The sublimely silent 66m ISA superyacht Okto
by Stewart Campbell
If silence is a virtue, then Italian yard ISA’s biggest launch could be the best boat afloat; the experience of 66 metre Okto is one of pure design expertise allied to the uncompromising use of fine building materials.
Okto’s sublimely silent ride
We’re out past the breakwaters of Port Hercules before I realise we’re moving. Owner’s rep George Mourkakos motions at the cabin porthole and I almost stumble, my brain suddenly recalibrating as the water flashes by. We’re in the rearmost guest cabin, lower deck, starboard side. There’s a single bulkhead between me and the main machinery spaces and yet I hear nothing. Nor am I vibrating, despite the nearly 5,000 horses warming up just feet from where I’m standing.
Before I can say anything, Mourkakos tells me to wait and goes into the opposite guest suite, closes the door and flushes the toilet. Or at least that’s what he tells me he did when he returns – I didn’t hear anything. This whole lower deck is arranged so no headboards abut the same wall, drawers have to be lifted up and out to avoid rattles and all the doors – at a mere 120 kilos – have rubber stoppers that drop down when closed, creating a soundproof seal. It’s all one massive study in shhhh.
This is best demonstrated in the main deck master suite. Aretha Franklin is warbling at about 70 per cent volume in the study behind the owner’s sleeping quarters, but close the door and she’s instantly muted. Mourkakos smiles – point made.
I know the owner, I can anticipate him. We never specifically discussed things like noise and vibration, but we both wanted to do something the industry would notice.
It says something that for a boat as cool as Okto, the thing that impresses most is the serenity she offers, with sound levels in the cabins while underway around 47dB(A) – like a dishwasher in the next room – and vibration one-third to half that required by the contract. Yes, the pool is amazing, the deck spaces abound and the Alberto Pinto interior is very, very special, but it’s under the waterline and down in the engine room where this 66 metre ISA truly excels. Mourkakos has worked with the owner, whose previous boat was the 82 metre Oceanco iconic yacht Alfa Nero, for 10 years.
“I know the owner, I can anticipate him. We never specifically discussed things like noise and vibration, but we both wanted to do something the industry would notice,” says George Mourkakos. And it has.
Superyacht Okto’s highly engineered performance
ISA’s biggest launch to date was built with a no-expense-spared approach. The tank testing alone took four months, with BMT Nigel Gee working with ISA to develop the hull, which is carried all the way forward into a tall, wave-slicing blade. James Roy, BMT’s yacht design director, says a “significant” team from his company, covering naval architects and structural and mechanical engineers, was deployed to work on the yacht, culminating in a testing regime “more in-line with the testing carried out on specialist commercial vessels”. There were also smoke tests to make sure the superstructure didn’t create dragging vortexes, or leave any exhaust gases swirling around the decks.
If it’s hard to tell that the engines are running, it’s even harder to tell when we’re turning. Out towards Antibes, we start weaving before about-facing for the passage back to Monaco, but there’s no lean – not even a trace of one. Bluff-bowed boats do tend to be tilt free, and she’s hardly some slab-sided, top-heavy wedding cake, but still the ease and level of the turn – albeit with a bit of cavitation out the back – is impressive. The penalty for that upright bow and lack of flare can be a sloppy ride in a big sea, and the captain, Sebastian Gerads, confirms that she may ship a bit of water when pitching, but says he’d rather have this than a lolling, uncomfortable slam-fest.
“It just cuts through it, like a knife through a cake,” he says. Compared to a 100 metre he skippered previously, Gerads is much happier on Okto: “[The 100 metre] had a big bulbous bow and even in 1.5 metres of sea there would be vibration. Sixty-six metres is the perfect size: it just fits between the waves,” he says. She runs lean, too, “consuming much less than expected”, adds the skipper. “Compared to a 60 metre I had before, she’s way less thirsty.” Okto hit 18.75 knots on sea trials, above her contracted requirement of 18, and that was in two metre seas, says Gerads.
Okto’s stunning pool and outside living spaces
It’s hard to ignore that pool for too long, however. As on Alfa Nero, it’s the first thing you see when wandering up to her on the dock, and makes quite an impression. Andrea Vallicelli designed Okto’s exterior and says the pool – 6.5 metres by 4.7 – was one of the most delicate parts of the entire project, “because the aft of the boat is visible and quite narrow”.
It’s narrow because two wide stairways lead up from the bathing platform to the main deck, then again up to the bridge deck, and once more to a perch at the top of the boat with a spa pool and gym. These mirrored stairs up the boat are something of an ISA signature, and while they pinch volume from inside, they also provide a wonderful flow between decks that’s hard to beat.
There’s 80 square metres of open deck on the bridge level alone – plenty of space for lounging. But this is also the dining and dancing deck, with its 1,000W speakers fed by Videoworks software and free-standing seating around a table set out for eight. Although the touch-and-go helideck forward – good for a Eurocopter EC135 – has also been pressed into use as a dance floor on occasion. Unusually, real teak for the decks has been eschewed in favour of synthetic Esthec, in a blondish hue, with broad planks running along the centreline narrowing towards each beam.
“For the plank thickness we studied mathematical progressions,” says Vallicelli, “like the Fibonacci Sequence. It was very challenging connecting this type of decoration with the detailed design of the fixed external furniture.”
Okto’s design brief
The Italian designer had a bit more fun with Okto’s fluid exterior lines, the brief for which was pretty open. The 66 metre platform could comfortably take a proper third deck, but Vallicelli wanted to keep things low.
“The only recommendations were to design an original yacht, unique, and outside any known standard,” he says. “All main technical configurations, like the forward helipad, the aft swimming pool or the gym on the top deck, were conceived to maintain a sleek and stylish profile.”
It’s a design that flows pretty seamlessly into the interior, which flirts with flashy but never crosses the line. Whether entering on the upper or main decks, the first thing you encounter are circles: a formal dining table below and a circular cinema room above. Both operate as inside-outside spaces thanks to enormous doors opening them onto the decks.
In the case of the main deck, the doors are some of the biggest yet installed on a yacht in Italy, according to Mourkakos, and when fully drawn back – at the touch of a button and whisper quiet – open up a five metre aperture. The fabrics used in the seating on the main deck reflect this openness, and have a beach club feel. A lot of work went into the design of the seating to maintain views out over the water, even when you’re at maximum recline. “The owner was fed up owning boats with main decks that never get used,” says George Mourkakos, who also demanded high ceilings – at least 2.2 metres throughout.
Interior design of Okto by Alberto Pinto
Okto was one of the last boats the late Alberto Pinto worked on before his death in 2012 and the owner’s whatever-the-cost philosophy is underscored with the choice of fit-out contractor List of Austria to bring Pinto’s designs to life. List’s considerable reputation is confirmed in the flawless edging, precision alignment of cabinetry and wonderful clunk as you close lockers and cupboards.
Pinto’s studio is now run by his sister Linda, who says, “The owner was looking for a style that was simple yet dynamic. The boat has a sporty allure, which can be found in the interiors by the choice of materials in harmony with the spaces.” The studio also worked on Alfa Nero, so had a useful understanding of the owner’s style.
“The owner asked us to continue in the same spirit as the previous vessel, which is a modern, easy to live in luxury yacht. He wanted it to be as open as possible with beautiful openings to the exterior. The grand windows let much light in, so we worked with dark woods for the main lounge and a zebra wood for the upper deck lounge. As for the owner’s cabin, it was worked with whitened sycamore wood and the finishes were done in shiny varnish which thus reflects the slightest ray of light.”
Okto’s original layout
The owner’s quarters definitely need some explaining. Adjoining the main master suite is another cabin, with a big double bed. It’s a study-cum-nap room, but could also serve as a VIP cabin, or a bedroom for young children who don’t want to stray too far from their parents. As a study it works beautifully, with an enormous window offering fantastic views when sitting behind the desk. Such is the quality of the sound insulation, though, that it can be used completely independently of the owner’s cabin, so friends could stay here too. In this arrangement, the only access to the owner’s cabin is through a dog-legged corridor, lined either side with hanging space. The master bathroom and an intimate vanity area are to port, and the corridor isn’t so much a walk-in wardrobe as walk-through one.
No windows are forward in the master cabin, but a good amount of light makes it through skylights in the deckhead, and to starboard is a fold-down balcony – but with a difference. No owner wants crew trudging through their quarters with stainless steel guardrails that need to be slotted into the balcony when folded down, so Mourkakos demanded a solution that required zero crew. The answer is a system whereby guardrails fold up out of the balcony at the touch of a button, and fold down flush when the balcony folds back up. It’s all push-button owner operation. Even cooler – literally – is the technology keeping the bugs out. When the balcony is down, a precise air curtain starts flowing, creating a barrier to insects, and keeping air-conditioned air inside.
The supreme lounging space is upstairs. “The owner hates projectors on board,” Mourkakos explains as he switches on the outrageous 103-inch plasma screen in the upper deck saloon. Close the doors, lower the curtains and lights with the iPad interface, and select a film from the Kaleidescape entertainment system and you’re set for a night in. This is a very popular place, Mourkakos reports. It’s served by a big, practical pantry, accessed from the main deck crew area. The galley is narrow but long, and the crew lounge on the lower deck is split into two – so two films can be watched at the same time.
Photography by Quin Bisset/Q&K Media
A lot of thought has gone into crew movement, with deckhands able to access the forward tender garages from the crew accommodation, as well as a superb tunnel on the tank deck running to the double-height engine room. There’s no beach club on Okto: the owner could have specced it, but chose extra tender storage instead. It’s a good decision, since the intrusion of the deep pool doesn’t mean there’s acres of space. And when up a few easy steps is one of the best pools on the water, why do you need an extra entertainment area so close? Much better to stuff it with toys and a 6.2 metre Ski Nautique.
We tuck back into Monaco harbour, and I watch from the bridge wing station as skipper Gerads expertly moors us stern-to alongside Quai Rainier 1er. It suddenly occurs to me that I haven’t asked the obvious question: why did the owner downsize from an 82 metre to a 66? “He said to me, ‘George, every time I come on board [Alfa Nero], I see new people, new crew.’ So he wanted the same luxury and quality but in a smaller package,” Mourkakos explains.
He found it at ISA Yachts in Ancona, which has delivered in Okto a boat with all the hallmarks of a Northern European production. As I grab my bag to leave I crane my neck so I can hear if the skipper’s turned the engines off. It’s no use: I can’t hear a thing, except that Aretha song in my head: R.E.S.P.E.C.T.
Superyacht Okto is now for sale, available for a new owner to enjoy her charms.