The largest composite production yacht ever built offers more than just scale. Sam Fortescue climbs aboard Serenity MRF, a 55-metre that fuses traditional owner-focused privacy with a distinctly modern outdoor lifestyle.
It is no mean feat to launch a new flagship model during a raging pandemic. But when it’s the biggest all-fibreglass production yacht ever built, and you have to actually chill the production halls to deal with exterior temperatures of 45°C-plus (mainly for the staff), the achievement takes on a whole new dimension. That is what Gulf Craft has pulled off with the launch of the first 55-metre Majesty 175, Serenity MRF.
The heat may be nothing new to the United Arab Emirates-based boatbuilder and its workforce. But there is plenty that is novel about the new boat. It takes Gulf Craft’s interior finish to a new level and cements a new focus that encompasses semi-displacement designs as well as the fast planing hulls the yard is known for.
The boat is no slouch, though. Twin 2,012hp MTU 12V 4000 M63 engines can shift her 500 tonnes at a top speed of 16.5 knots, while cruising is a decent 10 knots. “The Majesty 175 is extremely manoeuvrable and handled the sea trials exceptionally,” says captain Patricia Caswell. “With a difference of more than 40 per cent GRT compared to the previously launched 155 series, and maintaining good top speeds with this machinery package, it has shown very strong performance. We really pushed the 175 during trials and the incredibly low noise and vibration readings we have noted are a great surprise.”
With a new performance profile comes a new hull shape. The naval architecture of the boat was produced by Massimo Gregori Grgič of Yankee Delta Studio near Pisa, Italy. He drew the previous 155 flagship as well, and says that the switch to semi-displacement was not all plain sailing. “Convincing the managing staff and chairman, His Excellency Mohammed Al Shaali, to go for a different kind of hull has been a long procedure,” he admits. “But in the end we were instructed to design a long-range, good speed, vessel with excellent seaworthiness – which I must say we did with success.”
There’s nothing revolutionary about the shape of the hull. A round bilge combines with flat aft sections and a sharp bow with a chine for cutting into waves and deflecting spray. But consider this alongside her lightweight GRP build, and she offers a draught of just 2.11 metres. This is key to unfettered cruising in the shallow waters of the Gulf region, but also suits her very well for the Bahamas, Thai islands and other inshore destinations.
Fortunately she is well equipped to cross oceans and take advantage of these opportunities, with a range of 4,000 nautical miles from her vast 61,503-litre fuel tankage. “[She is] a seaworthy vessel with long range, high safety standards, full comfort, a lot of space for provisions and high stability,” says Grgič. Her owner, a prominent Emirati businessman, reportedly plans to make the most of the range with a world cruise.
After a big song and dance for her launch in Dubai Harbour, complete with local dignitaries wearing the white kandura robe that is the national dress of the UAE, builder Gulf Craft is hoping that the Majesty 175 will fly the flag for the country’s yachting capabilities. The company’s ambitions are not modest. “The benefits of composite over steel, such as low draught and ease of maintenance, make the Majesty 175 very attractive,” says CEO Talal Nasralla. “We expect this platform to be an industry game changer.”
One look at the yacht’s features and a stroll around its decks lend weight to this view. A glass lift connects the three main decks, while an inside-outside seating area aft of the wheelhouse, with a cool curved bar pod and sunpads, features a retractable slatted panel in the hardtop that lets light stream in. The furniture here – including the bar – is easily movable to change the character from a relaxing area to an open space for partying or staging live music. On the foredeck, meanwhile, there’s a stunning infinity pool with a counter-current system for swimming and an elegant, curved glass front.
In fact, the whole of the upper deck is devoted to the owner’s comfort and pleasure, starting with private access from a suite – full width with panoramic views ahead – to that pool. Behind the bulkhead that serves as an anchor point for the owner’s leather-padded headboard is a walk-in dressing area with wardrobes for him on one side and her on the other. Double basins are sunk into a seemingly continuous block of gleaming black marble that resembles obsidian. And there is a desk with a comfy sofa set opposite it where you can imagine the real family business of the boat being done in strict confidence.
A series of lobbies leads back to a huge private saloon that opens onto its own aft terrace, where up to eight can eat under the stars (or a carefully designed awning). There’s a fully equipped bar and plenty of comfy seating, where the owner can invite friends and family for more personal, convivial occasions. “Creating a layout where the wheelhouse has its own dedicated deck allowed us to create an exceptional owner’s area,” says lead designer Cristiano Gatto, who drew the interior and exterior lines, configured the spaces and produced the decoration. “It is actually an owner’s deck, which is quite unusual on a yacht of this size. Where the owner’s area usually is on the main deck, we have the two VIP staterooms.”
It is this feature above all that makes Gatto proud and creates a real sense of privacy – something that will appeal as much to American or European owners as it does to those in the Middle East. “It makes the owner really the centre of the most iconic areas for this project,” he adds. Entertainment, and audiovisual as a whole, has been a big focus on this boat. The upper saloon, for example, offers two 55-inch 4K televisions that retract into cabinets, but across the yacht as a whole there are an eye-popping 14 giant flatscreens, all with their own satellite receiver and Apple TV box. Along with Bang & Olufsen audio and the Ku-band-ready VSAT Sailor 900 tracking dish, this is a set-up for those that are serious about watching and listening.
Beyond relaxation, at which this yacht admittedly excels, there is plenty of space for those of a more active disposition. First up is the gym, tucked onto the starboard side of the main deck. With envy-inducing views of the harbour or anchorage, guests can easily pedal, row, pump or pound their way to their fitness goals.
There is a broad bathing platform aft which includes a large transformer that extends the area further and makes it easy to climb in and out of the water. The gleaming GRP of the transom swings up to reveal a beach club deep enough to house two large sofas and a coffee table. This leads on to the tender garage and toy storage, which access the sea via a big shell door. “The 175 can accommodate a 1,500-kilogram tender, which would be stored in the converted beach club,” says Nasralla. “As well as the large open bow area there is huge space for toys in the garage.” With up to six metres available for the tender, the Castoldi Jet Tender 19 would be a good choice.
The key build period of the yacht was undertaken on spec, so the styling of the interior was intended to be neutral, relaxing and welcoming. You won’t find much dark wood on board, for instance – no dark anything, in fact. It is restrained and modern, with pale upholstery, mirror-polished stainless steel, dignified tan leathers and – in a tell-tale nod to the region’s design history – simple geometric marquetry inlays, especially in the marble panels in the floor. Gatto sums up the approach as one of “rich simplicity”.
“It was a brief about quality and consistency more than about ‘the style’,” he says. “With the ambition of being appreciated by both local and international customers, the main idea for the interior style was to create a modern and relaxing look that makes the yacht welcoming. We focus our work on the interiors based on a calm palette of material and colours, with accent colours for each different area of the yacht.”
For the same reason, the materials used are not extravagantly rare or ludicrously expensive, but simply top-quality examples of leather, wood and marble. “With a view to environmental sustainability, making a common and easily available material rich and pleasing to the eye allows us to customise an interior with more refinement,” says Gatto. “The refined selection of marbles, their finish and the installation detail, for example, is one of the visually and constructively interesting elements of this project.” The loose furniture on board is largely custom-made for the yacht, “in pursuit of purity of lines and uniformity of style”, as Gatto puts it.
His aim is to showcase the best of Italian design, and he says he added a few pieces by Poltrona Frau into the mix to do just that. As you’d expect for a yacht of this size, the interior and exterior are heavily customisable. “We don’t outsource much,” says Nasralla. “The only imports are engines, glass and instruments. It means we can control quality and timescales. And it makes us more flexible for customisation. We show [clients] where the bulkheads are, then they can decide.” And if the delivery date of this project has slipped (the concept was launched at Monaco in 2016, and the hull moulding finished in early 2017), it is partly because Gulf Craft did some re-engineering – adding exhaust filters, for instance, so she exceeds Tier III emissions standards. “The trend of the market is for more eco-friendly,” acknowledges Nasralla.
“That is also why we used engineered marble, not solid slabs, as well as wood offcuts.” And with all the technical and engineering work now behind them, the good news is that the next boat should take two to three years from contract to delivery. So it shouldn’t be long before a sistership to this first 175 is in the water. “We are working with several clients at the moment,” says Nasralla with a grin.
First published in the September 2021 edition of BOAT International.