The view from gate eight at Heathrow’s Terminal Three is entirely appropriate. There, outside the window, the world’s largest passenger jet, the Airbus A380-800, is waiting to whisk me to Dubai, where size is often off the scale and where superyachts are fast catching up with everything else in that dimension-busting city.
Gulf Craft, a 50-mile drive along the coast from Dubai, is leading the charge, with its new 47 metre Majesty 155. The company, formed in 1982, now employs about 2,000 people, building some 300 boats a year. Its range extends down to 8.2 metres and there are five series, including a commercial line of passenger ferries and patrol boats.
The Majesty Yachts range starts at 19.5 metres and did reach 41 metres, until the Majesty 155 was launched in May. Four years of gestation have wrought this new flagship, a fine-looking craft from the pen of naval architect Massimo Gregori Grgic, of Yankee Delta Studio in Italy.
From the steeply raked stem to the swept-back profile of the superstructure, there is a quiet class to the Majesty 155 that belies the brash shoutiness of nearby Dubai. It represents Gulf Craft’s very own A380 – its biggest and best craft – and a far bigger step up from the previous Majesty 135 than an extra six metres would suggest, chiefly because of its oversized 9.6 metre beam. But it isn’t just sheer size that links the 155 with the Airbus.
The 72.72 metre A380, which has an even bigger wing span, at 79.75 metres, is a composite construction instead of the aluminium from which we’re used to seeing aircraft built, and likewise the Majesty 155 is all GRP rather than the steel or aluminium you might expect.
Engage Erwin Bamps on the subject only if you have time to spare: the CEO of Gulf Craft is positively evangelical. “Composite technology is advancing far faster than that of alloys,” says the Belgian-born Bamps. “We’re doing things now that just wouldn’t have been possible years ago. That A380 wouldn’t have been conceivable 20 years ago. GRP offers fantastic build flexibility; correctly used it is virtually stress-proof and, of course, it doesn’t corrode; it lasts for ever.
“We truly believe it offers far better properties for the purpose of shipbuilding, even at this size. Indeed, we see no limit. There is no reason why we can’t make bigger yachts from this material.”
“Shipbuilding” is an interesting term, because Bamps sees this new vessel very much as a small ship, not a big boat. With a round-bilge hull form, the Majesty 155 is strictly a displacement craft – the yard’s first – designed primarily for endurance and range. To that end the twin 2,011hp MTU 12V 4,000 M63 engines are “E rated” for commercial use, detuned for longevity rather than heavily boosted for performance. Top speed is a leisurely 16 knots but a 53,260-litre fuel capacity means that, at its 10 knot cruising speed, the yacht has a potential range in excess of 4,000 nautical miles, allowing continuous cruising for more than a week at a time.
Bamps is also keen to stress the flexibility composite construction affords. The hull is the fixed point; beyond that everything is up for negotiation – including the superstructure. The same is true of the interior. Gulf Craft will lay the boat out to your requirements, within the realms of what’s physically possible. And that extends to the smallest detail. Barring engines and electronics, Gulf Craft manufactures almost everything. Where most yards work with, say, high-end furniture suppliers to obtain chairs as close as possible to your requirements, Gulf Craft simply makes the chairs in the style you desire.
That wide beam means there’s plenty of room to work with. This first boat has a restfully Zen-like interior ambience, with pale woods, light upholstery and polished floors set off by dark polished accents. Leather vacuum-formed over-contoured panels create a classy three-dimensional effect. “We’ve let the artwork do the shouting,” says Bamps. “That way it is easy to spice up or tone down the impact.”
Spread luxuriantly over three decks, the accommodation makes maximum use of the volume available. The master suite is positioned forward on the main deck, its en suite bathroom stretching the full beam ahead of that (and featuring a hidden TV that projects its picture through the mirror when in use). There’s a fold-down balcony accessed via sliding doors, but that generous beam has allowed this terrace to extend inwards as well as outwards, the recessed area creating a small private outdoor area that can be used under way rather than just at rest as is the case with most folding balconies.
You’ll find the main internal social area occupying the rear of this deck. Head past it and you’ll discover a generous galley, while crew accommodation is this way also, with a stairwell leading down to a mess room and four en suite crew cabins. It means that you can run comfortably with five or six crew, yet retain the capacity to increase the numbers for charter work or serious entertaining.
Access to the guest accommodation is via a stairwell just aft of the master suite. Or you can let the lift take the strain of transporting you to the lower deck. Down here cabins are laid out four-square, in this case a pair of doubles aft and a pair of twins forward.
Hit the top button in that lift and you’ll alight at the upper deck. Behind the large wheelhouse the captain’s cabin allows instant access while off duty – better hope he packs light, though, as there’s not masses of storage in here. A separate communications station and a full-height cupboard contains the guts of the electronics. Racked out with complex media servers that allow movies and music to be streamed to any cabin screen via iPad controllers, it also stocks navigation servers, satellite AV and comms controllers, and high-speed WiFi routers for the whole boat. With kit from the likes of Savant, Kaleidescape and Sonos, a quarter of a million dollars’ worth of equipment is in this cupboard.
A more informal second saloon occupies the rear section of this level. Complete with bar, it offers a great entertaining area and opens out on to the spa pool deck directly above the aft cockpit.
But expansive though the internal layout is, this isn’t a yacht for hiding away in. Twin stairways from the deeply bulwarked side decks take you up to the palatial flying bridge. A semi-circular cutaway at the trailing edge allows sunlight to pour down into the spa pool below. Or if you prefer your pouring a little more fluid, a waterfall is built into the lip. Protected by a louvred hardtop, two large dinettes are served by twin galley areas, one with a barbecue. But perhaps the most social area is ahead. A raised circular plinth is encircled by three large, curved sofas and topped in teak. But that teak table hides a secret: lift it off to discover an exquisite illuminated fountain – a terrific centrepiece.
The Majestic 155 is all about choice. So complementing this and the shaded lower area is a further cockpit. And we’re not done yet. Perhaps my favourite area on the whole yacht is also one of the smallest. Right back aft – behind an air-conditioned engine room so big it feels like there must be something missing in there, and behind a side-access garage large enough to house a 6.2 metre Williams jet RIB and a pair of jet skis – lies the beach club.
Formed by raising a massive section of the transom (that doubles as a shade in its raised position) this is an utterly idyllic waterside retreat that really puts you in touch with the reason you’re out here: the ocean. An extended section drops on hydraulics into the sea if you’re feeling athletic enough to swim or scuba dive. Or pour yourself a stiff one, invite your most favoured guests, have the captain turn on the underwater lights and let the sea life come to you.
But what of that fabled Middle Eastern excess? She may have been designed and built in the UAE but this yacht is surprisingly restrained. Flashes of her geographical heritage can be found in the fountain on the flybridge or the complex mosaics around the spa pool. But interestingly, where you feel the influence most, is in the cost. Without a famous European brand behind the price, this is a yacht that is usefully less expensive than similarly sized boats from heavyweight names. Excess not quite in all areas, then.