Move over Clifton, the really rich anchor over at V&A Waterfront

03 January 2021 - 00:04
The Aquijo, owned by Norwegian billionaire Kjell Inge Røkke, during a visit to Cape Town in 2019. The 86m superyacht is powered by both engines and sails.
The Aquijo, owned by Norwegian billionaire Kjell Inge Røkke, during a visit to Cape Town in 2019. The 86m superyacht is powered by both engines and sails.
Image: Esa Alexander

Cape Town is home to its fair share of billionaire palaces on the slopes of Table Mountain and the seashore that flanks them. Now it’s also a home for floating palaces on their way around the world. The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront has confirmed plans to establish a superyacht facility at the tourist site in the Port of Cape Town, directly opposite the Table Bay Hotel.

The site, currently known as Quay 7, will have hospitality lounges, concierge services, a heliport and berths for the globe’s best-looking vessels and their super-wealthy owners. It aims to catapult Cape Town into the boating superleague alongside other hubs such as Mallorca and Palma.

“We believe the superyacht industry is a huge opportunity for Cape Town,” said the V&A’s maritime head, Andre Blaine.

“We’ve just finished a preliminary report and we’ve got marine engineers looking at structures we want to put down in the Quay 7 area. If all goes according to plan and the necessary building approvals are obtained, construction would commence in early 2022,” Blaine said.

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The V&A’s plan comes amid concerted efforts to promote Cape Town as a superyacht mecca. The city is already a regular port of call for several of the world’s top vessels, and a staging-post for South African-built luxury yachts being shipped overseas. The luxury catamaran industry in Cape Town, which has a long history of boatbuilding and sailing expertise, is the second largest in the world.

One recent visitor to the port was the 86m Aquijo, considered the top high-performance superyacht in the world. It boasts twin 90m masts and three tender boats, including one made to military specifications that is capable of driving onto ice. Operated by a crew of 17, features include a library, sauna, gyms and a masseuse. Artworks grace the walls of each cabin.

The boat was built in 2015 for Norwegian fishing tycoon Kjell Inge Røkke, who has his own master-bedroom deck. The vessel has already circumnavigated the planet, with Røkke joining in for cruising holidays. Aquijo is available for private charter under the watch of South African captain Gerhard Veldsman.

“Our owner is pretty flexible — he just wants to sail around the world,” said Veldsman.

Another regular caller is the 126m Octopus, previously owned by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, which has two helicopter pads and two submarines. A more controversial caller was the R1.5bn superyacht Ebony Shine, reportedly owned by the vice-president of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, which docked briefly in July. The West African leader has been involved in bitter legal wrangles in Cape Town, where he owns luxury property on land.

The dining room of the Aquijo. Other facilities include a sauna and gym.
The dining room of the Aquijo. Other facilities include a sauna and gym.
Image: Esa Alexander

The City of Cape Town has joined the superyacht initiative by partnering with the V&A Waterfront and other maritime stakeholders to form Blue Cape, a new company aimed at growing the boatbuilding and superyacht sector. Blue Cape co-founder Vanessa Davidson said the key to success would be investing in skills training to ensure Cape Town sustained its pool of artisans to meet stringent superyacht standards.

“Geographically, Cape Town is very well positioned to support superyacht cruising,” Davidson told an industry webinar last month. Andrew Bance, a specialist in superyacht tourism and high-risk watersport training, said Cape Town appealed to a new generation of yacht owners and their skippers in search of more exotic locations. The global trend towards larger superyachts also worked in Cape Town’s favour, as bigger yachts are better suited to local sea conditions.

“These are people looking to bring a yacht to a unique location where they can perform work on the yacht,” Bance said, adding that a Cape Town stopover provided the chance to explore tourist destinations in the country.

“They get services that the yacht might need, get the best experience the Cape can offer, and then move along to the Indian Ocean or Southern Ocean,” Bance said. James Vos, Cape Town mayoral committee member for economic opportunities, said the council was actively seeking to attract superyachts.

“We are very excited by the economic opportunities presented by the superyacht and marine manufacturing sectors, and the growing interest they are displaying in Cape Town as a destination,” he said.

“The department of enterprise & investment and I have been engaging with various companies involved in all aspects of this industry, from hospitality all the way through to marine servicing and boatbuilding.”


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