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When warships go luxury: Is this the world's toughest superyacht?

By Tom Sweetman, CNN

Published 1108 GMT (1908 HKT) November 5, 2015
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Billionaires who want to escape to the ends of the Earth would need a boat fit for an army; a warship that can sail the seven seas, and in style. Step forward, the SeaXplorer -- the toughest superyacht on the planet.
Damen Group
It has been designed by Damen Group, one of the world's leading luxury shipbuilders, which also creates vessels fit for war. The Dutch firm hopes SeaXplorer will blur the lines between the two -- billing it as "the first purpose-built, Polar Code-compliant range of expedition yachts, with true global capability -- from extreme polar to remote tropical areas." Reeve Jolliffe
"Our warships are very capable vessels that outperform any others, in terms of speed and range. But there's no luxury accommodation, purely just for crew," SeaXplorer's marketing manager Victor Caminada tells CNN. "That triggered us to see what a luxury vessel would require -- much more storage, spare parts. You need to be more self-sufficient than on usual superyachts when in tropical destinations, and even more so in areas where there's ice." Damen Group
Vessels breaking their way through Antarctic ice may be nothing new -- but for a luxury ship, it's unheard of. The SeaXplorer, however, is able to break new ground. Its designers say the patented Sea Axe double-acting hull means it can thrust through challenging ice up to a meter thick -- a result of thousands of hours invested into research and development. Damen Group
"Few vessels can break through ice and the ones that can are not luxury yachts, they're 'ice-bergers,' which are effective but not very comfortable," Caminada explains. "With this concept, we have combined the two and added on superyacht accommodation for the owners to stay in." Damen Group
Damen Group says 90% of superyachts never venture any further than the Mediterranean or Caribbean Seas. So will the yachting crowd be in any hurry to ditch the harbors of Monte Carlo and Saint-Tropez and sample more severe conditions?
"Not everyone is into sitting in front of an anchor in Central Bay," Caminada says. "People, particularly young people, think there is a new way of having an extreme luxury holiday in a very cool fashion -- with the SeaXplorer now they can go to places they really haven't been able to visit before."
Damen Group
SeaXplorer comes in a range of three options, from 65 meters (213 feet) in length to 100 meters (328 feet). The smallest holds 32 guests and crew, while the largest caters for 80 people and weighs 7,000 gross tons. Damen Group
For a glorified warship, the SeaXplorer comes loaded with its fair share of billionaire toys. The 100 boasts two helicopters, two lifeboats, four zodiacs, one expedition RHIB, one dive support boat, one luxury tender, two submersibles and four wave-runners to have some fun with. Reeve Jolliffe
"People like to do new things, and one of those is to visit new places and do expeditions," Caminada says. "A younger generation of superyacht owners, or potential owners, want to do things like go in a helicopter or go skiing, or look at marvelous wildlife. But until now, superyachts have not been capable of doing that. This is the first boat of its kind." Damen Group
"You can visit all these new places with a level of comfort never seen before," Caminada says of the SeaXplorer's on-board experience, which includes a dive center, gym, sauna and swimming pool, as well as observation and sky lounges. Damen Group
The SeaXplorer can be ready for use within four years of signing on the dotted line. But how much will the world's toughest superyacht cost?
"We've received very serious inquiries and are speaking to potential clients soon," Caminada says. "Unfortunately, we're not allowed to publish the price! But I can say it's a very sophisticated vessel with very high-end technology, which makes it expensive..."
Damen Group
"It's a whole new clientele that this concept is going to appeal to," Caminada adds. "It's uncharted territory and it's going to be an eye-opener to a lot of people who are not into the traditional yachting world -- they might think, 'Now, this is something I'd like to do with a boat.'" Reeve Jolliffe