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THE BEST, AND THE REST

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Mon, Nov 7, 2005

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

THE BEST, AND THE REST

By JOHN GRAFMAN

At some point or another, the question arises: Can it get much better than this? In the world of cars, you can usually look to the marketplace and find a comparable car, up or down scale, to give a proper sense of relativity to the question. In the rarified albeit increasing field of cars in the six-figure bracket, it becomes a challenge to know if this really has what it take to garner our desire.

I'm not entirely positive I know what anything is worth anymore. For peanuts, one can buy a cellular phone that can take pictures, play video, music, offer full database features, and oh yes, function as a phone nearly anywhere in the world. At the same time, the common belief is if you can find a refrigerator box within a few miles of the coast for under a mil, buy it!

In my quest for a touchstone on quality and price, I decide a trip to San Diego's sixth annual YachtFest at Palms/Shelter Island Marina is a good start. For comparisons sake, the automobile we use is the extraordinary Audi A8 with the W12 engine. This is the top-of-the-line in the Audi fleet, which will also provide both our shuttle service to and from the show.

While the annual affair offers plenty for industry insiders to engage in (from brokerage tips, and crew seminars, to various products), it's the vessels themselves that captures our attention.

YachtFest is for the big boys - the super yachts. When it takes a crew to operate on a full-time basis, the common understanding is this isn't the little league anymore. A few of the yachts on hand-stated price tags are pegged at one hundred times that of the $126,000 Audi. Now, the fun begins.

The purpose of high-end luxury cars and yachts are to get from point A to point B in unparalleled style and comfort. The Audi does this with aplomb. The ride down south is superb, with three various suspension settings. I prefer the positive response in the most sporting setting. It still provides ride quality that defies belief. The huge twelve cylinder motor is butter smooth and packs plenty of go power with 450 horsepower. The transmission is elegant and offers manual shifting both on the console and the with paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. The A8 can even go from full-automatic mode directly to manual with nothing more than depressing a paddle. All of this is really cool! Will I have the same opinion after a day on the yachts?

Just a few steps down the dock, and it's obvious how overwhelming a yacht over eighty-feet long is. Certainly, plunking down seven-figures on a boat should have a wow factor when approaching it for the first time - and for sometime thereafter. Even the novice at sea-going vessels is able to spot the latest model. In the world of cars, a new model just seems fresher looking, and the same car model that is a generation or two prior might look good, but it just starts to show its age. There's no denying it.

Two perfect examples of near-new yachts are the 102-foot Barbarina and 80-foot Dynasty. Priced at 5.75 and 2.5 million dollars respectively, both are 2000-year models. I will give my left you-know-what for one of these. As fantastic as both yachts are, they no longer have that new car (yacht) smell to them. However, at a mere five years old, these are far from looking old and tired.

Now not all yachts are created equal. Let me rephrase that. Some are more equal than others. YachtFest covers the field with new and old, power or sail, big and bigger. What is worth more, modern yachts or older but bigger yachts? Is a deck that's spacious enough to hold a wedding important, or is a massive salon the epitome of what make a yacht a yacht? If these were automobiles the question will be trunk space versus seating.

The first conclusion one might reach in boating is this: LOA (length overall) is relative to size of the owner's bank account. But that isn't the whole story. The style and design of the ship is like a work of art on some yachts. Lines and pillars have a rakish flow about them and the use of glass is more incredible than ever.

The latest offering from Azimut is a 98-foot beauty with four staterooms, four heads and three crew cabins. So sleek is the shape of the Azimut that it's hard to believe it provides all of that (and more). The size reminds me of an oversized motorhome, but the shape is more along the lines of a Ferrari 430 (how do they do it?). Cruising at an average speed of 29 knots does provide performance that equals the graceful appearance.

An impressive vessel, even among this crowd, is the 152-foot Montigne. Built in 1986, this 15.9 million dollar ocean-going estate is in the need of a good remodeling on the inside. It doesn't have the panache that the more current representatives at the event afford. The Montigne does rise above the present company in LOA that adds cost with every additional foot of length. Sadly, it seems dated in furnishings, quality and upscale touches that modern ships flaunt.

Much of the digital design abilities are shared both by shipbuilding and car manufacturing. Today's ships are the cutting edge of design from the bottom up. The exterior of a modern ship is captivating and inviting visually - it makes one yearn for more.

The Audi and the yachts do share another unusual similarity. While both might be piloted by the owner, the A8 could very well find good use for a chauffer - and all of these super yachts are navigated with the skill of an experienced captain. They also both make use of digital navigation to make the journey effortless.

The Audi is a fun drive, and I can't see too many giving up the reigns to a hired hand. Similarly, the Paraiso is a 2000 Sunseeker Manhattan that provides an owner/operator the fun of yachting in a manageable 64 feet. On tap is 800 horsepower to provide the motivation. At a budget price of $1.5 million, the Sunseeker model is a blend of practical and sport. The brand is well-known for its décor, and this particular ship is no exception with a multitude of materials that are welcoming to the touch. The functionality of everything from cabinet doors on up are indications that the beauty of this craft is more than skin deep.

Design is as much a factor in creating sex appeal for both yachts as it is for automobiles. This holds true for the big picture, as it does all the way down to the details, such as the choice of carpets. If there were no limitations on design or dollars spent, what would the end result be? The 130-foot Sojourn is one of the yachts on hand that offers a glimpse into the possibilities. Built specifically for the owner of Gambol (a local yacht manufacture), every aspect reflects the pinnacle of the industry.

The A8 offers detail, quality, and performance that are also of the highest order that can be found in a production vehicle. Beyond any doubt, this car is suitable for the super wealthy . While many of the factors are judgment calls that are subjective, several hours at YachtFest fortifies ones capacity to make these tough calls.

While the Audi is, for the most part, a relative bargain due to it being mass-produced, it does lack the personal flair that is evident in each and every yacht. As with many autos, the A8 can be optioned to an owner's specific taste, but it's just not the same. The custom aspect in ships runs from even simple aspects like interior furnishing to the entire ship itself. When so few are made of each yacht, a complete redesign is not unheard of. Very few car manufacturers can pull off this with the same level of success, as they simply aren't set up for it and the regulatory laws make it exceptionally difficult.

Auto companies are looking for inspiration all the time, and sometimes from rather odd sources, I have even heard some designers drawing creative juices from, believe it or not, trees. Car designers can do a lot worse than picking up on some of the influences provided here. A look at some of the fantastic yachts in San Diego provides countless ideas and ways in which to refine their products. While not all ideas are practical, they are good food for thought.

Producing your very own custom is the dream of many. For those fortunate few that have the necessary capital to pull it off, the world is your oyster. Just because you can, however, doesn't mean you should.

If all the extra effort and the time it take to go the extra mile in creating your own unique masterpiece seems like too much effort, the A8 might just be the best choice available. That is, if you don't mind buying off the rack.

Audi has a well-earned reputation in luxury and performance. While I never really doubted its qualities, on occasion a look around at other incredible offerings in the world we live in hones our senses - and maybe our sensibility as well.

For more information please go to www.audiusa.com

For more information please go to www.yachtfest.com

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