Very few boats have enjoyed the kind of following this former tender to Octopus has. Raphaël Montigneaux gets an early look at her recent refit...
As the world’s superyacht fleet ages, so refit activity increases – a trend that has also started to impact the boats that serve the mothership. Tenders, especially custom ones, are now being refitted in record numbers – and MARSS is a prime example. Previously known as Man-of-War and the main tender for 126 metre Octopus, this 18.8 metre Vikal, often photographed in the dry dock of its former mothership, is quasi-legendary. As a result, I was all ears when Cyril Le Sourd, co-founder of SPARK Marine Projects, told me that he was in the process of refitting her for one of his clients.
Le Sourd and his business partner Charles Dence recently opened shop in Monaco. “SPARK Marine Projects is a design office that carries out specialised projects in the superyacht sector, and more particularly for the design and development of custom tenders and chase boats and related products,” Dence says. MARSS, just delivered to her owner, is one of its biggest refit projects to date. Built by Vikal in the early 2000s, it is a one-off design by superyacht designer Sam Sorgiovanni, and the construction quality of this Australian yard offered the perfect basis for a refit.
SPARK Marine Projects saw it as an ideal candidate, neither too big nor too small, to fulfil the wishes of a client who wanted to have a multifunctional craft. “The objective for the owners was to find a boat that allows them to carry out several missions at once,” explains Le Sourd. “It had to be able to serve as a superyacht chase boat, security boat and also as a test and client demonstration platform for new onboard sensors and software.”
That’s because the client is Johannes Pinl, CEO and founder of MARSS, a Monaco-based software and technology company active in the defence and security sectors. MARSS has a division that provides long-range drone detection, tender tracking, surface monitoring and diver detection systems.
“The pedigree and superyacht thinking that went into the engineering and build of MARSS in her previous life as a tender for a much larger mothership appealed to us,” says Pinl. “Furthermore, we were looking for a practical and capable platform with which to demonstrate our long-range vessel security systems to clients.”
One of the refit’s biggest tasks was to remodel the outdoor spaces. The aft deck was scraped clean and Le Sourd designed a new 20-square-metre modular seating area. “The aft deck has been completely redesigned by integrating a new teak deck and by removing the aft bulwark and replacing it with two removable lockers,” he says. Made of carbon fibre, these lockers provide the base for a new bench that separates the bathing platform and the cockpit. Its reversible backrest allows guests to enjoy it from both sides. The refit also added a deck shower, bathing ladder, mooring points and a gangway to the aft sections.
In the cockpit, a second bench seat has replaced a bulky storage unit, which enclosed the access to the engine room. To remove this visual and physical barrier, the designers had the idea to lower the entire deck, which had the added benefit of giving the interior living room a direct sea view. A discreet hatch now provides access to the engine space. To complete the aft deck, two new custom tables were installed. It’s now a truly multifunctional space, which can be set up for dining, lounging or sunbathing.
The foredeck has also been fitted out with a sunpad. MARSS’s full-beam design does not allow for easy access down side decks from front to back and vice versa. To address this, the refit team decided to enlarge the deck hatch over the owner’s cabin. With a sturdy ladder that unfolds immediately below, this modification has created a second emergency exit to meet current requirements and allow secure access for guests who wish to take advantage of the new sunbed without doing a balancing act.
Already punchy, the boat’s performance has been further optimised, with tweaks at the transom. “We removed an ineffective hull extension and replaced it with three Humphree interceptors,” Le Sourd says. “And in order to increase course stability and thus reduce the lateral movement of the waterjets, we have also added two vertical fins under the hull.” As a result, the boat now offers a better planing response, improved handling and a 10 to 15 per cent reduction in fuel consumption, he notes.
All the electronics on board have been upgraded, including the electrical panels and battery management systems. Additionally, a more efficient and compact Fusion system has replaced the original audiovisual system.
MARSS engineers have taken advantage of these upgrades to fit the boat with their latest security technology, transforming it into a floating showroom. The equipment on board includes cameras, radar, drone detection and a deployable sonar.
Comfort inside wasn’t forgotten in the extensive changes. From upholstery to carpets, the interior has been transformed, with the icing on the cake an adjustable coffee table in the saloon that turns into a giant touchscreen to take full advantage of and manage the NiDAR perimeter security system offered by MARSS.
This quasi-legendary, one-time tender to Octopus is now one of the most sophisticated boats on the water and a blueprint for the growing numbers of tenders getting life-extending refits.
First published in the November 2022 issue of BOAT International. Get this magazine sent straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issue.shop now