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Heesen Man of Steel

Although she wasn't named after Superman, this 121-foot Heesen would make an excellent addition to the resources of the Justice League of America.

That's because Man of Steel (named for her owner's business interests in the steel industry) not only made it through a delivery from Holland to the Canary Islands in weather that was, to say the least, awful, but also did a transatlantic crossing on her own bottom immediately thereafter. All with nary a mechanical failure or damage (outside of normal wear from people aboard).

None of this elicits so much as a blink from Capt. Nigel Jenkins, master of Man of Steel, or Thom Conboy, head of Heesen Yachts of North America. It reveals the confidence they each had--and continue to have--in the all-aluminum, semidisplacement yacht, the fourth launch in Heesen's 3700 Series. It also reveals how Heesen, a yard that has earned a reputation for delivering speedy megayachts, puts a priority on other aspects of performance and takes a bit of a different approach than some yards to series construction.

Take the delivery cruise, for example. Even though Heesen had performed tank testing on a scale model before introducing the series, and even though the first three launches in the series had performed as expected by the time Man of Steel was ready for her handover in October of last year, the wheel remained firmly in the hands of James Hurley, Heesen's corporate captain and after-sales representative. After all, as he puts it, "We know the boat, so it makes more sense to do it this way." The Heesen team is intimately familiar with the yacht, he explains, and can therefore quickly isolate a problem if one happens to arise--much quicker than the owner's captain and crew, though they are given on-site training, so to speak, during the delivery.

And boy, what training they got on this trip. As Hurley reported to the yard, "The yacht left on Saturday 16 October, and the forecast was unfavorable. When we were underway we decided to go via the Bay of Biscay because of the bad weather and wait in La Coruna for it to pass. As far as Brest we had bow waves of [six and a half to eight feet]. After Brest they were even higher, but because they weren't presenting the yacht with any problems, we decided not to stop in La Coruna and just carry on."

Even with the lack of problems, the decision to have Man of Steel do the transatlantic crossing wasn't taken lightly. The original idea was to put the 121-footer on a yacht-transport ship. But Jenkins realized close to delivery time that the ship's schedule wouldn't get the yacht to Florida in time for the owner's planned cruise. Wisely enough, well before the delivery date, he had inquired with the yard's representatives as to whether a worst-case scenario of an Atlantic crossing would be feasible. The information he was given was reassuring: While Man of Steel was intended for a maximum speed of 32 knots, throttled back to 10 knots, the yacht (135 tons at light displacement) would see a range of 3,200 miles. This, of course, is the advantage of building a semidisplacement yacht--granting the ability to vary speeds within a broad range to maximize efficiency (and even to outrun storms, if any were to arise). The throttled-back speed and resulting range would allow Man of Steel to reach refueling stops comfortably.

Six thousand miles and four weeks after departing Heesen's yard in Holland, Man of Steel arrived stateside to the delight of her owner and his family. They're self-described avid boaters, more likely to kick back onboard in comfortable clothing than be part of the see-and-be-seen set in the Med. And their yacht reflects their style, which is another example of how Heesen takes a different approach from some other yards offering series builds. From the stainless steel inlays in the bamboo soles--and the use of bamboo itself--to the satin-finished, aptly named zebrano wood (complete with stripes) on bulkheads, the owners, in collaboration with Omega Architects, truly customized the interior.

It wasn't just customized for taste; when you realize an eight-year-old and four-year-old are part of the family, the choices take on a more practical sense. Bamboo, for example, is known for its durability, and zebrano has dark tones (helpful for camouflaging marks). The kids are also the reason one of the three guest staterooms is outfitted with two sets of bunk beds; the top bunks can fold down when their little friends aren't cruising with the family (or perhaps when the parents can convince the kids that their teddy bears don't need beds to themselves).

The parents didn't leave their own needs out of the equation, of course. Instead of having four guest staterooms below decks, as other launches in the 3700 Series feature, they opted to turn one of the rooms into a gym for themselves. There are also luxurious touches throughout the yacht, graced with a Zen-like Asian feel. Leather covers the bulkheads in the saloon, and one such panel retracts to reveal a plasma TV. The saloon itself is circular, a nice departure from the typical arrangement aboard megayachts. Up on the flying bridge, there are integrated misters and an electrically retractable awning that shades both forward and aft of the radar arch.

While the owner and his family are continuing to enjoy Man of Steel--"He's thrilled to bits with it," Jenkins avers--they're already looking forward to their next boat, a 164-footer, also being built by Heesen. Given the mettle the 121-footer has shown thus far, it's logical to conclude that this is the reason the yard got the contract. But according to Jenkins, who's serving as the project manager, the owner actually signed the contract the day this yacht was launched, to take advantage of an earlier delivery date as compared to waiting a few months to sign a contract and therefore possibly having the delivery end up being in 2008.

No word yet on whether the larger yacht will display the Superman-like emblem that this Man of Steel shows off at her transom. Regardless, don't pass the news along to the members of the Justice League; next thing you know, Wonder Woman will want to trade in her invisible plane.

Heesen Yachts ( (954) 522-2300. www.heesenyachts.nl.)

This article originally appeared in the June 2006 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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