Published in: Monday, 01 November 2010
Features > McMullen and Wing - Big Fish (Page 1/2)

McMullen and Wing - Big Fish

Hong Kong businessman and yacht aficionado Richard Beattie spent three years overseeing the building of his vision of what a super-yacht should be, and the result, Big Fish, caters to charterers wanting fun, sun and waterborne exploration.

There is a variety of superyacht owners. Some may prefer their yachts to feature chandeliers and cut flowers, while they sit stern-to at a marina in some fabulous location. Others, like Hong Kong businessman Richard Beattie, see their yachts as ways to explore the world’s most incredible marine locations with luxury, amenity and five-star services.

Beattie, who founded retail marketing consultancy firm The Continuity Company, had owned a large Azimut, which he kept in Palawan in the Philippines for at least half the year. “We were always chasing fuel,” he says of that time, noting that getting to Palawan’s most beautiful locations could require plenty of logistical support. Beattie, who is an avid Scuba diver, wanted his yacht to explore. Perhaps its was the long distances of Southeast Asia that prompted the creation of Big Fish.

During a discussion with his captain, Beattie came up with the broad outlines of a yacht that would serve the needs of the owner and charter guests that wanted to explore the world’s greatest dive spots and beaches. From this discussion, a plan was hatched to create a series of yachts that would be platforms for fun and exploration in remote locations. A new company was formed, Aquos Yachts, to head up this series of yachts and help market them.

“I wanted a yacht that could go three, four even five months unassisted, and be able to go anywhere,” says Beattie, whose dream yacht would “never have to worry about refuelling”.

Beattie ultimately turned to New Zealand’s McMullen & Wing, which has a history of building unique boats, and Canadian naval architect and designer Greg Marshall. It was working with Marshall that produced some of the greatest moments in the design evolution of what was to be Big Fish. “I got really involved in the design process with Greg. I really enjoyed it, and I was a little surprised by that. I was taking frequent trips to his office in Victoria, BC, and he was visiting Hong Kong a lot.”

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That investment of time has resulted in a yacht that is very pleasing to the outdoors yachting enthusiast. “After spending so much time on the design and knowing all the work that’s gone into making ideas work, it’s great when you walk around and see these things in reality, and you just go, ‘wow!’,” Beattie says of his last sojourn onboard Big Fish – a pleasant two-week stay in French Polynesia.

More importantly for Beattie and potential charter clients, the 45-metre Big Fish ultimately delivered on her promise of freedom from fuel worries, with a range of 10,000 nautical miles and the ability to go for three months or more without resupply. In addition to developing a purpose-built hull that underwent tank testing and computer testing, everything that could be done to reduce the amount of fuel used was done. Excess heat generated by the engines is used to heat water, and low power LED lighting was used throughout. At eight knots, this yacht, with gross tonnage of 498 tonnes, burns just 80 litres/hour. Yet, Big Fish still has a very respectable range of 5000 nautical miles at 15 knots, with a top speed of 16 knots. This is all packaged in an angular yet fun-loving exterior design.

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Getting your feet in the water

One of the first things that the casual observer notes about Big Fish is the aft swim platform – it’s enormous. While many superyachts nowadays include a large swim platform, or the so-called “beach club” option, Big Fish takes this several steps further, with a fold-out resort area that lets guests walk around the entire aft-end of the yacht. The sides of the yacht fold down in such a way so that guests or crew can retrieve everything from Scuba gear to surfboards and deploy them straight to the water.

From this point, guests can go up the gently sloping steps to a large main-deck aft sunpad area. From this area, the smaller tenders can be deployed as well. Guests choosing to lounge about on Big Fish’s aft area are protected during the day by awnings that can be deployed on the outer edges of the fully-extended swim pad. During the night, torches can be placed instead, for an end-of-day experience that’s unrivalled.

In keeping with the water sports emphasis of Big Fish, there are plenty of toys, but also a sailing dinghy for those who prefer wind power for a break from the diesel engines. Along with the complete outfitting for Scuba, charter guests can enjoy the world’s most amazing marine destinations in every way possible. “I wanted a swim platform where you felt that you could just put your feet in the water”, says Beattie. “When I was on-board other yachts, it often seemed like we were far above the water.”

Heading on-board, one finds the interesting effect of over US$1 million worth of glass and a dedication to making the yacht feel like an outside resort. Beattie says that he found his time aboard so many yachts to be a bit depressing, owing to the darkness and the cramped feel. To remedy this, he wanted to create an owner’s suite that sits on the bridge deck, aft the helm, and taking up the full beam of the yacht, rather than having a suite located below decks. But the main point is the windows.

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“We used so much glass and made such large windows that it actually became a structural issue (during the design phase),” says Beattie. The effect of that glass is to create one of the brightest atmospheres on-board a luxury yacht that a guest could hope for. The master cabin offers 270-degree views from many metres above the waterline, making for spectacular mornings.

The main saloon and dining area are similarly well-lit and bright, bringing the “outside in”, as Beattie would have it. In the dining area, two drop down terraces further open the space up, giving room for cool ocean breezes to pass through, and making the overall space bigger.

Connecting all three decks is a wide-open staircase which, unlike many other staircases aboard yachts, invites viewing – literally. For the entire height of the staircase, there is a 30-foot high video wall capable of showing movies, videos of the day’s events, or even displaying artwork.

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Adding to the sense of fun that pervades this yacht are such touches as a whale and dolphin-spotting pod, located on the radar mast above the sundeck. The sundeck itself contains all the ingredients for a great party after the day’s fun, underwater or above. Here, there is a forward-facing Jacuzzi and sunpads protected by a windscreen. Aft is the dining and service area, and aft still, storage for a rescue tender and the sailing dinghy.

Heading back down to the main level, guests and servers can be kept neatly separated, with the main staircase dividing the dining area from the galley and serving spaces. Crew areas are all located forward, keeping the separation easy and yielding plenty of space for the crew.

Keeping charter guests happy

As much as it’s a personal vision of Richard Beattie, Big Fish is also very much meant to be a charter yacht. “We (Marshall and Beattie) worked closely with my charter agency at 37 South with regard to chartering, and they gave us a lot of input,” Beattie says of the yacht’s design.

A key element that emerged was the need to lower the maintenance work as much as possible. The reasoning: if there’s less to maintain, then the crew can devote more time to actually serving charter guests and keeping them happy.

To that end, Big Fish incorporates a number of intriguing design choices, foremost of which is the flooring. Traditionally, superyachts make extensive use of teak decking; Big Fish is the first to use an epoxy-infused granite decking on the exterior surfaces. In addition to being lighter (and greener), the granite surfacing is much cooler underfoot in the hot sun, and there’s no problem with high heels or any other type of foot wear. And most importantly, it’s easily cleaned. To date, Big Fish is the only superyacht to employ this kind of material in its construction, though that may not remain the case for very long.

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Another interesting design choice is in the accommodation. Big Fish’s lower decks have four VIP cabins that can be combined to make two, full-beam cabins that rival the owner’s cabin for spaciousness. According to Beattie, this lets charter parties enjoy more equality if a smaller group of families wishes it. These cabins have very large windows as well, letting in much more light than is the norm on cabins below decks. Retractable walls in each pair of VIP cabins let Big Fish accommodate a variable sized charter party quite easily