Inside Skat: A yachting treasure revisited

Written by Charl van Rooy

Built by Lürssen and launched in 2002 as project 9906, the iconic 70.7-metre Skat today shares a status held by only a handful of yachts in the world. Known for her eye-catching design, mesmerizing sense of mystery, and that touch of Scandinavian coolness that one can’t quite explain, her onboard innovations are as relevant today as they were ground-breaking when the project first started taking shape nearly two decades ago. A project led by broker Stuart Larsen, a team of proven designers along with a seasoned captain and build managers were assembled to build an owner’s first superyacht with the German shipyard. Now on the marketplace for the first time, the world’s eyes are once again squarely on Skat.Skat yacht by Lürssen cruisingPhoto: Guillaume Plisson

For exterior designer and naval architect Espen Øino, the Skat story started in the late 90s. After leaving Francis Design to start a name for himself, Øino struck gold at Lürssen with the signing of his biggest project at the time, the 126-metre Octopus. Skat followed not long after. “As the owner of Skat hailed from the same part of the world as the Octopus project, it all happened through those connections.” Two very different boats and equally unique briefs, it’s fair to say that even after all these years, it is these two iconic Lürssen projects that, for many, still form the opinion of the famed designer’s work.Skat yacht by Lürssen cruisingPhoto: Guillaume Plisson

With Skat’s owner coming from the high-octane world of computer technology, Øino had to match the owner’s operating speed which resulted in a very dynamic working partnership. The result? One of the most technically advanced and design-challenging yachts of her time. “The owner was very specific about the design during our first meeting. He didn’t want Skat to look like an ordinary yacht. At the same time, he is a very logical person, and he wanted something as neutral as possible. After my first meeting, I returned to Europe, concerned about how to achieve the proportions described by the owner - the building materials would be steel and aluminium, and we had some complex forms and bent surfaces to deal with. I saw him four weeks later in Europe to submit the first proposal, and he loved it! From there, it all went very quickly, completing the concept and design within six months. Still to this date, many years later, it is the fastest project we have ever done.”Skat yacht by Lürssen Photo: Guillaume PlissonSkat yacht by Lürssen beach clubPhoto: Guillaume Plisson

But it wasn’t always smooth sailing for the Norwegian designer and his very first completed project with the German shipyard - a partnership that has since yielded over 30 superyachts of all shapes and sizes. “There were lots of people who were very surprised when the boat rolled out of the shed for the very first time and saw the geometry becoming apparent. It is a difficult design to understand from a 2D sketch. So, when she was visible for the first time, people were saying: ‘Wow, this is very cool, I thought this was going to be the ugliest boat we’ve ever built!’ At the time, I was much younger than I am now and not always necessarily so confident. It's good to know that what you felt was right at the time, many people agree with today.”Skat yacht design by Espen ØiinoPhoto: Espen Øino

Skat yacht by Lürssen Photo: Guillaume PlissonFast forward nearly two decades and Skat is universally regarded as one of yachting’s finest treasures. Having been operated strictly under private use over all these years, the Skat program has revolved around an experienced and loyal core crew, a dedicated maintenance and refit schedule and knowledgeable owners who consider Skat a second home. One of the longest-serving captains explains: “Skat is unique in that she has only ever had one owner who has insisted on her total privacy and exceptional condition. She was built for a bachelor but has grown through the life of marriage and children, demonstrating her enormous flexibility in design to cope with an expanding family.”Skat yacht by Lürssen main deckPhoto: Guillaume Plisson

With her initial purpose as a remote working station for her ambitious owner having morphed over the years into a fully-fledged family yacht, what has remained the same is the vessel’s identity as a habitable go-anywhere global cruiser. Her eclectic Marco Zanini interior echoes the purposeful elements that make Skat’s exterior so appealing and presents it in a minimalist ensemble of functional living spaces spread across four decks. “Skat was built as a home, not a charter yacht,” explains the captain. “Throughout the many refits and upgrades, the owner has tried to honour Skat’s original design with its hint of Scandinavian cleanliness while still incorporating comfort and new colours.”Skat yacht by Lürssen bridge deckPhoto: Guillaume Plisson

Ultimately, the design stood the test of time, and few projects have since emerged which can attempt to take on the identity that makes Skat so unique. It is this individuality and unapologetic coolness in her design that makes it so hard to tell that Skat was created over 20 years ago. “People either hated or loved the boat when she was first launched,” recalls Øino. “I am kind of experiencing the same now with Olivia O. Most people love her, but some really dislike her; it is interesting to be encountering the same emotions after 20 years. I guess it's better than having people say ‘it's just another white boat’.” Skat yacht by Lürssen Photo: Guillaume Plisson

Inside story
Øino and Zanini worked closely with the owner to find a balance in the holistic design of the vessel, and it is no surprise the interior follows the inherent minimalistic approach that makes living aboard Skat for prolonged periods so enjoyable. “The owners have stuck to guiding principles for the interior with no clutter allowed. At first, it might come off as stark or too clean perhaps, but soon guests notice that everything is where they need it and appreciate there isn’t stuff everywhere just for the sake of it,” her captain explains. The amenities too have been kept to the essentials in a design that is sophisticated without being ostentatious. Skat yacht by Lürssen accommodationPhoto: Guillaume PlissonA full-beam owner’s suite and five additional guest staterooms make up the accommodation layout that runs along the main deck with those rhythmic hull slits seen from the outside offering postcard views from each cabin. A smooth and quiet ride was another key request from the owner and Lürssen adapted a resiliently mounted two-deck raft on which all propulsion and generating machinery is mounted to eliminate as much noise & vibration as possible. Skat yacht by Lürssen accommodationPhoto: Guillaume PlissonSkat is exceptionally quiet throughout, but especially in the guest areas with readings as low as 34 dB in the master cabin at cruising speed,” affirms the captain. Further aft on the main deck, guests will find a formal dining room for 12 and a main saloon/cinema arrangement that is placed athwartships to ease guest flow throughout this area. Skat yacht main saloonPhoto: Guillaume Plisson

View from the top
Amongst a host of singular exterior design elements, one of Skat’s most recognizable features is without a doubt the near-frameless panoramic bridge deck aft. Known as the ‘wintergarden’ to those on board, this indoor/outdoor ‘capsule’ space offers guests panoramic views and has become the most popular area on board to hang out. “The yacht spends a lot of time in Scandinavia, so this deck had to be protected while still letting in as much light as possible,” explains Øino.  Skat yacht by Lürssen bridge deckPhoto: Guillaume Plisson Large sliding doors connect the indoor lounge forward with the outdoor aft dining area which comes with misting and cool-air outlets for warm climates and overhead heaters to extend the season when nights turn cooler. The versatility and incredible views from this area ensure the guests are totally connected to the yacht’s location and activities. It’s a natural gathering point, like a command centre for guests. The areas are also very well connected with dual access stairways and an elevator to all decks.Skat yacht by Lürssen bridge deckPhoto: Guillaume PlissonMoving forward towards the bridge is the guest office and library, considered the ultimate chill-out spot to read or work while enjoying the passing scenery from just about every angle.Skat yacht by Lürssen bridge deck exteriorPhoto: Guillaume Plisson

The perfect fit
The fundamental reason why Skat has seemingly been unaffected by the passing of time despite her active cruising itinerary comes down to the unswerving attention paid to the yacht’s upkeep over the years. “The core crew of Skat have been consistent for the vast majority of her operation and directly responsible for her extensive maintenance program conducted to the owner’s exacting standards,” tells the captain.

Behind every successfully-run yacht is a shore-based team of skilled partners that can be relied upon at a moment’s notice, and Skat is no different. The crew have formed strong bonds on both sides of the Atlantic, building a shoreside maintenance infrastructure with some of the best in the business.  Skat often relied on JC Lenoir and his passionate and experienced group from Other Angle Yachting for all major technical and aesthetic works. In the Caribbean, the yacht has exceptional support from IMM in Guadeloupe who have carried out, amongst other projects, Skat’s 10 and 15-year surveys.Skat yacht by Lürssen gym deckPhoto: Guillaume Plisson

It is a partnership of mutual respect, explains IMM’s Norina Edelman, that has made Skat one of their most pleasurable projects to date. “Skat really represents the best of the yachting industry. She is a beautiful vessel, well-built, with an extremely dedicated and competent crew who take extremely good care of the vessel. The team on board looked at us as partners, seeking to accomplish only one goal: the best result for the yacht and her owner.”Skat yacht by Lürssen main deckPhoto: Guillaume Plisson

Skat has also enjoyed excellent care from Royal Huisman’s Huisfit refit division. Works over the years included comprehensive engineering overhauls of most equipment, an increase of the yacht’s holding tanks fivefold to allow for longer periods spent in zero-discharge areas, full replacement of teak decking and cap rails by Teak Solutions and a rebuild of most deck furniture along with updating exterior deck layouts. For the many paint jobs and continuous exterior painting, Skat has relied since 2008 on Chris Atkinsons ACA and, more recently, Finishing Deluxe to apply a full Jotun paint system with technical oversight by Sandy Kirkwood of the Safinah Group. Skat yacht main deck aftPhoto: Guillaume Plisson

DWH from Dresden was one of the original integrators that built Skat’s interior in 2001/2002 and has since completed all the interior refits and major maintenance on board. “An incredibly enjoyable and successful working relationship with DWH over the years is one of the reasons Skat is in such great shape,” according to her captain. 

Shades of grey
“Given her intended cruising grounds from the tropics to Scandinavia, glass was an important part of the design, which wasn’t so commonplace in those days. I think it is because of how this material is used in the design that gave the boat a sort of military look.” Øino explains that the yacht’s well-known association today with that of a naval vessel is purely coincidental and was never mentioned in the initial brief. “In retrospect, I suppose it may appear like that, but that was never the intention. The grey tone is the same tone used at the owner’s properties and on their private planes. For them, it is a neutral colour.” Skat yacht by Lürssen Photo: Guillaume Plisson

On deck
The cleanliness in Skat’s design extends to the outdoor guest spaces where no items or craft are stored on deck. Two 8.5-metre tenders are safely hidden in the full-beam garage on the lower deck aft along with a host of water toys adjacent to the beach club that opens onto a fold-down swim platform that forms a secure transom when the yacht is underway. Skat yacht by Lürssen main deckPhoto: Guillaume PlissonSkat is just as well equipped to deal with air transfers thanks to a dedicated helideck that comes complete with onboard fueling capabilities and integral tankage. It is also here on the upper deck where guests can make use of the aft-facing climate-controlled gym that can be set up for just about any type of workout. An enlarged family-sized jacuzzi can also be found on this deck, flanked by a field of sun pads and endless views of the surroundings.Skat yacht by Lürssen Photo: Guillaume PlissonSkat yacht by Lürssen gym deckPhoto: Guillaume PlissonSkat yacht by Lürssen gym deckPhoto: Guillaume Plisson

Crew approved
Given that Skat is used as her owner’s home away from home, crew satisfaction was always going to be paramount to her success. With crew social areas and sleeping quarters often approached as an afterthought on so many projects, Skat’s project team identified this subject as an integral part of the design from day one. The size and quality of the crew areas rival any yacht in this class, with extra-wide hallways and stairways, four dry stores, three walk-in fridges along with several large deck and engineering storage spaces located around the yacht, all adding to Skat’s autonomy and adaptability in cruising plans. Skat yacht by Lürssen tender garagePhoto: Guillaume PlissonWith all onboard operations optimised for minimal hands, the compliment is a relatively small 16 to 17-member crew which allows for some generous cabins. Even the lower deck corridors and all crew cabins are trimmed with teak and custom HPL walls for a high-end look that makes Skat an exceptional place to live and work for her crew.Skat yacht by Lürssen Skat yacht by Lürssen tender garagePhoto: Guillaume Plisson

For more information on Skat, contact Fraser central agent Stuart Larsen at:                
+1 954 328 6553
[email protected]



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