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La Datcha: The 77m bronzed explorer built for heli-skiing adventures

6 September 2021 • Written by Anastasia Yushkova

Designed for the paths less travelled yet still glamorous to its core, 77 metre La Datcha is as unconventional as superyachts come. BOAT discovers its many charms.

The Russian word datcha means “a second home in the countryside”. The French definite article la adds a touch of elegance. La Datcha certainly seems a fitting name for this 77-metre from Damen Yachting’s new SeaXplorer range, a boat sophisticated enough for Mediterranean bays but built for adventure in faraway places.

Photography courtesy of Edmiston

From day one her owner, Oleg Tinkov, made it clear that although he intends to spend time on board, he wants La Datcha to generate revenue. Tinkov is a self-made man known for building several brands, including his greatest pride, the online Tinkoff Bank. His La Datcha Tinkoff Collection comprises luxury boutique hotels with a sports theme, ranging from ski chalets in Val Thorens and Courchevel in the French Alps, to villas in Cabo San Lucas in Baja California (ideal for offshore fishing and watersports). This ultra-luxurious explorer yacht is the latest addition to the portfolio and is being offered for charter in remote areas such as Kamchatka in the far east of Russia, Antarctica and Papua New Guinea.

Born in a coal-mining town in south Siberia, Tinkov, who currently resides in London, lived for a time in the US and studied at the University of California, Berkeley. He has travelled the world extensively, from Madagascar to Greenland. Likewise, his yachting experience is diverse – from a Pershing he uses to entertain guests of the La Datcha palazzo in Forte dei Marmi, Italy, to superyacht charters in the Seychelles and Maldives.

“Once we even rented an ice-breaker,” says his daughter, Dasha Tinkova, marketing and sales director of La Datcha Tinkoff Collection. With a passion for extreme sports, Tinkov is a devoted heli-skier. Having explored the Alps, he started to look for other destinations and soon realised that the best way to get to places such as Kamchatka or Alaska would be aboard a superyacht. But what kind of superyacht?

“Oleg Tinkov had considered buying a yacht for some time and was attracted by the clean vertical lines of the Amels 199 [now the Amels 206] Limited Editions design, with its axe-bow,” recalls Rose Damen, managing director at Damen Yachting, parent company to Amels. “But once he saw the SeaXplorer concept, his eyes turned to that design.”

Born at the onset of the explorer yacht boom, the SeaXplorer concept was designed for remote adventures. The first hull, 62-metre Anawa, launched in October 2019. “We had taken the new IMO Polar Code and Ice Class into consideration when developing the SeaXplorer,” says Damen. It therefore has retractable stabilisers and a strengthened hull to withstand drifting ice floes and submerged logs, while enclosed bridge wings offer panoramic visibility and protection for watchkeepers in bad weather.

While Tinkov was drawn to a 65-metre iteration of the SeaXplorer design, he soon realised it could carry only one helicopter, which was not sufficient for his plans. Stefano Feltrin is managing director of La Datcha and the technical supervisor who oversaw the explorer’s design and construction. He explains their requirements thus: “As we will operate outside the range of rescue services, we will need the ability to fly two helicopters simultaneously for safety reasons; while in Antarctica, regulations require two choppers for heli-skiing or heli-safari. So we went for a 72 metre. This was later extended to 77 metres to allow for a full range of watersports, including a dive centre and submarine operations.”

This is a vital aspect of La Datcha: as well as being able to get to remote destinations, her treasure trove of tenders and toys will allow guests to thoroughly enjoy themselves when they arrive. To this end, an important feature is the 9.26-metre custom rescue boat/limousine tender, built by Fassmer, which, when mounted in its open bay on the mothership, completes the exterior perfectly. Designed to the owner’s brief, it follows La Datcha closely in both style and colour.

To accommodate such accessories for exploration, the traditional superyacht layout was significantly revised. The whole of the main deck aft is an enclosed and purely functional working area devoted to a garage for a 9.1-metre RIB tender by Insider Yachts, launched through a shell door, and for two Airbus H125 helicopters that are raised by a lift to the fully certified open flight deck on the upper deck aft. This arrangement allows crew to launch tenders and quickly prepare helicopters for flight. Refuelling is done from a tank carrying approximately 10,000 litres of jet fuel, which equates to approximately 40 hours’ flight time or a 5,000-nautical-mile range.

“The remote nature of these cruising areas with their lack of shoreside infrastructure, means the yacht needs to be comfortable and self-sufficient for extended periods. This philosophy extends to all aspects of the design, from spaces for the owner and guests, to being able to carry all the equipment and supplies you may need to use the yacht as a launchpad for adventure,” says Rob McCallum of EYOS Expeditions, which was chosen by Damen Yachting as a partner in the development of the SeaXplorer range. Having completed more than 1,500 expeditions in remote areas in the last 20 years, EYOS was integral in proposing and realising up to 155 design features to ensure every SeaXplorer, including La Datcha, is a truly capable vessel.

The challenge for La Datcha’s designers, Azure, was to make this potentially brawny vessel look dynamic, yacht-like and well proportioned. The initial brief from Damen Yachting at the inception of the SeaXplorer design was to create “a powerful, head-turning hybrid that merged the strength and heritage of the Damen Sea Axe hull and lines with the traditional beauty of an Amels,” says Erik Spek, director of Azure, “while making her clearly recognisable as part of the Damen Yachting fleet.” Azure drew inspiration from the play of light and shadow on the jagged edges of polar ice shelves.

Inside, La Datcha has six decks and, helped by her 14-metre beam, boasts an impressive volume of 2,560GT. The central part of the upper deck contains the main saloon and an inside/outside dining saloon with an adjacent pantry. The bridge deck also hosts a saloon, with another dining area. Guest cabins are divided between the forward sections of both main and upper decks, with the master suite foremost on the main deck.

The lower deck aft hosts a wellness centre with spa and gym, while forward on this deck are 10 twin-bunked cabins for officers and crew and three twin-bunk cabins for expedition staff. The hospital, a formality required by class, includes full quarantine facilities and dedicated air-conditioning and sewage systems.

Perhaps the most striking feature of La Datcha is the enclosed observation lounge in the nose of the bow on the upper deck, with a 270-degree panoramic view and adjacent open deck from where guests may enjoy the scenery. This area was designed so that those on watch can see forward and operate the vessel safely, while guests also benefit from superb views.

The core idea of La Datcha’s design is to catch every magic moment of natural beauty and wildlife. Wherever guests are, they can get their gear together easily, ready for adventure. The layout allows simple movement throughout, up to the observation lounge or down to the tender bay. On their way to and from adventures, guests need a place to don and doff protective gear that has got wet or dirty. And this is the purpose of the spacious mudroom located on the main deck aft, where expedition gear is cleaned, dried and stored, ready for the next outing (the room also serves as storage for the heli-ski gear).

But while she’s an explorer through and through, La Datcha is also a genuinely luxurious yacht. The owner wanted the interior to be simple and natural but chic and unusual at the same time. His chosen interior designer, Vasiliy Shprits, and his team from St Petersburg, Russia, had never designed a yacht but the owner did not want the interior of La Datcha to look “yachty”. “My goal was to make the interior look like a luxurious land-based residence,” says Shprits. “Not too much fixed furniture or smooth edges. No polished surfaces, no gold, no Swarovski crystals. Instead, some nice loose furniture, natural oak, leather, bronze, natural marble and onyx, stone mosaics or wool rugs.

“We are really grateful to our knowledgeable German interior subcontractor, Vedder, who guided us kindly and wisely throughout the interior design and who has done the impossible,” he adds. “For instance, by finding a way to produce an incredible iceberg-looking bar for the main saloon or invisibly fixing bronze insects [he calls them “termites”] over the bedheads in the second master cabin according to our vision of bringing ‘wildlife’ aboard, or allowing us to place a distinctive bronze sculpture by Giò Pomodoro in the observation lounge.” Promemoria, meanwhile, produced much spectacular furniture for the design.

The interior palette is subtle, not flashy. The main deck and lower deck decor revolves around a water theme while the upper deck is devoted to earth. Jellyfish-shaped lamps from Wired Custom Lighting in the gym and coffee tables with silver fish in the master cabins play out the water theme beautifully. The pattern of decorative panels in the main saloon may appear traditionally Russian to some, but for others it will evoke a Mexican vibe. The theme of fire, particularly important to the owner, is reflected in the stunning bronze hull paint and the fireplaces in the upper deck saloon.

There’s also an egalitarian aspect to the interior. The layout accommodates two similar master suites as well as a VIP suite, plus three guest cabins on the upper deck – a layout that allows the owner to offer equal accommodation when inviting two business partners or friends. A 2.2-metre ceiling height, meanwhile, gives the cabins an exceptionally spacious feeling.

Of course, a true expedition yacht is unthinkable without a spa and wellness centre. On La Datcha it offers direct access to the beach club and the fully equipped gym. A traditional hammam and Finnish sauna made by the German spa specialist Klafs are supplemented by an LED-lit stalagmite ice fountain that allows guests to enjoy the contrast of cold ice on hot skin after a sauna. “Unlike conventional ice fountains, this one grows upwards and it is a truly delightful attraction, especially with changing LED background lighting,” says Martin Schaidnagl, the responsible project manager at Vedder.

All these features have already attracted lots of interest. “Can you imagine, La Datcha is already booked for 18 consecutive weeks,” says the owner with obvious pleasure. “It is a record in the superyacht industry, and we are really proud of it.” Victoria Verhovskaia, charter fleet manager at Edmiston, who is responsible for La Datcha’s charter bookings, says part of the interest stems from the unconventional itinerary. That included the Kamchatka Peninsula in spring and summer 2021. From September to May, Kamchatka is covered with powder snow from Siberia, making it perfect for heli-skiing, but after the snow melts, the area’s 160 volcanoes and the Valley of Geysers, impossible to reach without helicopters, are also great to explore.

“We already hired the best heli-ski and local guides to serve our guests,” says Alistair Reid, captain of La Datcha. Looking to the future, the yacht is heading for Antarctica in the second half of 2021, returning to Kamchatka in 2022, and stopping off to cruise in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands on the way back north. “There is a new generation of adventurous yacht owners that are keen to maximise their experiences, exploring some of the most remote regions on Earth,” says McCallum. “It is great to see La Datcha’s owner embrace this spirit of exploration and really use his yacht for the adventures she was designed to make.” And it’s not just Tinkov who’ll appreciate her: La Datcha will appeal to all who seek luxurious adventure – ice fountain and ice bar included.

This feature is taken from the March 2021 issue of BOAT International. Get this magazine sent straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issue


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