Ulysses: the hunt for a Viking explorer

Written by Charl van Rooy

In a time where explorer yachts are marketed as an achievable result by so many, one serial yacht owner set out to create the ultimate seven oceans mile-muncher that would be able to provide him and his family a safe, comfortable and luxurious experience at sea like no other before her. To achieve this, the luxury yachting brands which he once favoured were overlooked, and instead, headed far north into Viking territory for his next project. It is in Norway where the Ulysses journey begins…

No stranger to the shifting tides and swells of the rough South Pacific, and an experienced yacht owner at that, the man behind the series of yachts named Ulysses has continued the exponential growth rate in the size of the yachts which he creates, this time with a new 107-metre monster. Ulysses is the next level in what is available to owners seeking to lead a path off the beaten track, with the best from the worlds of luxury yachting and proven commercial vessels combined into one ocean-crossing and self-sufficient package.

Kleven in Norway, builders of robust commercial and offshore vessels, were tasked with the challenge of putting a superyacht spin on one of their proven deep-water platforms designed and conceptualised by Marin Teknikk, that would ultimately be built as an ultra luxurious superyacht. The advantages of this approach would prove to be a trusted and solid ship able to be built in under two years with room for complete customisation and personal input from the owner. To make this all happen, an international team was assembled which included Oscar Mike as exterior stylists, naval architects and concept designers Marin Teknikk, interior designers H2 Yacht Design and technical managers Manta Maritime.

The brief was simple: create a private luxury yacht with advanced offshore capabilities with the intent of being passed on to an equally adventurous owner. “The brief called for an expedition-style vessel with real presence,” explains Kyle Dick of Oscar Mike Naval Architects. “Four key design drivers stood out above the technical brief that influenced the design. These were: gross tonnage, big tenders, a full compliant heliport and aft-facing exterior guest spaces."The yacht was to feature a highly custom and luxurious superyacht interior that is dressed in a commercial exterior paint finish.

Deck spaces are kept simple with a focus on large continuous guest spaces that flow into the next. The use of steel in the construction of both the hull and superstructure nearly eliminated the need for structural beams in certain areas, further adding to the uninterrupted interior and exterior guest spaces, making these decks seem even larger that what they already are.

A prime example of this has to be the 400-square-metre pool deck. Here guests can select between a number of outdoor chill-out spots in between pool sessions. A family-sized Jacuzzi and 12-metre swimming pool give the option of not having to leave the comfort of this deck to enjoy watersports fun. This enormous outdoor space seamlessly leads into the area known as the pool house – a near full-beam social zone with wrap-around glass sliding doors, ideal for lazy summer days.

Another stand-out exterior feature can be found right at the top of Ulysses’ superstructure. Here an isolated viewing deck can be found placed just above the bridge. At 21 metres above sea level, time spent here is sure to be a magical experience while cruising underneath a sunset sky.

Ulysses is equipped with a certified helicopter landing pad capable of accommodating a Bell 429 or EC145 helicopter. The helideck comes complete with a hangar in which the helicopter will be stored sideways, with its rotors folded in a stow position. Ulysses comes complete with refuelling capabilities as well, with a dedicated supply of high-grade fuel stowed on the foredeck.

British studio H2 Yacht Design was selected for the design of Ulysses’ interior. A beam spanning 18 metres and a hefty gross tonnage of just under 6,000 GT meant guest areas would always be expansive, a challenge in itself. “The scale is pretty immense and we were working with some really big spaces,” explains Jonny Horsfield, founder of H2 Yacht Design. “The owners also had very particular requirements that we had to be sensitive to.” This was not the only challenge, however, as the size and commercial appeal of the vessel saw the team having to adapt to and implement the newly written Passenger Yacht Code into the general arrangement of the layout.

“Having had to follow the PYC material rules meant we were selecting from a limited palette of materials,” continues Horsfield. “Working with a cruise ship-specialized interior contractor had us working hard at establishing a panelling system and décor that would be attractive but also relatively simple to construct and install.” This was not necessarily a bad thing tells Horsefield, as the ultimate result has added greatly to the clarity and consistency guests will experience throughout the interior.

Guest accommodation is spread across three decks and 15 suites in total. The owner receives his own dedicated deck that resembles a contemporary apartment more than a suite. The master bedroom leads out onto a private aft deck with an office and lounge space up forward. Another concealed entrance opens up onto an intimate setting on a private forward facing balcony deck. When asked about his favourite areas on board, Horsfield identified this as one the best: “The master bedroom is one of my favourites due to its unique location and views. It’s a substantial space and I find the subdued, warm colouring both relaxing and soothing.”

Guest cabins are located on the pool deck ahead of the pool house. Cabins open up onto the side decks with a private balcony and individually-styled luxurious living quarters.

The onboard cinema is designed to entertain guests while underway or during those rainy summer nights.

As an explorer yacht capable of cruising the remotest corners on earth without the need of relying on shore-based support for weeks, Ulysses’ crew becomes a key part in the operation of the vessel and ultimately guests’ experience on the yacht. Being based on a commercial platform, crew members enjoy the benefits of having extra spacious cabins and communal areas for relaxation. These home-comforts will no doubt come in handy should Ulysses embark on the world voyages which she was intended for.

Although built strictly as a private vessel, when the sheer amount of open entertainment deck spaces, the number of different interior hideaway spots and the selection of possible water, land and air activities that are on offer to guests are considered, it is not too difficult to imagine the charter possibilities Ulysses is capable of offering. The active family ensured that there is no shortage of toys to suit any number of possible terrains. Landing craft, ATV’s dune buggies, sailing boats, motorbikes and a fully equipped dive centre – you name it and Ulysses will provide.

The flagship of Ulysses’ tender fleet is no doubt the 21-metre catamaran tender stowed on her foredeck. Named U-21, this craft is custom built by Composite Projects in New Zealand to a design by Teknikraft to meet the owner’s deep-sea fishing and comfortable cruising requirements. The tender is propelled by 4 water jets driven by quad engines. Inside is accommodation for seven guests in five cabins.Two dedicated Palfinger 30-tonn cranes serve the tender and launch her into the water over the port side of the foredeck. “Having these cranes and the ability to have such a large tender onboard sets Ulysses apart from any other explorer yacht,” says Ken Appleby of Manta Maritime.

Fitted with no less than six Caterpillar engines, Ulysses is propelled by twin azimuth stern drives to a top speed of 16.8 knots. More impressive is her range: fully loaded she can cover 8,500 nautical miles without having to stop, leaving the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans in her wake.

Her commands come from bridge deck, six levels up. Here, Manta Maritime oversaw the installation of the Rolls-Royce integrated bridge. This one-of-a-kind technical marvel lives up to every kid's dream of having total control over one of the coolest ships on the seas at his/her fingertips. Appleby, however, explains that this is not merely a technical area for crew. “The design and layout of the bridge is clean, spacious and uncluttered. With full height windows on three sides and ample free space, the wheelhouse not only serves as the navigating position but is a fantastic guest space as well.” A viewing window from the bridge allows crew to keep direct visual contact with helicopter operations.

Ulysses can be described as a game changer in the field of super explorer yachts, setting a new standard in what is possible when the commercial and luxury yachting worlds meet. Only time will tell how this 107-metre floating city can be improved when Ulysses’ bigger 116-metre sister finally sets sail next year.

Ulysses is jointly offered for sale through Burgess and Fraser Yachts.

Photos by Thierry Ameller



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