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Jeff Bezos’s New Superyacht Heralds Roaring Market For Big Boats

Jeff Bezos’s New Superyacht Heralds Roaring Market For Big Boats

Even in the ostentatious world of superyachts, project Y721 stands out.

When completed, it will be 127 meters (417 feet) long, span several decks and sport three enormous masts, according to the scant information available on the website of its manufacturer and various online bulletin boards of yachting enthusiasts. That will make it one of the largest sailing yachts ever built in the Netherlands, the unofficial capital of boat building for the extremely rich.

Or in this case, for the richest of the rich: Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com Inc.’s founder and the wealthiest person on the planet, owns the boat that’s set to move to a new shipyard for completion next month, according to people familiar with the billionaire’s pet project. A spokesman for Oceanco, the Dutch yachtmaker responsible for the ship, declined to comment.

Bezos’s superyacht, which likely will cost upwards of $500 million to build and have its own support yacht with a helipad, is the latest accessory — along with the Washington Post, the movies, the tabloid scandal — heralding the Amazon mogul’s transformation from geeky technologist to globe-trotting megabillionaire. It’s an indication of the enormity of a fortune that’s accrued even faster as the world has been upended by a devastating pandemic.

It’s also a testament to a fiercely secretive industry that by all accounts has thrived as a direct result of Covid-19, and a stark embodiment of the widening chasm between the fortunes of the super-rich and almost everyone else over the past 14 months. Steven Spielberg has a new yacht on order, as well, according to three people familiar with the director’s plans, who weren’t authorized to speak publicly about it. His current yacht was recently listed for sale for 131 million euros ($158 million). A spokesman for Spielberg declined to comment.

“The market’s been roaring,” said Sam Tucker, head of superyacht research at London-based VesselsValue. The number of transactions in recent quarters “was record-breaking -- the second-hand market is absolutely red hot.

If anything, demand for extravagantly high-end yachts has outstripped supply. “It’s impossible to get a slot in a new-build yard,” Tucker said. “They’re totally booked.”

The inland waterways of northern Germany, home to several highly regarded shipbuilders, are crammed with the city block-size steel hulls of future superyachts as well as existing yachts back for a spruce-up. In total, there are about 50 boats longer than 100 meters currently under construction, Tucker said. Bremen-based Luerssen is responsible for 10 of them.

Covid wasn’t a factor when Bezos put in his order a couple years ago, but it has contributed to the industry’s boom. With galas canceled and land borders closed, yachting suddenly seemed the best option for private, socially distanced leisure and a good way to escape from the prying eyes of the public that might look askance at wealthy overindulgence during difficult times.

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