|FYI — July 2003|
|By Brad Dunn|
In April Saddam Hussein was that boat owner. During its invasion of Basra, the U.S. Navy found the former Iraqi leader's megayacht docked at a nearby port. The luxurious, 350-foot Al Mansur had long been abandoned by her 120-person crew, so coalition forces decided to turn her into another symbol of Saddam's collapsing regime: They greeted her with dozens of high-powered artillery shells, bombs, and missiles.
Despite being charred to the hull, the presidential yacht withstood the onslaught pretty well. She didn't sink, which is a testament to the craftsmanship of the Finnish boatyard that constructed the 7,359-ton steel vessel in 1982. At that time, Al Mansur was one of the largest, most lavish private yachts in the world. Now she's floating wreckage near the Euphrates River.
Because she was staffed by members of Hussein's Special Republican Guard, Al Mansur was actually considered part of the Iraqi Navy, though she was hardly outfitted for battle. Instead, the Iraqi dictator decorated the vessel extravagantly with exotic woods, marble, and gold and silver trim. The 350-footer had plenty of luxurious amenities, including a private theater, a giant Jacuzzi bath, and an enormous glass atrium that could seat 200 people for dinner. Besides reflecting his gaudy tastes, Al Mansur also reflected Hussein's deep-seated paranoia: There was a secret escape route that led from his stateroom down to an underwater submarine launch pod.
According to witnesses, the atrium suffered the brunt of the first strike. A bomb incinerated the entire area, and subsequent fires tore through the center of the boat and covered everything in black soot. When it was over, a tattered Baath Party flag on a warped mast and the name Al Mansur in singed blue lettering on the stern were all that identified the one-time symbol of a dictator's power.
And then there's the irony: Al Mansur means "the victor" in Arabic.
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This article originally appeared in the June 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.