Russian's superyacht visits Sounds

SVEN HERSELMAN AND FAIRFAX NZ
Last updated 07:30 26/03/2014
Superyacht 'A'
Derek Flynn

The Superyacht 'A' anchored near Mabel Island near Picton in the Marlborough Sounds.

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The Marlborough Sounds played host to one of the world's most striking superyachts with the arrival of "A" yesterday morning.

The huge yacht was anchored discreetly out of sight of the Picton foreshore between Kaipupu Point and Mabel Island yesterday. There was some activity with doors at the stern opening up to launch a tender, but it was not known if anyone aboard the yacht went ashore.

The luxury motot yacht is owned by Russian fertiliser and chemical magnate Andrey Melnichenko, who is worth an estimated US$14.8 billion (NZ$17.2b).

His superyacht arrived in Wellington Harbour at 3.30pm on Saturday afternoon and is understood to have departed at 5.30am yesterday. It has been a regular sight at Auckland's Viaduct since last September.

It is said to be worth US$350m and is the largest superyacht to have visited New Zealand.

At 119 metres long and 5959 gross tons, A is a metre longer than New Zealand's two warships, the frigates Te Kaha and Te Mana, which weigh in at 3600 tons.

Built in Germany in 2008 by Blohm + Voss (the Hamburg firm that built the battleship Bismarck in World War II and designed the frigates that New Zealand's two warships are based upon), it is touted as one of the finest yachts in the world. It is considerably bigger than the largest New Zealand-owned superyacht, Graham Hart's modest 77-metre Weta.

The Wall Street Journal is one of the few media outlets to have been aboard.

Reporter Robert Frank went aboard in Barbados and noted that at the top of a spiral staircase lined with scalloped, silver-leaf walls is a door accessible by a fingerprint security system.

"It opens to an all-white, 2583-square-foot master suite wrapped in bomb-proof, 44-millimetre glass," he said.

Designed by Philippe Starck, A has become one of the most loved and loathed ships in the world.

"With its radical shape - more sleek submarine than boxy pleasure boat - and reams of custom parts and finishes (including bath knobs costing US$40,000 apiece), ‘A' is a conspicuous marker of an ocean-going plutocracy that's largely been untouched by the recession," the WSJ noted.

The yacht is highly secure, with its rounded exterior and knife-like hull making it difficult to board.

It has 44 security cameras and more than a dozen exterior cameras fitted with motion-detection systems and a night-vision infrared system.

WSJ said the Melnichenkos make frequent changes in itinerary and do not spend much time in any one port, preferring to roam the seas for weeks at a time.

Melnichenko founded a bank in 1993 and then moved into pipe manufacturing and fertiliser and chemicals.

Melnichenko's wife, Aleksandra - the A in the ship's name - is a former Serbian model and pop singer.

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- The Marlborough Express

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