What is it about the water? It was Francis Drake who once said, “It isn’t that life ashore is distasteful to me. But life at sea is better”; and we couldn’t agree more. The subjects of Slim Aarons’ iconic photographs often seemed to agree with Drake, too; as, presumably, did Tom Cruise when he chartered a superyacht earlier this year. For centuries, the great and the good have flocked to the seas — in breathtakingly luxurious vessels ranging from Nahlin — the Jazz Age vessel once chartered by King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson — to Christina O, Aristotle Onassis’ famed vessel that played host to Hollywood’s elite throughout the 60s.
"A certain new book will come in handy..."
We could continue listing world-famous yachts in the time it would take to sail around the world — but therein lies the nautical rub. With so many iconic vessels on the tip of the tongue (beginning with Cleopatra’s renowned luxury barge) and over three thousand yachts currently comprising the global fleet: how can we ever separate the wheat from the chaff in an industry which already seems to be made up of the very finest wheat the nautical world has to offer?
Well, gents, this is where a certain new book will come in handy: a book with the title Yachts: The Impossible Collection. It was published in August, so you’ve no doubt already heard of it — perhaps you’re lusting after it as we speak — but as the days draw in and we turn to books to get us through the chilly, grey days, we felt it incumbent upon us to say that if you purchase one book this autumn, make it this one.
A carefully curated anthology
Written by Miriam Cain, published by Assouline and featuring photography by Guillaume Plisson, this handcrafted volume is a meticulous selection of the most noteworthy ships ever to grace our seas. The book doesn’t do yachts by halves; it specifically looks to those breaking boundaries in the (often contrasting) realms of technology, luxury and jaw-dropping decadence.
Take Moonbeam IV, for example; often described as “one of the most beautiful yachts ever built”, the book details her years spent sailing under Prince Rainier of Monaco — prior to her soon-to-follow renewed lease of life. Or take the aforementioned Christina O: arguably one of the most famous yachts in history, with that world-famous mosaic-tiled swimming pool. Such yachts are the stuff of legends.
An eclectic collection
If you’re looking for a book that lists luxury yacht after luxury yacht — essentially, superyachts that are indistinguishable from each other — you’ll be out of luck where Yachts: The Impossible Collection is concerned, because the vessels in this anthology span a vast range of styles and selling points.
Whether it’s the 1851 ship (after which the America’s Cup was named) or a high-tech megayacht; whether it’s timeless classics or head-turning modern trailblazers: no two yachts are alike. Just look at Faith, with that glass pool arcing over the lounge area; then take a look at Sea Cloud’s classically beautiful owner’s stateroom, and you’ll see what we mean.
Contemporary meets classic
One of the greatest joys for sailing enthusiasts and amateurs alike, when it comes to this book, will be the opportunity to compare and contrast the classical yachts with the ultramodern, futuristic aesthetics seen on more recent vessels.
Forget any lasting English GCSE connotations the phrase ‘compare and contrast’ holds for you, and lose yourself in comparing (for example) the sleek, clean lines of Excellence with the striking classical beauty of Sea Cloud. You could lose a whole weekend in such an activity: but, then, what better way to spend a weekend?
The yachting world is changing; but luxury will remain
Of course, yachts — like the rest of the planet — have to acknowledge the increasing need for sustainability wherever possible. Yachts: The Impossible Collection delves into yachts that have acknowledged the pressing need to preserve the health of our oceans, through (for example) advanced green technology; but it also satiates the global thirst for decadent luxury when it comes to superyachts, by spotlighting some of the most groundbreakingly exquisite ships ever to play host to the world’s elite. Even the book’s binding pays homage to superyachts’ status as luxury personified: it’s housed in a luxury clamshell case, and is presented in a blue canvas tote bag to preserve its meticulous craftsmanship.
So if you haven’t yet laid your hands on this groundbreaking, soon-to-be iconic book: it’s not too late. Get your copy now; and hunker down with the most famous yachts in the world this autumn.
Yachts: The Impossible Collection (£695)
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