Flying Fox: The World’s Largest Charter Yacht Is Returning to Asia
Delivered last year, the 446ft Flying Fox is the world’s largest charter yacht, offering the ultimate luxury getaway for up to 25 guests in 11 staterooms. And she’ll soon be back in Asia.
By John Higginson
The helipad on the forward bridge deck is for choppers with a maximum diameter of 46ft when rotors are spinning, while up on the sun deck, there’s a bigger, more frequently used helideck for up to
59ft, designed for the owner’s Airbus H175.
However, the big helideck is much more than that. Not only does it have a purpose-built waiting room, but when the pad’s clear and the sun goes down, the whole area can be converted into a beautifully lit alfresco dining area with a dancefloor and stage for live entertainment.
“It’s a large area to play with and it can transform into a special event venue, which we’ve done for guests. Versatility is the essence of our daily work,” says one of Flying Fox’s two Captains, who typically rotate and head a remarkable 54-strong crew that includes former Olympians and British military, embodying the calibre of people assigned to look after such a yacht and its elite charter guests.
Since being delivered to her owner early last year, the 446ft Lurssen build with the wavy Espen Oeino exterior has been listed among the world’s top 20 largest yachts, but she’s best known as the largest and most expensive charter yacht, with a weekly rate from €3.5 million or almost US$4 million (excluding VAT and APA).
Julia Stewart, Director of Imperial, the yacht’s central agent for charter, says Flying Fox is worth every penny for those who can afford the PYC-compliant megayacht, which can have up to 36 guests during the day and accommodate up to 25 overnight in one master stateroom and 10 VIP ensuites.
“Flying Fox is the most refined charter experience available and the most expensive, but every euro spent on a journey on board is definitely worth it. After experiencing this yacht, your vision of a luxury retreat will be completely different,” Stewart says.
“Above all, Flying Fox is about lifestyle, self-retreat and relaxation. When charter guests journey on board, it’s like completely escaping from the rest of the world. The world’s most experienced charter guests were demanding this kind of once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Flying Fox can feel like a small world unto itself, only she’s really not small. To comprehend the scale of the 9,022GT yacht, it’s worth noting her volume is almost double that of the world’s second-largest charter yacht (112m) and more than three times that of the third (92m). Lists and rankings may change and be disputed, but you get the idea.
Currently in the Mediterranean for her second summer season, Flying Fox is scheduled later this year to return to Asia, where she already has charter bookings. It will be her second stint in the region, having spent time in the Maldives during an Indian Ocean cruise earlier this year for her winter charter season, which was eventually
halted due to Covid-19 (see box).
Stewart says Asia holds a strong appeal for international clients seeking new destinations to explore, as well as those living on the continent who are aware of just how much more there is to be seen.
“Guests often demand new sensations that only secluded areas can offer,” she says. “The Caribbean is a busy place, but in Asia, there are so many areas, lagoons, islands and archipelagos to be explored. It’s like an unlimited playground.”
TAKING OFF WITH FLYING FOX
If any yacht can take you anywhere in Asia in comfort and safety, it’s Flying Fox, which has an advanced medical clinic, a facility that has moved near the top of the priority list of today’s superyacht charter guests.
Furthermore, the multi-national crew from Europe, Asia, Oceania and South Africa include several ex-British military from the Royal Marines and Special Boat Service (SBS), the naval equivalent of the world-famous SAS (Special Air Service).
“They’re hired for both top-end close protection and their background in maritime security, important for both clients and the security of such a high-end asset,” says the current onboard Captain.
“All of our crew are highly skilled in their particular fields and we have a great level of expertise in technical diving, massage and beauty treatments of all varieties, medical personnel, aviation, hospitality service, chefs and fine dining.
“As for the Olympians on board, let’s just say that you’ll be served faster than you can imagine, and if you ask us to jump, we ask how high and how far,” he smiles.
Although Flying Fox can’t qualify for the Olympics, she can travel pretty far, with a range of 6,500nm, and is remarkably quick for her size, with a top speed of 20 knots.
Just as importantly for client comfort, she’s very quiet and has no vibration while underway or when using any of the four thrusters, another major achievement considering her volume.
“Vessels of this size are designed to flex as we move through the seaway, which can often create noise on the interior, but Flying Fox is extremely quiet,” adds the Captain, who has vast experience of the Indian Ocean area, from Tanzania, Seychelles and even Oman across to the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Malaysia.
BEACH HOUSE AT SEA
Guest areas start with the sea-level lower deck and the main deck, which features the 12m outdoor pool aft and 10 VIP suites with balconies. The bridge deck includes the popular exterior galley aft, huge main saloon and cinema.
The owner’s deck has an aft saloon overlooking the main saloon, offices, studio, beauty room, dressing rooms and forward stateroom with outdoor jacuzzi. On the sun deck, there’s a winter garden and jacuzzi forward of the main helipad.
A central lift connects these five main guest decks, plus there’s an elegant observation deck a few steps up from the sun deck.
The calming, nature-inspired interior by Mark Berryman feels like a beach resort, with extensive use of bamboo, teak and oak offset by the lush greenery of large plants spread throughout the rooms and common areas.
The relaxed setting makes you feel like you’re supposed to walk around barefoot, before and after pool and spa sessions, or a zone-out in one of the outdoor jacuzzis.
“Flying Fox is like a home at sea,” Stewart says. “The warm, zenlike interior gives a really comfortable atmosphere where everybody can feel relaxed. The wood, trees and plants everywhere help you to breathe deeply, to really feel like you’re now out of the madness of the outside world. It’s a unique, agreeable feeling.”
The Captain agrees: “Both the interior and exterior have a relaxing design. It’s very much like a beach house, so guests immediately feel like they’re on holiday.”
TOYS, POOLS, SPA AND … CRYOTHERAPY
In terms of features and facilities, Flying Fox has everything you need and can imagine wanting on a yacht, starting with the 12m transverse pool along the aft end of the main deck. The pool is hugely popular with both adults and children, Stewart says, and the water – salt or fresh – can be heated or cooled in a matter of minutes.
Life at anchor benefits hugely from dynamic positioning (DP), a rare “It’s very much like a beach house, so guests immediately feel like they’re on holiday.” Captain, Flying Fox technological feature on a charter yacht that enables it to remain stationary without anchoring, for increased comfort and safety. DP can even be programmed to gradually rotate the yacht, such as to follow the sun.
“Despite her massive size, flexibility is the real strength of Flying Fox. If a guest wants the aft deck to face the sun all day, we can set the DP to track the sun for that perfect tan,” says the Captain, who adds that the system also opens up cruising areas by allowing access to nonanchoring zones that other vessels may not be permitted to enter.
For those who want to do more than lie by the pool all day, there’s a superbly equipped 1,000sqft gym just yards away, while downstairs on the lower deck is a paradise for watersports lovers.
A full-beam garage for five tenders up to 41ft give an idea of the scale of toys on offer, while aft on the port side is the watersports centre with fold-down platform flanked by separate dive and kite stores.
Power toys include six jetskis, four F5S Seabobs, a flyboard and hoverboard, while tender toys include wakesurfing and waterskiing equipment, and a large selection of towing inflatables.
There’s also a foil board and a particularly wide range of kitesurfing equipment along with kayaks, SUPs, surfboards, fishing gear, wetsuits and protective wear.
The dive centre is first-class, with a large selection of suits, tanks, compressor pumps and even underwater cameras, while a double-lock decompression chamber with three seats is among the best of its kind.
The yacht’s PADI-certified instructors can cater to all levels, from teaching introductory courses to supervising dives to depths of 100m.
After physical activity, Flying Fox offers a soothing array of ways to relax and unwind in its 4,300sqft, two-floor spa, connected to the watersports hub and monitored by multi-skilled therapists.
With heated limestone floors and louvred oak panelling, the spa’s centrepiece is a vast spa pool, with water that can be changed from steaming hot to icy cold in about 10 minutes. It’s ideal as a plunge pool following time in the Turkish hammam or Finnish sauna, while there’s even a cryotherapy chamber, the first installed on a superyacht and a firm favourite with charter clients.
On the floor above, the spa lobby leads to separate rooms for dry and wet massages, and a three-station beauty salon offering hair and skin treatments, manicures and pedicures. “Guests rate the spa as good as ifnot better than the best you can find ashore,” Stewart remarks.
OUTDOOR DINING, OUTDOOR COOKING
Flying Fox also offers world-class cuisine around the clock and the most popular dining area is on the aft bridge deck, where chefs at the exterior galley cook for up to 24 seated diners.
This showpiece cooking zone is fun for guests and a delight for chefs, whose hardware includes a Teppanyaki grill, tandoor oven, Josper charcoal grill, full-size rotisserie and pizza oven.
“The exterior galley is the favourite area of all guests,” Stewart says. “It’s the perfect social area to relax, socialise, drink and dine at the end of a busy day at sea. It’s great to relax at the bar and watch the galley brigade creating exceptional dishes of your choice.”
Ensuring guests from every part of the world are catered for and provided with the meals they want, clients complete a comprehensive document prior to boarding that covers all dietary requirements and desired cuisine.
Everybody knows a charter journey is about culinary experiences, so the head chef and his team adapt to all requests and requirements,” Stewart adds. “Flexibility is at the heart of Flying Fox more than any other superyacht because we simply can’t disappoint guests.”
Once dinner’s over, a walk through the saloon leads to the indoor cinema, which features a Dolby Atmos sound system and huge comfy chairs with D-Box motion technology. It also offers video games, while there’s VR technology on board, too.
Imperial has operated in Asia for over a decade, managing private yachts cruising in the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia, and charter yachts such as the 60m Arkley and more recently the 82m RoMEA (see
Charter, Issue 50). However, Flying Fox offers a new gold standard for the charter world, one that will be seen in Asia in the coming months.
“Imperial has always had the reputation for tailored service, attention to detail and constant control of all operations whether it’s new build, management, sales or charter. It’s true that delivering several iconic superyachts in the past five years has raised our profile, but our strength is the 24/7 dedication we apply to our business,” Stewart says.
“Now, on Flying Fox, we offer a yacht that combines everything you’d like to experience once in a lifetime.”
The original article first appeared in Yacht Style Issue 54 (Charter Issue 2020) – see below:
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Yacht Style has released Issue 54 (July-August), its Charter Issue for 2020. Flying Fox, the world's largest charter yacht, stars on the front cover of the 208-page magazine, as the 136m megayacht prepares to return to Asia later this year.