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The original superyacht: Lady moura
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The original superyacht: Lady moura

Camper & Nicholsons
12th March 2020

The École François d'Assise overlooks Port Hercule from the Rock of Monaco. One autumn morning, two decades ago, a girl looked out of the junior school window and sobbed uncontrollably. The school telephoned her parents. But even they couldn’t console their daughter. With tears streaming, she eventually shared her woes. “Lady Moura has gone,” she cried. The sobs only stopped when teachers assured her that the world’s first superyacht would sail back next spring.  

When Lady Moura launched in 1990 she was the most innovative and most expensive yacht the world had ever seen. A head-turning leviathan, her annual arrival in Monaco heralded the start of the season. Back then, the likes of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost would carreen past her mooring. The Cannes Film Festival was also a raucous free-for-all. The 105m yacht would anchor off La Croisette, as Michael Douglas and Gérard Depardieu mingled with movie fans during free screenings on the beach. No wonder the Cote d’Azur cried when Lady Moura left Monaco each September. The departure of the iconic yacht marked the end of summer.  

Mattias Bosse, her captain of 13 years, worked in a junior role on Lady Moura in the 1990s. “People describe her as the mother of all megayachts,” explains Bosse. “When she launched she was a Top 10 superyacht. More importantly there was no such thing as mega yacht building three decades ago, as only vintage sailing yachts reached such a size. Lady Moura is the model that our industry is based upon today.” Although only a handful of guests were welcomed passed her golden nameplate, she became the most photographed yacht of her time.

It’s surprising, but the concept behind Lady Moura was elementary. Some 35 years ago her owner simply commissioned the leading naval architect, Italian Luigi Sturchio, who styled the era’s finest yachts for Feadship, Benetti and Baglietto. His plans were then delivered to the world’s greatest shipyard, Blohm + Voss in Germany, who had crafted one-of-a-kind yachts for heads of state for half a century. The project ran from there. 

Captain Bosse continues the story. “This means that Lady Moura was constructed to commercial shipping standards. For example, many yachts today have a storage room large enough for a week's charter. We can store three months of provisions and cruise for over 12,000 nautical miles without refuelling.” 

The design was necessarily pioneering. An indoor swimming pool features two diving boards and stairs that sweep through the water. All hidden by a retractable roof. The beach club was arguably the first of its kind. Sun terraces opened onto the ocean, revolutionising the way guests interact with the sea. Lady Moura was so finely constructed that she could theoretically cruise with the club open to the elements. The world records don’t stop there. She was also the first yacht to install a boat garage, high enough above the water to be safe and dry. A large Boston Whaler, waterski boat and a landing craft are stowed midships. Hydraulically operated shell ports, doors, flaps, roofs and cranes flow into the sleek design.

The blueprint called for function as well as frippery. As her captain explains: “Many luxury yachts only have one gangway for and aft. Often both are completely useless in tight moorings or tidal areas. On some large yachts I have witnessed crew putting out a plank, or piling boxes off the main deck to descend from. That looks a little ridiculous on a 100m yacht!” Lady Moura has six gangways in order to cope with any mooring situation. Plus two entrances ensuring a seamless transition from tender to ship in any sea condition. 

The legend could travel far. “Few other superior vessels have a pilot gate,” continues Captain Bosse. “This is essential for exploratory cruising and calling at commercial ports, and once again proves her functionality.” Lady Moura is one of only a handful of private yachts to maintain a certified sewage treatment plant allowing her to stay at sea for months on end. “Aside from the Arctic zones (which would require a higher grade of steel hull) she could cruise anywhere. If a new owner wanted to round the Norwegian fjords up to Spitsbergen, or commit to a global circumnavigation, this is the boat to do it in.” These are not idle exaggerations. Bosse himself has captained expedition cruises to both Canada’s Northwest Passage and up the Amazon to Peru. 

The farthest Lady Moura has cruised is the Caribbean. Her true purpose was as a luxurious family vessel - with the prowess to double as an ambassadorial residence across the Mediterranean. The Turkish coast was a favoured destination for her owner. As was Rhodes, not least as family and guests could fly in and out with ease. The lonely sands of Corsica were usually called at en route for beach picnics. This ne plus ultra of private yachts has never been chartered. Instead her interior layout, which has welcomed both royalty and political aristocracy, has remained a secret on security grounds. 

Until now. After 30 years of continuous ownership, Lady Moura’s proprietor is bringing her to market for the very first time. The opulent interiors - imagine Versailles teleported to the 21st century - are very much a family affair. The third deck is a dedicated multi-generational space. The full beam master suite boasts two bedrooms and marble-clad anterooms. Another six smaller suites gift each family member their own personal space. The top deck features the aforementioned pool, spa and fitness zone. There’s also a kids room on the bridge deck which has morphed into a video game zone, and finally a meeting area as the owner’s children have grown. Such a space could be fashioned into additional spas, conference rooms or a library. 

“Of course there are larger boats nowadays but none with the legacy of Lady Moura,” explains Captain Bosse. “Some similar sized boats weight in at 3,000GT. We have 6,500GT - double the volume - with all the interior and exterior space that guarantees.” Another deck provides guest accommodation and entertainment. Not to mention four additional guests suites and a VIP suite. “We can host 26 guests in sublime comfort,” says her captain. “And with a crew complement of 72, some of whom have given 28 years of continuous service, this ratio offers the ultimate level of comfort at sea.” There are also two medical centres, two galleys and two laundries; one each for owner and crew. The bakery has served fresh baguettes and brioche from Bodrum to the Bahamas. 

Perhaps the biggest surprise is the bottom line. Lady Moura’s operating costs are around half those of newer, similarly sized yachts. “Over half of our crew is dedicated to operation and maintenance,” says Captain Bosse. “That means most problems can be fixed using our own experience. And as Lady Moura was built to exacting commercial standards we are not dependent on yachting infrastructure if occasional issues arise.” 

Not that many issues occur when an iconic yacht has had one careful owner. Her sole refit in 30 years was in 2017 when she sailed back to her original yard at Blohm + Voss. Recent upgrades in 2019/20 include a rebuild of both generators and engines, plus new teak decks and refurbished crew and technical spaces. New hull paint still glistens against the Mediterranean Sea. 

Technological upgrades have kept Lady Moura sailing ahead of the fleet. “We have 24/7 remote monitoring of all fuel flows, temperatures and vibrations,” attests Captain Bosse. “That allows for condition-based maintenance and real time troubleshooting, all of which help us to monitor costs.” Unlike other yachts of her era, the classic exterior lines are timeless. “It's impossible to tell whether Lady Moura is ten years old or thirty,” laughs her captain. “In terms of technology she is more advanced than most new launches at the Monaco Yacht Show.”

What about the child crying on the Rock of Monaco? The story has a happy ending. “That young girl is now a writer for a yachting magazine,” says Captain Bosse. “She introduced herself while we were in Port Hercule and told me her tale. Of course I took her straight onboard to meet our owner. Lady Moura has that effect on people.” Bosse hopes a new owner will write a similar chapter of superyacht history. A new season is just beginning.  

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