St. Barths Online


May 18, 2011

The Eclipse, no ordinary yacht.

Eclipse YachtIt probably hasn't escaped your attention that, with modern methods of transport, measuring and telecommunication, no "terra incognita" is safe from the crazed enthusiasm of certain explorers of scientists. Everything has already been discovered and minutely placed on the maps. Powerful satellites observe us and gauge us. If there's a crack in one of the tiles of your grandmother's garden terrace at her house in the middle of a country village, then NASA, the secret services, the FBI and goodness knows who else, are already aware of it! It's rather simple, everything in this world of ours has been prospected, calibrated, measured and labelled.

Absolutely everything? Thankfully, no. If you have a tuba, a good diving suit, a ruler and additionally, you move in an aquatic environment with the grace of a duck billed platypus, I might have found a way to help you make a bit of cash this winter. Because, let me tell you, there exists a great question and many specialized journalists that would give their shirts, mothers, wives, mistresses and pension funds in the hope to get the answer.

Everything started in 2008 at the corner of a table in a small office in Hamburg. The greatest naval architects and designers have joined together because the stakes are high. The oligarch and petro-millionaire Roman Abramovich arduously wants to have built the biggest private yacht in the world. But he had one condition and it wasn't the lesser for it. The total length of his future boat had to be much, much longer than 162 metres. This measurement corresponded with the size of the biggest yacht at that time, that of the Sheikh Mohammed Ben Rachid Al Maktoum, emir of Dubaï. Knowing that this boat was going to be the biggest ever built and that it would overshadow all the others, it name was found: "The Eclipse". Furthermore, the engineers of the naval building site of "Blohm & Voss Abteilung Fluzeugbau" had reached a global decision and made sermon on one point: the dimensions of the future boat of mister Abramovich would never be divulged. "Clause of Confidentiality expressed by demand of the Client". To this day, the exact size of the ship still hasn't been revealed despite many hazardous attempts to measure it with tacheometry lasers or approximate comparison through trigonometry using buildings during its inaugural voyages in Germany and in Denmark. The dimensions of the Eclipse still remain a mystery. So, to all you amateurs out there! During the yacht's next overwintering at the bay of Gustavia, you know what to do...

So, if I'm talking to you about this "monster of the seas", it's not by pure coincidence. The Eclipse has just received the title of "Superyacht of the year" during the "World Superyacht Awards 2011" that took place in London on May 7th. Due to the fact that this boat, since it left the building site, has spent the most of its time floating about at Saint-Barth, a little chronicle felt necessary. Trying as usual, to be as didactic as possible...

Roman AbramovichMany people, usually bitter, grumpy, jealous men, consider that the Eclipse is simply another one of the millionaire's greedy impulses and believe that this is but a reflection of a paranoid and megalomaniac personality. For my part, I prefer to remain calm and measured. Roman Abramovich is a mousy, discreet man. His every day life is on occasion in contradiction with his supposed actions. As a set example, many in Saint-Barth will confirm having seen him walking nonchalantly in the streets and the beaches without any protection whatsoever. He even drives his own car: a rather modest Mini Cooper.

In reality, the Eclipse is the fruit of a rather complex, but logical genesis. But also, terribly funny. As a matter of fact, several anecdotes on the subject have been spreading. The most bizarre and far-fetched was that Abramovich, passionate about football, had asked for his boat to be completely armour reinforced in view of an unavoidable trip through the red sea (reputed to be dangerous because of frequent pirate raids), to go and attend the World Cup 2010 in South Africa. There is certainly a germ of truth in all that, but more prosaically... the truth is somewhere else.

It's a fact. The boat is completely armour reinforced and still, that's putting it lightly. Next to the Eclipse, a "Brink's" van would look as safe as a hotdog stand at the beach. When Roman Abramovich gives the means, he's no Scrooge. The 24 cabins of the yacht, (if the word cabin isn't too demeaning knowing that each and every one of them is as big as half a tennis court), are thusly protected from bullets and other projectiles regardless. The portholes are made with reinforced glass and the ventilation system is a closed circuit in case of a chemical gas strike (one can't be too careful). Additionally, it seems that amongst the seventy people that make up the personnel on board, some of them are ex-SAS-soldiers from British special forces and others, ex-agents from Mossad specialized in anti-terrorism. Ok, I have to admit, that's a bit too much to swallow. But when I found out that the boat is also equipped with an anti-missile defence system, I had to say to myself, this Roman, what a comedian! Imagine the next scene:

_« Mr Abramovich, we've localized a missile is heading straight towards us at supersonic speed. »

_« Excellent captain. Thank you for warning me. Tell our guests to put on their hard hats and commence the anti-missile procedure. »

_« And that would be?... »

_« Make the ship go backwards and turn left!! We're going to move around the missile. »

Did you believe it? Then no, I assure you that an anti-missile doesn't work that way. Not even in your dreams! As a matter of fact, I find it shocking that journalists from the entire world stupidly noted this information down without even trying to understand it. When you're going to get hit by a missile, sure it's nice to know in advance, but there aren't many ways to go about solving the issue. Either you send an "anti-missile" missile, or you fill the sky with a battery of anti-air cannons which send 2 x 4500 projectiles per minute. That or a combination of both. A bit like the terrifying soviet "Kashtan" system. But by default, a "Phalanx" or an American "Rolling Airframe Missile" will do the job nicely. (Connoisseurs will know what I'm talking about). In any case, I can assure you this kind of Ball-trap is pretty effective, although slightly pricey. So that's what "anti-missile system" really means. But, he who can do more, can do less. As Abramovich is the kind of person who likes to think ahead, I guess he's done the same thing for underwater attacks. And that he has some kind of measure against mines and an armada to thwart untimely torpedoes. The whole thing understandably, computerized, calculated in real time and piloted by a whole bunch of powerful microprocessors coupled with radars and next-gen satellites. Let's just hope that there's never a "bug" in the whole system or that a young pubescent spot-covered hacker launches the whole firing program from a distance. Because, due to the usual spot occupied by the Eclipse, just outside of the port of Gustavia, certain restaurants won't be safe from receiving a face full of Tomahawk missile. If it isn't even the "Hôtel de la Collectivité"...

_« Mr President sir. »

_« Yes. »

_« Excuse me sir but we've received news that you car has just exploded in the parking lot. »

_« Damn! This is rather embarrassing, but what on earth happened? »

_« We have reasons to believe that Mr Abramovich has once again, pressed the wrong button. »

_« Ah, that Roman! A real kid! Tell my chauffeur to go make a statement. »

I dread to even imagine what would happen, if purely by chance, the Eclipse rammed the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. If all the respective counter-measures were to activate, it would be the beginning of World War Three!! Needless to say that customs or the coast guards of the different nations in the area won't be pushing each other at the queue to inspect the ship or make any routine checks in case of anything that would cause a diplomatic incident or get them a real clobbering from their superiors.

_« Hey, Captain! Have you seen that boat in the horizon ? »

_« No. »

_« But you can't have missed it! I've never seen anything that huge! Hang on.. There's a name! It says E-C-L-I-P-… »

_« No, really, I can't see anything. »

_« What if we inspected it. That would be a good idea »

_« Nope, I wouldn't. Trust me, that isn't a bright idea. »

_« But, I'm sure that if we make a thorough inspection, we're bound to find a whole bunch of interesting stuff. »

_« That's precisely the reason why I told you it wouldn't be a bright idea. So, just humour me by putting down your binoculars, go back to your cabin and play with your PlayStation. And I'm warning you, if you keep on about it, I'll ask to have you transferred and you'll spend the rest of your time inspecting pedal boats at a pond. Is that understood? »

_« Yes sir... »

_« Do you still see a boat? »

_« No sir. »

But seriously folks, this policy about rendering the ship safe could appear a bit exaggerated but it isn't all that disproportionate as we'd all think. The French still remember the hostage taking of the "Ponant" in the Golf of Aden and the Americans more recently, the tragic episode of the "Quest" where four of their compatriots lost their lives, despite the intervention of Navy SEALS, against ruthless Somali pirates armed with Kalashnikovs and rocket launchers. The Red Sea, the fringes of the Horn of Africa and the Golf of Oman, unavoidable passages for any ship that comes from the Suez canal have become real danger zones. Now you might tell me that one doesn't need to sail into inhospitable areas. But that would be forgetting that Abramovich, before being a millionaire, is in all cases, a business man. Skipping a region that includes Saudi Arabia, the Yemen, the Arab Emirates, the Oman sultan, Iran, Iraq and India, would have a disastrous effect. Especially for a man who built his fortune in the gas and petrol industry. In this case, the security measures of his megayacht are a long way from being superfluous. Just like the hospital that takes an important space of the building in case of any eventuality, but also the two helicopter pads. The possibility that two machines could land at the same time is ingenious. In the event of "sensitive" contract signings between to business men who, for reasons of security, have to travel separately. Or are coming from two diametrically opposite places. One doesn't have to see a load of swank in this debauchery of over-equipment present on the Eclipse, but rather a lot of common sense.

Eclipse Yacht Submarine However, certain "options" of the boat are completely crazy, like the presence of a giant aquarium in the middle of the yacht. No doubt the tropical fish of the Caribbean sea aren't good enough for Roman so he decided to bring his own fish? Unless he's got an intensive sturgeon farm for "all you can eat", "home made" caviar? Tried as I might, I'm completely lost with this one. Not only with that but also with the presence of several launchpads with no less than 20 jet-skis! Maybe he's going to open a watersport resort. After all, why not? Times have been difficult. It might not be a bad idea to invest in nautical recreational activities. It's a well known fact that, under times of crisis, people like to entertain themselves. But the best has yet to come. Roman has thought about everything. If, in the event that the ship were to sink, (need I remind you that the boat is unsinkable but, oh well...), where the pirates managed to get the upper hand against his pack of "ninja-samurai-seamen", he could take a secret passage giving access to a decompression room at hull level. There, waiting for him, would be a pocket sized submarine for two that would, in the space of a couple of seconds, leave the boat in distress and navigate in calmer waters at up to a depth of 50 metres. Now that, is cool. Let's just hope that this kind of misadventure never happens in the Sargasso sea, as to not see Roman and his companion Dasha Zhukova up a certain creek without a paddle. Especially if I look at the photo of said "submarine" that I found on the net, I can assure you it won't go far...

_« My Ibby-Wibby-Roman, this submarine trip in clear waters is indeed rather romantic but why aren't we moving? »

_« Errm, the battery's dead... »

_« Then let's climb back up to the surface and deploy the solar panels? »

_« There aren't any »

_« How about the wind turbine? »

_« There isn't one either...»

_« Order the crew to start rowing! »

_« Dasha dear, there's just the two of us. Lost in the middle of the ocean... »

_« But what are we to do? »

_« We'll just wait for the next boat, we'll signal it to come closer and I'll offer the captain to buy his boat. »

_« And what if the boat doesn't belong to him? »

_« Then I'll buy the company and fire him… »

Eclipse Yacht Interior Jokes aside, to those interested, let it be known that the Eclipse also has an oversized suite measuring 465 square metres (with a retractable roof and a private garden), a nightclub with two dance floors, an international library, a cinema, a restaurant, an art gallery, two pools, a massage parlour, a fitness room, a hair salon, several Jacuzzis, a sauna, a Turkish bath, and I've saved the best before last. The Eclipse also has an inside floating port with a capacity of three high speed cabin cruisers. All this for a fee of course. But it's useless to talk about that because at this level, the numbers just won't mean a thing.

Ah, I nearly forgot. The Eclipse comes with an anti-paparazzi system based on a laser interception technique. A beam of light would directly enter the receiver of any camera, disturbing its capacity to save a numeric image. At least, that's what we've been told by the Sunday Times. However, scientists and researchers of the university of Georgia Tech in the USA have succeeded in reproducing this but not without severe difficulties. In fact, they believe that the probability of an image neutralisation in an outdoor environment would be next to nothing. Additionally, my grandmother also realized this. She, who was passing through to Saint Barth, showed me glowing with pride her little photos, showing the Eclipse left right and centre, taken with a digital camera so decrepit that even in a lottery for senior citizens, one would think twice about giving it as a consolation prize. So, on times like this, I would wonder if journalists weren't taking us for a bunch of fools each time they feed us with a new found fact about this mythical yacht. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't be surprised if I heard the following conversations:

_« The Eclipse!! The Russian guy's famous over equipped boat. The one with the bobsleigh course? »

_« The Eclipse? I don't go there anymore. The 18th hole is too stiff. Eventually, I refine my swing on the practice. But more and more rarely… »

_« Ah quel bateau fabuleux. Cependant, la troisième chicane me parait relativement dangereuse. Par contre, quelle tenue de route sur le reste du circuit ! »

_« Ah, what a fantastic boat. Although the chicane seems relatively dangerous to me. But on the other hand, what great roadholding on the rest of the circuit. »

_« The Eclipse! It was incredible In less that an hour, all 85000 places were sold on the net. Chelsea were sold out! What a game! Despite a couple of excesses. The ref got booed at the end of the first half! He didn't give the goal, believing that the pat of the ball was strongly deviated by the pitching and tossing due to the strong North-East winds. Also, 175 supporters had to be fished out by coast-guards.  »

_« Hello Houston, we have a problem. One of our jet-skis has just collided with the international space station. I repeat. Hello Houston, this is the Eclipse… »

What can I say, a man has to dream…

Eclipse Yacht Roof One last thing. If you've been out drinking all night and you want to come back to your annex, whatever you do, don't get on the wrong boat and confuse yours with Roman's. It's to your own risk and peril. If you do, then you're suffering from a rather worrying syndrome. Because confusing one's boat with that of Abramovich, (even when completely slashed), is kind of like confusing the "Stade de France" with a ping-pong table. If in doubt, I suggest you go get a complete health check with your local doctor…

Mathias Durand-Reynaldo

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