The Story Behind the Golden Superyacht
What does it take to build the most eye-catching yacht on the water? Captain Aaron Udall has seen this project through, from conception to her new thriving future as a charter yacht and takes us behind the scenes.
Tell us a little about you.
I was raised in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand. My youth was all about the water. My mother and stepfather built a 56' yacht in a shed in the back yard and eventually chartered it out of Hamilton Island, Australia. I ended up there some years later and met a guy in a bar who wanted to sail to Noumea. After 4 days bashing into the waves, we realised that we were going the wrong way and sailed to the Solomon Islands instead.
While I was in Singapore, I met an Austrian guy who had bought a 65' yacht in NZ but didn't know how to sail and needed a captain, so I took the yacht to Cyprus for him and chartered it in Turkey for a season.... easy.
What was the genesis of motor yacht Khalilah?
It began in 2007, and in 2012 the concept of the yacht was presented. It had to be efficient and look amazing - like nothing else around. The interior needed to be light and fun. Yachting has got too serious and we didn't want that. We settled on 50 metres and under 500GT as a starting point. There wasn't any more to the brief but I knew what they wanted. I got a few renderings from some designers but nothing really struck me, so I took the renders to a few yards including Palmer Johnson. They called me only a few days later to say they had something and emailed me a render. Instantly that grabbed our attention and I flew back to Monaco to see more. The model was pulled out of a cupboard and unveiled; it was exactly what I had envisioned and I remember saying to them that the boss would go for it 100%. Fortunately, I was correct.
She is certainly distinctive. Why gold?
We looked at so many colours from blue, brown, khaki, white, pearl but gold looks so beautiful on the water. It is such a contrast to the blues and greens of the sea. At the end of the day they couldn't pick any other colour that was going to be suitable, so gold it was. Cordova gold to be exact. Once you go gold you can’t go back.
Most people seem to love it. Of course, there are some who don't, and that is to be expected with something that is so bold.
Khalilah is the largest motor yacht ever built entirely in carbon composite, were there any challenges with the build and what are the benefits?
Finding an anchor system that wouldn't cause damage to the hull. Finding a tender that was as cool as the yacht. The floor to ceiling windows in the main salon must have created many problems for the designers, having to ensure the structural strength was not compromised. Khalilah was one of the first yachts to have such large windows. Nearly every area of the yacht presented challenges to the design team. However, in the long term we have saved on weight and fuel. We don't have any corrosion either so there are reductions in the cost of maintenance. There is also an element of just wanting to do something different. Ultimately she handles well and looks cool.
So it was challenging yet fun?
Yes. The guys at Palmer Johnson were a lot of fun to work with. They went out of their way to make it an enjoyable experience. They invited me to go shooting with them. Once was all I needed. They turned up with over 80 guns.. assault rifles and all sorts. I arrived, took one shot and split my eye open…that was the end of that!
Hindsight is a marvellous thing...is there anything you would do differently?
Some more time in the design and build process would have been nice... and I'll be more careful next time someone gives me a rifle!
What do you think the Owners love most about Khalilah?
They had never actually been to the yard, so seeing their faces light up on that first trip aboard was wonderful. They appreciate her speed and how easy it is to relax on board. All the guest spaces have been built carefully, designed with function in mind. That is why we have vast, deep sofas for relaxing, a privtae Jacuzzi area and floor to ceiling windows to make the most of the beautiful views.
Presumably these are key features for charter guests too?
Without a doubt. She is a complete one of a kind and attracts attention everywhere she goes. She fits perfectly in the ports of St Tropez and Cannes and will certainly be the centre of attention. She is fast, stable and fuel efficient and of course very good looking.
Where will she be this summer?
She is the perfect yacht for blasting around the Mediterranean and I imagine she will be seen in all the hotspots. Personally, I would like to take her somewhere more remote like the west coast of Corsica.
I’m up for my next project! My ultimate yacht would be a fast explorer type vessel with a huge range - a military type vessel - one that has no limits!