Yes, you read that name right: This debut is simply named A. For the better part of this year, online forums, blogs, and even general news sites have been burning up with postings relating to this launch. When the top-secret project, alternately code-named Sigma and then SF99, emerged from her build shed back in January and the first photos of her became public, people went nuts. While many found her reverse bow striking and some described her overall design as daring, others likened her to a submarine and just couldn't warm up to her unusual, warship-like styling. The Wall Street Journal's "Wealth" columnist and blogger even dubbed her the ugliest yacht in the world. As to who the owner is, most people assumed from the start that it was 41-year-old Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich—though other interesting theories included Google cofounder Sergey Brin. The true owner: 36-year-old Andrey Melnichenko, another Russian billionaire who's met with great success in banking and energy companies.
Y: 2008; B: Blohm + Voss, Germany; N: Martin Francis/ Philippe Starck; H: steel; E: 2/9,000-kW MANs
Despite the fact that A was one of the most tightly guarded secrets in megayacht construction, "information" about her abounds on the Internet—unfortunately most either wrong or out of date. Her length has been pronounced as anywhere from 118 to 130 meters. In reality she started at 118 meters and, contrary to most projects, which balloon during the design stage, ended up at 119 meters. Depending on the Web site, the owner was proclaimed to be an American, a Brit, and even a Saudi. But in an interview a few months ago with the German weekly Die Zeit, the yacht's designer, Philippe Starck, confirmed he was Russian and in his 30s. While some mega-watchers immediately assumed that meant Roman Abramovich, probably because he already owns a couple of entries on "The Power & Motoryacht 100," we knew it couldn't be him, since Abramovich is in his 40s. Starck's admission lent further support to the rumors that Andrey Melnichenko was the owner—which was finally confirmed by both The Yacht Report (a superyacht trade magazine) and information on Blohm + Voss' own Web site.
Starck, who's no stranger to controversy, has designed everything from a toothbrush to a motorcycle and claims he imbued A with a hull "that wouldn't cause bow washes at 20 knots." He also gave her a look that is undeniably unique and has been described as everything from breathtaking to ghastly. It's also frequently compared to that of a submarine and the newest U.S. Navy destroyer. Indeed, if you Google "world's ugliest yacht," you'll get multiple entries for her project name Sigma, including one from thatsalovelybooger.blogspot.com that describes her looking like "the hat that girl from The Thompson Twins used to wear."—Capt. Richard Thiel
This article originally appeared in the August 2008 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.