Careful attention to even the tiniest feature was key to the creation of 106m Lürssen Amadea. Impressive? Precisely, says Sam Fortescue.
From the outset, Amadea’s owner was determined that his 106-metre Lürssen should be a project to leave others in the shade. “The key to his brief was to make Amadea one of the most detailed vessels ever built: millions of hours spent on creating and assembling… and then finding the smallest snagging points,” says Evgeniy Kochman, founder and CEO of broker Imperial, which acted as the owner’s representative.
Monaco-based Imperial has a reputation for, shall we say, exactitude. The very name sends a frisson of fear down the spines of boatbuilders, who recognise that Imperial requires total precision in every element of the yacht, particularly the finish.
Yet despite Amadea’s astonishingly detailed finish, she was built quickly by the standards of a yacht of this size. From the first steel cutting, delivery took just 31 months. “That is very fast,” says Michael Breman, sales director at Lürssen. “We were given the opportunity, in order not to waste time, to use engineering solutions previously arrived at.” In other words, the technical innards of the yacht were based on an existing project – Quantum Blue, launched in 2014. Even so, the captain says they had the time to personalise and polish every detail of the boat before delivery: “The warranty list pretty much didn’t exist,” he tells me over coffee and patisseries from Amadea’ s classically trained French pastry chef. That’s partly because a flurry of late upgrades, notably in the galley and owner’s bathroom, added about six months to the build – at the same time taking time pressure off for fixing small problems. And it’s partly that Imperial’s rigour in planning means that there are no question marks left when work begins.
“We are recognised for being ‘inflexible’ and above the expectations of our client,” Kochman tells me. “But this is what success is made of: the partners working with us have to deal with this philosophy, and so far… we can proudly say this vision has been followed by the greatest yards and designers of our industry.”
I board Amadea along the passerelle, because she is berthed port-side to in the harbour at Vilanova, Spain. But most visitors will arrive in one of the custom Windy tenders, where their first view will be the teak of the beach club, which is partly overhung by the 10-metre pool on the main deck, overflowing down a glass wall behind the boat’s backlit name. It is an impressive way to make the boat’s acquaintance. “I tried to make it dramatic,” says exterior designer Espen Øino of the pool. “Loungers at either side kind of float in space, and look like two wings coming off it.”
Assuming you’ve hurried up from the beach club, eager to get on board, you would have missed the angular base to the transom – just one of a myriad of tiny details Øino dropped in. “You can naturally sit down there and take your shoes off without putting chairs out,” he tells me, before asking, “Did you notice it?” I confess that I did not, and move quickly on to what really did strike me: the large number of small, personal corners where you can relax unobserved. And nowhere more so than at the front of the superstructure, where a wing creates a private nook on each deck, which has been well filled with cushions and loungers.
But here again, I’ve missed something. “It’s a clamshell arrangement,” Øino tells me – a comment that makes more sense when I see the aerial view of this part of the boat, which resembles three overlapping shells cascading down from the four silver satellite domes. And it turns out this feature is something that Øino introduced after personal experience on board yachts. “I visit a lot of these boats and I receive [commercially sensitive] phone calls,” he says. “Sometimes there can be a lack of cosy spaces.”
Unexpectedly for such a large yacht, cosy spaces are not in short supply. Even the main deck saloon – which has clearly been built to impress with its double-height atrium, hand-painted Pleyel grand piano, leather-book-clad walls and full-beam dining table – offers warmth. Much is down to interior designer François Zuretti’s vision, which pairs the grand with the intimate: hand-painted Michelangelo clouds on the ceiling above the dining table; or the dozens of warm organic tones delivered via the backlit whiskies, brandies and rums in clear bottles behind the bars. “The [owner] asked for an authentic classic representation with the integration of classic furniture from the 18th century,” Zuretti tells me. “Alcohol, books and accessories are part of the design.”
But Øino has also been clever with the layout, which offers lots of recesses for seating and magnificent sea views through drop-down bulwarks. “Detailing such as the stainless steel, onyx panels, deck motifs – a lot of work went into it together with the owner,” says Øino. “Normally, the good boats come out of clients that are really engaged with the project.”
The owner of Amadea has taken great care to stay out of the limelight, and yet his influence is everywhere on this yacht. Just look at the vast art deco-style albatross that soars off the bow. “We worked with Willem Lenssinck, an artist from the Netherlands, who built it from stainless steel. It was then welded on to the hull,” says Øino. It weighs a staggering five tonnes. Or take the galley on the top deck. It gleams with copper pots and pans, offers a huge grill area and even a live tank for lobsters. “It’s a guest area really,” says the captain. The idea is that those on board can get involved with their food if they want to. It serves the so-called winter patio – a dining area that will seat up to 24 in a space decked with ferns and painted with lianas.
Water tinkles softly down the slate wall, and indirect light falling through opaque ceiling panels looks like daylight. It feels like a secret Parisian eatery, not the top deck of an ultra-modern yacht. And yet just a few centimetres behind the greenery, the main exhaust runs up to the vents above. Such is the build quality that not a decibel escapes through the multiple layers of insulation.
The deck outside, however, is built to be anything but quiet. Here, 20,000 Watts of built-in speakers, plus lights and even lasers, are very much designed to be heard. For this is the party deck, where a good-sized spa pool flanked by sunbeds can be converted into a stage where bands and DJs plug straight into the ship’s audio system. “We’ve only ever had it up to half volume,” says the captain with a mock grimace, “but you could feel your chest pounding.”
“It’s a party area,” says Øino. “The deck terminations are inverted on this deck and the one below, so the structure lends itself very well to anchoring lights and speakers. The geometry wasn’t accidental.” A storage area to one side reveals equipment including a teppanyaki grill, a rotisserie and a hog-roaster. There’s even a crane available to lower it over the side so it can be taken ashore for a beach party. “This is something completely unique,” says the captain.
Equally unique, to my mind, is the cinema on the bridge deck below. The projector and big screen fully retract when not in use, but there is something special about the two main sofas. The captain hits play on the rocket sequence from the 2014 film Interstellar and my whole seat begins to move. As we blast through the stratosphere, it tips forward, wobbling like crazy, then suddenly we reach space and there is an eerie stillness. This is D-Box motion control. All that’s missing is a popcorn machine, I reflect, before spotting exactly that behind the bar.
Another key part of this boat’s appeal is the way that space has been divided up. Naturally, there is a private office on the owner’s deck, but it is not huge. Zuretti has given it the glorious feel of a private room in an old-school gentlemen’s club, complete with overstuffed armchair and a hand-painted map of the world on the ceiling. But it is an intimate space. For less personal business, there is a small conference suite on the lower deck by the guest boarding platform (next to the humidor and wine cellar, it turns out).
The owner’s deck has all the features you would expect of such a large yacht: a dressing room, a bathroom with an ornate bath recessed slightly into the floor, a beauty salon and a gym. But by far the biggest space is devoted to the owner’s cosy saloon, bar and dining area. Yes, there are marbles, rare woods, exceptional stone and wood inlay work, but the result is warm and inviting. Step outside on to the huge aft deck, and there is a large circular wooden table to seat eight. Clever design means that extra circular leaves fold out and turn it into a table worthy of King Arthur and his knights, with room for 16. Glass windbreaks can be opened when not required, and there’s a firepit and comfy sofa area.
More evidence of the obsessive detailing comes from the ensign staff here, which would make a decent mast on a classic boat: hidden hydraulics rotate it inboard for polishing and maintenance. And at the other end of the deck, the owner’s cabin opens out on to a private terrace with a mosaic-lined spa pool: as you recline on the stainless-steel bathing rack, observe the glittering light show above your head. All the signs of the zodiac have been included in a panorama of the night sky. “You’d have a heart attack if you could see behind that panel,” Lürssen’s electrical technical officer (ETO) tells me. “There are 2,000 fibre-optic cables and a spinning disc for the twinkling effect.”
Lighting is a subtle presence on board wherever you are. Indirect LED strips outline many items of furniture on deck and are even built into the stainless-steel poles that can be planted in lugs in the deck to support the extensive awnings. Everything, from the entertainment to the curtains and blinds, is controlled via dedicated iPads. “There are 6,500 devices in the interior design,” adds the ETO.
No expense has been spared in equipping Amadea. For instance, her helipad, which can accommodate a craft of up to 3.5-tonnes take-off weight (an Agusta 109 or an EC135), features a glide path indicator. Resembling for all the world a dormant party light on the foredeck, this is far beyond class requirements. And when it comes to the full-beam tender garage, the captain can’t help lingering. There’s the mandatory limo tender, a Pascoe beach lander, but the real attraction is the cabrio sports boat, known on board as the “boss boat”. With styling that echoes the mothership, the two custom Windys are works of art in their own right – something that Espen Øino is also keen to point out. “You are going to mention them in the article, right?” he wants to know. “People don’t realise that we designed those as well.”
After four hours on board, I’m still discovering details as I reluctantly retrace my steps down the passerelle to the waiting taxi. None of it has happened by accident. “Imperial’s managing style is very thorough, attentive to details,” says Zuretti, who had worked with them only on smaller boats in the past. “Suppliers also need to step up and reach quality requirements.” Øino agrees. “They are very thorough in the way they go about things. Sometimes that means more work for us, but at the end it’s all useful; all good. As these boats get bigger and bigger, the investment is considerable. One cannot go light-heartedly into such a project.”
And yet it’s clear that he enjoyed the experience – there is fun in the design. “In general, creativity and corporate structure don’t always go very well. It went very well on Amadea. I really felt in symbiosis with the owner. It was like a game of ping-pong getting faster and faster with more pace.” And it looks like everyone won.
Rock Me Amadea
Among the many elements of Amadea’s immaculate interior, the hand-painted Pleyel piano stands out. This Paris piano builder has been in business since 1807, founded by a talented Austrian musician who adopted French nationality. Over two centuries, the brand has been embraced by artists from Chopin and Ravel to Daniil Trifonov and Vanessa Mosell today. Pleyel no longer manufactures pianos, but it still accepts occasional custom orders, such as this Directoire baby grand. Measuring 1.9m x 1.5m, the piano’s soundboard and ribs are built of solid spruce from Italy’s Fiemme Valley. Pleyel’s famous metal frame revolutionised sound quality in the 19th century, and it is still in use today, albeit computer-optimised now. It features a Renner action and a Laukhuff keyboard in spruce. All the hardware, from pedals to hinges, is in 24kt gold. The vines and flowers hand-painted on to the body of the instrument were completed by master painter Pierre-François Battisti. All told, the piano took 18 months and thousands of hours to build.
First published in the September 2019 issue of BOAT International.