by Des Ryan
Those who watch the yachting world closely are used to seeing the world's billionaires competing to see who can build larger and ever larger superyachts, but the word 'sailing' mostly doesn't figure - until now.
Eos, now the world’s largest
40-year-old Russian billionaire Andrey Melnichenko first made waves when he launched 'A,' a 396-foot motor yacht, but now he wants to build the largest sailing boat in the world, a title currently held by Eos or the Maltese Falcon, depending on how you measure them.
The design is likely to be radical if his past reputation is anything to go by. 'A', styled by the architect and designer Philippe Starck, has a stealthy, knife-like design that many likened to a submarine or battleship.
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According to industry executives, Melnichenko and his yacht team are in the early stages of building the yacht. It is reported somewhere in the 400-foot range.
But it's pretty hard to find out anything else. Melnichenko and his staff have been tight-lipped about the new yacht. A spokesman for Melnichenko refused to comment on any details. No photos or blueprints for the boat have been released and very few yachting executives have even seen the plans.
But according to contractors and companies that are have been involved with the project, the new boat will be 'sail-assisted' – meaning that it will be powered with both motors and sails. Two people involved in the project say the hull bears some similarities to 'A,' with a low-slung, modern look. But another said the hull is 'quite different from ‘A.’ '
The sails of the new ship will be raked, or angled backward, giving it a sleeker look compared to boats with straighter masts, like Maltese Falcon.
Another feature that makes the new boat unusual, according to CNBC, is the business plan. Most mega-yachts are built by one of the 'big three' builders – Lurssen, Feadship or Blohm & Voss. When it comes to sailing yachts, Perini Navi rules the seas.
Melnichenko's own team will manage the construction of his new yacht. It’s being built in the Nobiskrug shipyard in Germany, which is controlled by Abu Dhabi MAR. While it’s unusual for an owner to manage his own project, one industry executive told CNBC Melnichenko’s private team is 'among the best in the industry. His guys know more than many of the major builders.'
The total cost of the boat is unclear, since it’s still in the early planning and building stages. Experts say the cost will likely exceed $100 million. Industry experts say work has started on the hull and that it will be funded as construction progresses.
But don't get excited yet - the yacht isn't expected to hit the water until 2015 or 2016.