that are often, unfortunately, overlooked by less experienced project teams or owners. “The crew areas, their cabins and the crew gym as well as the passageways and work spaces, have a positive impact on crew retention, our charter operation and resale,” says Khan.
Kismet itself is a Turkish word that means destiny or fate, perhaps resulting from random forces set in motion long ago, like a 16 year old arriving in America to study engineering and ending up with a superyacht.