‘Octopussy’, the story of the yacht that could not be built (and that overthrew that of the King of Spain)

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'Octopussy', the story of the yacht that could not be built (and that overthrew that of the King of Spain)





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Everyone said it couldn’t be done. But when Heesen Yachts delivered the ‘Octopussy’ in 1988, the yacht went down in history, ousting King Juan Carlos’ ‘Fortuna as the world’s fastest superyacht. Commissioned by John Staluppi, this 44-meter-long aluminum craft was capable of 53.17 knots of speed, breaking shipbuilding fees. Thirty years later, the shipyard presents a documentary to commemorate the creation that meant its consecration on the international scene.

The controversial motorsports tycoon John Staluppi is a lover of speed. He grew up between motorcycles and racing cars, a passion that he later transferred to the sea with several offshore motor boats. In the mid-1980s, he set out to go one step further: to have the fastest superyacht in the world. It was not an easy wish to fulfill because at that time the nautical industry did not see the feasibility of a project of that caliber. There were large luxury boats, but they were not fast.

In the summer of 1986, the American businessman had already bought the engines and propellers – which for many is to start the house on the roof – and began to look for designers who dared to sketch a yacht to incorporate more than 10,000 horsepower. Finally, he found Frank Mulder. “The fastest yacht in the world belonged to the King of Spain [fue un regalo que el rey Fahd de Arabía Saudí le hizo a Don Juan Carlos en 1979], which reached a maximum speed of 50 knots; so [el yate de Staluppi] I would have to exceed that speed, “remembers in the documentary Mulder, who asked Staluppi six weeks to make calculations and verify that it was a feasible challenge. After that time, the naval architect accepted the job.

The next step was to find a shipyard. Mulder and Staluppi presented the project to several companies in England and Germany, but none of them committed themselves considering that they were risking their prestige on an inconceivable yacht. The solution was in the Netherlands, in a shipyard that had started making boats in 1978. Frans Heesen, founder of Heesen YachtsIn this commission, he saw a golden opportunity to achieve an international reputation and raise his company to the top of the nautical sector, although he was also aware that, if he failed with that yacht, the consequences could be dire.

Frans Heesen reveals in the film a clause of the contract signed with the client that shows how important it was not to fail: “If the yacht did not reach 50 knots, the shipyard had to pay $ 100,000 for each less knot”.

Frans Heesen, center, with the team that shaped the yacht, gathered for the documentary.

And the Octopussy began to take shape. Heesen Yachts’ design department carried out a handwork, the old-fashioned way, trace by trace, since the team did not have computers. A vessel of between 120 and 140 feet (between 36.5 and 42.6 meters) was sought, since Staluppi considered that any boat below 100 feet could not be considered a superyacht. Each meter in length exponentially increased the challenge for engineers: the longer a ship is, the heavier it is too, which affects speed.

He also wanted his whim to have a different style than the canons of the time. Demanded a modern ship, not a floating “box”. The result was a stylized boat, which at first glance denoted that it was made to reach high speeds. Its slim silhouette merged with pleasure with the flat and smoked windows.

When the helmet was built, John Staluppi traveled from the United States to the Netherlands on his private plane every two weeks. He wanted to know every technological detail and proposed and ruled out in equal parts. A crucial moment was the mounting of the engines, three huge units (16 V 396 TB94 with 3,500 hp each) and ones Kamewa waterjet propellers they had never been installed on a yacht before.

A room prepared to celebrate parties.

The importance of weight was also reflected in the interiors. It was necessary to bet on a modern and luxurious style in which each element had to be thoroughly revised so as not to add extra kilos. Wood and light compounds were used for floors and walls. Staluppi’s wife was in charge of buying the appliances, receiving the premise of her husband that they should go through the scale.

And the moment of truth, success or failure arrived. In April 1988 the Octopussy was launched and the speed tests began. There was John Staluppi, ready to check if his boat was the fastest in the world. “[En el astillero] they didn’t have GPS, so I bought a laser speed measurement gun like the ones the police useAnd what he saw on the screen of his pistol as soon as the boat was squeezed in the water did not disappoint him: 52 knots.

Staluppi, laser gun in hand to check the speed of the yacht.

However, upon returning to the facility, Frans Heesen ordered the boat to be removed from the water. I wanted to remove some stern pieces, some boxes near the thrusters. Nervousness seized the workers, since that decision could ruin the work done. It was not so. Back in the water, the Octopussy flew to the 53.17 knots, an additional knot. A legend had just been born.

DOCUMENTARY ‘OCTOPUSSY, THE YACHT THAT COULD NOT BE BUILT’ (in English)

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