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Are we good with Superyachts again?
Media organizations tried — and failed, miserably over the course of a year — to get over SuperYachts.
Media organizations tried — and failed, miserably — to get over SuperYachts. Our backs collectively turned; our gazes averted, and the SuperYachting industry decided, in retrospect wisely, to ride out the polarizing times. Because we just couldn’t quit their supple aft decks and their — cough, cough — inviting, spread eagle open balconies. The sex appeal of the luxurious trappings of wealth were ultimately too much of a temptation for the lusty glossies to resist. The sustained moral effort necessary to push back against the extreme excesses of the superrich just wasn’t there. No gas — no pun intended — was left in the tank after a year of going cold turkey. Instead of investigative journalism on the bullshit that goes on at the annual Palm Beach International Boat Show, or with an expose on the web of offshore shell companies enabling this thusness, CNN Travel went with this hard-hitting piece of … journalism, titled “Secrets of a SuperYacht chef cooking for the 1%.”
Which pretty much says it all …
The triumph of luxury and gossip over substance. Because who would want to substantially explore the question as to why so many shell companies in the Cayman and Marshall islands exist to hide the actual ownership of these sea monsters? Forbes would rather that you know the Top 5 Superyachts to see at the Palm Beach International Boat Show. The media’s brief, doomed battle against the SuperYachts, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is officially over. Now, fetch yourself a spicy marguerita by the virtual aquarium.
It goeth without saying that the mainstream media is once again cool-de-la with SuperYachts as a concept. Vanity Fair is back to covering Leo DiCaprio’s bikini model carousing on “the SuperYachts.” Spywitnesses tell us that the ecdysiast and devout practicing environmentalist was showcasing his “buff physique” with a “bikini clad babe” off the coast of “Sardinia.” Fer realsies?! Did the devout environmentalist land on the SuperYacht via a private jet lent by a billionaire bro? Enquiring minds have to know. Those spywitnesses, as deep as a finger bowl to be sure, are with the Daily Mail. Charmed, I’m sure!
Our supremely divided Congress even passed a bill — 417 to 8 — urging the President to seize the oligarch’s ill-begotten SuperYachts. The toxicity of the culture bears some examination. “A 2018 survey by the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network found that more than half of the women who work as yacht crew had experienced harassment, discrimination, or bullying on board,” reports Evan Osnos in the New Yorker article titled, pitch-p;erfectly, The Haves and the Have Yachts. But, alas, it was not to be. Further: rich tourists! And while there was a good faith effort this time last year on the part of media organizations to reflect the popular opprobrium in democracies against the the favorite toys of corrupt, middle aged Russian oligarchs with dropping testosterone levels, that time has sadly passed.
There was, once upon a time last year, a popular consensus that Superyachts — for sustainability, for temperance, for the Ukrainian war effort — were, in general, bad things. “Friends and former colleagues working on several other boats have reported that female crew members are forced to test regularly for sexually transmitted diseases,” Jasper Jolly reports for The Guardian. Floating theaters of inequality is, perhaps, a more forceful way of putting it. The fact that cartoonishly evil Russian oligarchs purchased these pleasure palaces with wealth horded from the natural resources of their own country was just a sidebar. And what actually went on in international waters on them is also naught else but very skeevy. But as the summer of 2023 rolls on, it appears that the good will effort by mainstream media organizations to villainize SuperYachts has, quite frankly, altogether evaporated in the swirl of the infinity pool.
SuperYachtiness is a hot state of being once again. Akin to nirvana — or at least samsara — social metaphysicists might say. “By the end of the 3rd quarter of 2022 the overall sales of 30m+ yachts in 2022 are already higher than sales of any previous whole year except 2021 in almost all segments of the market,” says something called YachtHarbor.com, breathlessly.
One piece of semi-good news comes out of all of this, however, is the story of the Alpha Nero. The abandoned $120 million foot superyacht “Alpha Nero” is (finally) going to be auctioned off now that the sanctions against it have been lifted by the US Treasury Department. "The 267-foot Alfa Nero, replete with a baby grand piano and Miro painting, was ditched in Antigua’s Falmouth Harbor in March 2022 after Russian troops invaded Ukraine," Bloomberg's Stephanie Taylor writes. The Antiguan government, which had a GDP in 2020 of $1.52 billion, will get to keep the proceeds, which are estimated to be around $70 million.
Imagine, if you will, the Neronian levels of perversion that would lead the owner of a $120 million property — “fertilizer magnate” Andrey Guryev, no joke — to just abandon ship in an Antigua port and just … rethink his life. Maybe start a new career; get a wife; settle down in the countryside, that’s the ticket. It truly boggles the imagination. Self preservation, I suppose, is a hell of an instinct, especially among the (allegedly) wicked.
Ideally, to this writer’s mind, the Alpha Nero would be stripped, scrapped with the valuables auctioned off to go to Antigua, which has been maintaining the vessels all this time. But I’ll just take what I can get at this point.
Because media organizations just love the excesses of billionaires. Jeff Bezos getting engaged on a SuperYacht drives eyeballs. Those stories are so much more sexy than, say, the troubles of the poor. Those persistent, messy, difficult urban problems are best left to be kicked further on down the road, maybe for another generation to deal with …
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