In the past, an expedition superyacht was often a converted ocean-going workboat, such as a navy vessel or fishing boat. Tough, seaworthy hulls were refitted with luxurious staterooms and generous spaces for engineering, tenders and crew, to allow for extended periods at sea.
Alas, converted yachts didn’t always have the spaces available for double helidecks or submersibles, which are now key features in any self-respecting expedition yacht. To address this, and the growing demand for the joys of expeditions at sea, Damen Yachting launched the first yachts of its new SeaXplorer series last year, which have been designed with input from Eyos Expeditions Co-Founder Rob McCallum.
The SeaXplorer concept, first developed in 2015, is meant to have the range and capabilities that a proper expedition yacht should have, while also having the good looks and styling needed to fit comfortably in the world’s major superyacht hot spots. It is a balancing act that Damen has largely pulled off, with an aggressive hull shape that is both stylish and seaworthy.
To date, Damen has sold three SeaXplorers. Brazilian-born, Swiss-based Jorge Paulo Lemann reportedly bought the first SeaXplorer, the 62-metre Anawa, which has been photographed in Scandinavia.
The second yacht launched last year was the 77-metre La Datcha. It was commissioned by Russian businessman Oleg Tinkov, who made his money in luxury hospitality and finance. La Datcha’s high bow and thick hull means she is able to break ice up to 40 centimetres thick; one of the first superyachts to have this capability. It can reportedly remain alone at sea for up to 40 days. That, according to McCallum, is the key capability for any expedition yacht worthy of the name.
In March, Damen revealed a revamped SeaXplorer 77 design, after a “comprehensive review” by the in-house SeaXplorer design team together with Azure Yacht Design and Eyos Expeditions. The update’s features include a multipurpose aft deck that can be modified for a variety of requirements, such as deploying a seaplane or hangaring a 7-person submarine. All SeaXplorers are now offered with hybrid electrical drive propulsion and battery bank for efficient cruising. The third in the series, SeaXplorer 58, is currently in build, with delivery in 2022.
Beyond the independence, there are the toys. On La Datcha, there are a lot of them. Helicopters are now a must-have for expedition superyachts, and La Datcha is equipped to stow and operate two large helicopters. There is a below-deck hanger for one helicopter and a standby deck for the second. Tinkov, an avid heli-skier, has said that the helicopters are about exploring inland in remote places such as Greenland.
Whether guests wish to land on an icy shore to observe penguins or dock at the Monaco Yacht Club, La Datcha has the tender
But the helicopters are just the beginning. Among the tenders there is a VIP/rescue tender, a dive support tender, a beach landing tender and two RIBs for exploration. Whether guests wish to land on an icy shore to observe penguins or dock at the Monaco Yacht Club, La Datcha has the tender.
Of course, submersibles have evolved from the stuff of fantasy to mainstream. La Datcha has a three-person submersible from Triton, capable of dives to 500 metres, stored in its cavernous toy storage area. An assortment of toys, including snow scooters, wave runners, Seabobs, kayaks, surfboards and windsurf gear are all on hand. The dive centre features Nitrox servicing for longer stays underwater and a decompression chamber.
As if all of this is not enough, the designers accounted for the needs of guests who may be straggling in after a cold day exploring sea life. There are hot tubs inside and out, with a hot tub on the sun deck, letting guests enjoy an après ski in ultimate style. There are change rooms that let guests get in and out of their cold-weather gear easily.
Charter guests are going to be able to explore the most remote regions of the world in comfort and safety. There are two master cabins to create flexibility for charter parties’ living arrangements. There are six cabins in total, accommodating 12 guests.
There is also accommodation for up to 25 crew, allowing for pilots, guides, engineers and stewards for a complete experience. There is even an on-board medical facility to provide emergency treatment, should the need arise. The facility can provide remote assistance.
La Datcha will be available for charter in 2021 in some of the most remote – and sought after – destinations
The guest cabins and lounges are designed to provide a soothing, relaxing experience. There are fine materials in use, but the interior is meant for people to relax and talk before embarking on the day’s adventure or just after. Taupe and turquoise materials mingle with wood finishes and marble inlays throughout the yacht, creating a suitable background to the visual feast just beyond the ultra-large windows.
One room that guests will no doubt enjoy, particularly during visits to the polar regions, will be the forward observation lounge on the upper deck. This small, forward-facing lounge enjoys a 270-degree view of the surrounding seascape. Guests can go through a hatch-door forward to an outdoor observation post that sits right at the vertical bow.
It’s a testament to this yacht’s purpose that guests should want to enjoy a warm drink while observing the world around them.
La Datcha will be available for charter in 2021 in some of the most remote – and sought after – destinations. A tour through the Indian Ocean will proceed up to the Russian Arctic and Kamchatka Peninsula over the summer. This is to be followed by a tour of Melanesia and the South Pacific, before heading to Antarctica. Bill Gates is reportedly among the confirmed guests this year.
Expedition-style superyachts are becoming as popular as sailing superyachts in terms of yards’ order books. Yachts like La Datcha are sure to boost demand even further. Damen Yachting reports that a third SeaXplorer, a 55 metre, is now in build. Damen offers four options, from 55 metres to 105 metres.
Technical specifications: La Datcha
Beam overall: 14m
Draught (full load): 3.8m
Gross tonnage: 2,560
Design exterior: Azure Yacht Design
Design interior: Vasiliy Shprits
Naval architecture: Damen Yachting
Maximum speed: 14.5 knots
Range @ 12.0 kts: 6,000nm
Cabin configuration: 2 masters, 4 convertible cabins
Crew: 24 and captain
To charter: www.edmiston.com