The aesthetics are stunning. The size and speed are shocking. The driving forces make for a temple of technology. She’s a beauty. She’s a beast. She’s a wizard. She’s dramatic. She’s cool. She’s a Predator. Among the quietest boats of any size Feadship has ever produced, the 239-foot Predator gigantayacht, launched earlier this year, has the tallest engine room, the longest uninterrupted interior views, the largest draught, and carries an unprecedented four-engine thrust package that, when kicked into 1,800 rpm, allows this category killer to devour nautical miles at a trial-verified top-out of 28.5 knots and a continuous cruise speed of 26.
And with an elegantly assertive profile, highlighted by a sleek blue hull and a sexy, razor-thin axe-bow, Predator is unlike anything on the high seas, which is exactly what the owner was gunning for when he commissioned the build in late 2004. The striking features have already been rewarded-Predator is shortlisted as a 2008 Superyacht Design Awards nominee in the Power: 65+ Meters category.
Predator has an aluminum superstructure, and composite materials were used in the topsides.
The original desire was for a contemporary and aggressive design for a sleek, fast-looking yacht that could hit 25 knots. This raised a clear challenge for Feadship-a conventional diesel-propeller propulsion setup, on a gargantuan yacht, can’t achieve such high speeds without also creating excessive levels of noise and vibration. In order to minimize the necessary prop load, Feadship’s solution was a hull form with the lowest possible resistance. The owner was given a choice between a flared bulb bow and an axe-bow. Seeing the hydrodynamic benefits of such an efficient displacement hull design and loving the raked look, he didn’t hesitate to fall for the axe.
Predator pitches no wake in 16-foot seas. The V of the bow adds sufficient displacement as it enters a wave to give a very soft rise through the sea. There is no pounding, and in seas up to 13 feet, the ride is so smooth it’s as if the turbulent water is flat glass. There’s no splash, no rise, and no fall. This lack of teeter-totter, combined with the ultra-slender angle of entry, results in an amazingly comfortable ride. And this is, after all, the essence of luxury yachting.
The forces involved in the propulsion package are bodacious. A four-engine setup is relatively commonplace on ferries but unusual on yachts because they have so many different operating profiles: from maneuvering and slow speeds to range-speed ocean crossings with minimum fuel consumption and max speed. As propulsion power increases exponentially with speed, a 25-knot yacht will need five times as much power as a comparable 15-knot yacht. But high-speed yachts with twin main engines find it almost impossible to attain zero, slow, and range speed modes, which has an inevitable impact on efficiency. Predator’s four-engine solution with Rolls-Royce controllable pitch propellers and smart pitch rpm controls is infinitely more flexible. Either two or four main engines can be engaged depending on the required operation, and one or three engine modes are also possible. Simply put, it’s wicked.
Another key element involved in attaining high speeds is a vessel’s weight. Predator has an aluminum superstructure, and composite materials were used in the topsides. However, the relatively heavy steel hull meant that meticulous, radical measures had to be taken to minimize the weight of the interior.
Yet, the finished interior shows no visual signs of the enormous efforts made to keep the pounds off. Predator’s lavish and spectacular look was developed by De Voogt Naval Architects, while the styling and decorative brief was given to the Bannenberg design studio in London (additional touches were made to the owner’s stateroom towards the end of the project by his own decorator). The only major request was for extensive deployment of Karelian birch, a fine, light timber found in northern Europe. It’s contrasted into the interior with two stronger accent woods: high-gloss Macassar ebony and zebrawood. Other signature Bannenberg details are combined with a wealth of custom-made door handles, cabinet features, fixtures, and fittings, such as bronze Dornbracht fittings in the bathrooms. The approach brings an almost classical beauty to the decor.
Perhaps the most remarkable fact about Predator’s interior is that it only has sleeping quarters for six in two VIP guest suites and one giant master stateroom (the largest yet seen on a Feadship). Size does matter on Predator, and the owner specifically requested that the bulkheads be positioned sufficiently aft to make the stateroom and bathroom a giant single space.
One other clear element of continuity onboard Predator is an extraordinary high-end Dolby 7.2 audio-visual system found everywhere, including the outside decks and lazarette. There are speakers in many different locations, with hidden subwoofers ensuring a meaty sound.
Predator’s owner had a key demand when it came to hallways, which he had found archaic and disorienting on charters-a key layout feature became straight corridors. On the main deck this request has been addressed in spectacular fashion by developing a centerline design concept in the main lounge with a partly false sliding door. A custom-designed dining table forward in the lounge splits into two, providing instant access directly through the dining area into the lounge itself. Keep walking through the four-panel sliding doors to the aft of the outside deck, turn around and there’s an unrestricted view all the way through the lounge and main entrance, between the guest suites, right up to the front part of the owner’s stateroom. Having an uninterrupted view of around 60 meters through an interior is likely unmatched by any yacht this size.
Aft of the engine is a huge garage for Predator’s two tenders, which replicate the inverted bow look of the mother ship. Teak decks offer an old-style look, and blue hulls hint at speed. Both can do 40 knots and carry eight passengers and two crewmembers.
The entire yacht has an uncluttered feel while offering loads of options for relaxing, partying, or playing. One example is an ingenious, custom casino table with a flip-top games console replete with chips, chess pieces, and cards. A leaf on the side of the table opens and swivels to become a backgammon or blackjack board. Tightly upholstered linen card chairs with a chocolate suede piping add an extra air of suaveness.
There’s also a portable decompression unit that sets up in less than five minutes. It is inflated in the lazarette, which includes a state-of-the-art diving center with a special bottle-filling machine from Nautilus Underwater Systems. With the ubiquitous sound system, a bar, sink, fridge and icemaker, the fully air-conditioned lazarette has the facilities of the finest beach club on the water. Adding to the fun, there’s a supersized swim platform, two wave riders, and a custom Jet Ski.
Predator offers a sensational variety of outdoor entertainment options elsewhere on the boat, too. The large main aft deck is designed to be a foyer/lobby area where guests can chill and have a cocktail from the bar after coming aboard from the swim platform. The bridge deck aft is one of the social hotspots of the boat-glass panels are stored in a locker and slide out to create a windbreak. Slots in the ceiling supply cold air, which won’t be required when lounging on the giant sunbathing pads. And forward on the yacht is a large Jacuzzi and double barbecue.
There is one other source of alfresco entertainment available, but this is of a more daring-do variety. Out on the nose of the bow is a small hole in the deck into which a twin seat can be screwed into place, complete with seat belts. Those who have the cajones to sit here while Predator is shredding enjoy the ride of a lifetime. It’s a fitting way to salute the adventurous, bleeding-edge nature of Predator, and the perfect exclamation point on her infinite ability to electrify.