East & West Magazine
Aug 28, 2007
ushuaia, here we come
M/Y "Marco Polo" Transoceanic Explorer, or how to enjoy bad seas.
By Pascal Najadi
An exciting new breed just joined the small but fast growing club of transoceanic explorer yachts with the launch of the Marco Polo series by MCC Maritime Concept and Construction (Hong Kong) Ltd. This latest series put MCC Maritime in league with shipwright heavy weights Lürssen and Abeking Rassmusen. The key element in unrestricted transoceanic yachting is, unsurprisingly, sea worthiness and Marco Polo has that in spades, coupled with a sense of style rarely found on such a rugged explorer.
By exclusive invitation, East & West got to experience the luxurious styling and impressive specs on board the Marco Polo on April 25, 2007, at The Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club. In Marco Polo, renowned navel architect Ron Holland has created the perfect gentleman’s yacht. Want to visit Emperor penguins lounging regally on the Arctic Rim? No problem! Head down to Ushuaia, a quick sail through the Beagle Channel, next stop: the Arctic continent. Marco Polo can take you there both in safety and in style.
It was a pristinely powerful setting for her introduction, with elite co-sponsors of the event, UBS, Maybach and Escada, giving this world premier event a final touch of sophistication. Boarding Marco Polo from either the starboard gangway or from the stern platform presents unique entry experiences. Passing through the starboard entry, I entered a refined lobby area offering immediate views through the dining and saloon areas.
From the aft deck, the indoor/outdoor bar counter to port and the drop-opening windows to starboard offer a unique connection between exterior and interior spaces. The intention, intention, beautifully realised, was to create a seamless connection between the yacht’s different spaces. The owner and guests also have use of a library and entertainment lounge forward of the main deck, both with exceptionally large windows and views to match.
The new Marco Polo Series 45 metre Transoceanic Explorer yacht has been designed to explore the world’s most remote regions, with self sufficiency a clear priority. Generous bilge storage spaces and a large foredeck hold area are key features. To port, an open-well deck allows for a 7 metre tender to be stowed below the bulwark height. To starboard, a 5.2 metre tender/rescue boat is housed under a hatch deck. The hatch deck itself has been designed to handle a container or even an automobile when ‘Amazon River’ type cruising is envisaged. There is also potential for jet skis, light aircraft, sailing dinghies and dive equipment to be stowed on board: everything you need to complete the adventure experience! The design is the result of unprecedented collaboration between navel architect Ron Holland, the founder of MCC, Roland Sturm, and project manager Albrecht Buchner. This combination of skills, knowledge and experience has resulted in a vessel able to offer unrestricted long-range world cruising.
The shipyard responsible for construction is Cheoy Lee. This world-class company has been a major shipbuilder for well over a century. From humble beginnings a building and a repair yard for steam-powered craft at Po Tung Point, Shanghai in 1870, Cheoy Le has grown to become a leading builder of specialist vessels. Responding to world events in 1936, the business was moved to the British territory of Hong Kong where it continued to prosper. Run by the same family since its inception, Cheoy Lee has maintained the principles of the company - quality, technology and superior design - for generations.
With the unique Marco Polo Transoceanic Explorer Yacht concept, MCC and Cheoy Lee have set a new point of reference for both style and seaworthiness in the Explorer Yacht sector. Most Explorer Yachts are derived from offshore supply vessel designs: coast guard fast patrol oats, tugs or naval hulls and even more bruising species, such as German frigates. They all have one thing in common: they are built to penetrate the worst the sea can throw at them. For these beasts, a major storm is a walk in the park. This in stark contrast to the “chicken boats”, as I call them, who immediately seek protection in harbours when the weather turns ugly! Most of the current explorer yachts feature rugged hulls and clever system redundancies enabling them to be self sufficient on long cruises but, with the focus on maximum sea worthiness rather than open air cocktail parties, they tend to fall down on their looks. Some might go so far as to say they are downright ugly! Not so with Marco Polo, she is a beauty in her own right. Ron Holland has married perfect superstructure proportions with hardcore offshore hull engineering. Not an easy task. But the 45 metre Transoceanic Explorer is proof that such a project can yield great results.
If we are thinking about transoceanic cruising, we must allow ourselves a minute or two to consider fuel efficiency. In the roaring 80s of last century, it might have not have mattered if you were burning a couple of hundred litres of diesel per hour. But with the barrel price of 2007 some five times higher than in 1980, fuel consumption is a pressing concern. Fuel efficiency is a direct result of a good, well thought through hull design. The better the hull design, the better the fuel efficiency. An explorer yacht burns, depending on its size, anything up to 500 litres per hour. In normal conditions at an efficient 10.5 knots cruising speed, Marco Polo burns a mere 100 litres of diesel per hour. Her fuel load of 59,000 litres allows her to comfortably run some 6,000 Nautical miles. And if you reduce your cruising speed a tad you get even more mileage. I call this true autonomy for such a compact 45m vessel. This great fuel ratio is achieved thanks to the clever single propeller design with variable pitch blades. This blade design, protected by large twin rudders, is commonly used by the most modern commercial and naval vessels. The hull design is also made for a twin engine, twin screw configuration for future new buildings, depending on the customer’s wish.
Another important aspect to be mentioned here is the engine configuration with its special “bring me home” concept. Often vessels become incapacitated due to shortcuts or flooded engine rooms. I know one specific example of a large yacht cruising the med. She hit a storm head on. The laundry machine tower was not properly secured in the laundry room. Through the heavy pitch and roll of the vessel, the topheavy washing machine became dislodged and crashed down … right onto an essential high power and control line cable boom. The subsequent shortcut rendered entire vessel immobile. She suffered an engine-out state on both propulsion systems for several hours. And this was in the midst of a Beaufort 7 to 8 mistral storm! With luck and through swift action of the top engineers onboard, the situation was resolved and the mega yacht was able to restart its machines and navigate into the waves. Still, hardly an ideal situation. So what is the back-up propulsion secret on the Marco Polo? It is the German Schottel vector-thruster with a remote, independent engine located forward. This arrangement is new to the yachting world, but not to offshore supply vessels and the like. In case of total loss of the main propulsion, the Marco Polo can still go home at 6 knots, even over long distances.
Although the hull is as rugged as a fast Navy Patrol boat, the Marco Polo is very appealing to the eye. She has a look that makes you want to climb onboard and just leave the pier, to cast off and explore. The proportions and positioning of the superstructure softens its lines: a true storm runner clad in a chic suit. Not too shrill in its design, she is somewhat conservative, certainly no show off like some of the gin palaces of the 1980s. Commanding such a vessel in bad seas, if possible at the helm on the fly bridge, is truly exhilarating. You feel the power of the ocean, the water spraying over the top and the rumbling noise of your steel hull crashing into the waves, fighting with the elements on the high seas.
In contrast to the rather tight, navy-like interiors of a heavy duty, ocean going, blue water vessel, the Marco Polo features luxurious contemporary east meets west interior design, with a whiff of Asian influence, but always with an eye on functionality. Fine handpicked woods such as Macassar ebony have been chosen to create a warm yet modern ambiance. After all, you want to feel cosy when anchored in some remote area in the Ushuaia Bay, a view of the southernmost tail of the Andes as your backdrop, don’t you?
The yacht has ample space for four to five double cabins and a crew of eight to nine. Special attention was given to the separate crew area. For an Explorer Yacht doing long cruises far from home, a motivated crew adds to the safety as well as the enjoyment of the voyage. Since crews on such boats are rarely in their land homes, the owner decided to create them a “home away from home”. The captain’s double cabin is situated forward on the main deck in what could be considered the very best location on the yacht. Direct access to both the wheelhouse and crew mess area steps put the captain in the very centre of the action.
So where do you want to go first? Why not visit the sea lions off the shores of Ushuaia, via Micronesia, the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Tonga, Bora-Bora, and other exotic paradise spots on the way? All this is possible for the stylin’ marathon runner Marco Polo. A brand new version of the featured yacht will set you back US$19.5 million. You get a lot of ship for your money, allowing you to explore the seven seas self sufficiently in total safety and bespoke luxury. Interested? For a closer look, head to the French Riviera where she will be cruising for the summer before casting off for her maiden Trans Atlantic voyage to the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show in October.