They say sailing is a “rich man’s sport,” and they are totally right. In this age of steam ships, flying machines and matter transporters, sailboats have become simultaneously the slowest and most expensive way to get anywhere – which is, we guess, something of an impressive feat.
Still, the sport continues, because it’s awesome. Some have worked to make ships faster, and others have worked to make ships cooler. But there are a select few with an even nobler vision: making those damn things huge. Below are the top ten biggest sailboats ever built.
10. The Creole
LOA -214.24 feet
Beam -30.97 feet
Draft -16.4 feet
Speed – 10 knots cruising, 14.5 knots max speed.
The Creole has one hell of a history. Built in 1926, it was struck with two pretty bad omens straight out the box: the owner died of tuberculosis, and the attempted christening (in which a bottle of champagne is smashed on the bow) took three failed tries before it succeeded. In response to these, its masts were gimped, and its hulls were stuffed with extra ballast, because apparently they decided that heavier hull + less sail area = profit. They were wrong — the Creole, as originally built, kinda sucked.
That all turned around exactly a decade later, when it was refitted as a proper racing yacht, and managed to build quite a reputation at British regattas until the start of World War II, when it was drafted as a minehunter. She survived the war and, despite being frequently abandoned and refitted, continues sailing to this day.
LOA -217 feet
Beam - 33 feet
Draft -30 feet
Speed – 13 knots max speed
Completed in April of 2011, details on the ultra-modern Aglaia are still shrouded in secrecy. We do know that she was designed by Dubois Naval Architects, and features one of the largest composite rudders ever built, but not much else has been made public. Thirteen knots of top speed seem a bit low to us, given her lines and a “daggerboard” keel that can slide up and down, as well as a mast that reaches 262 feet above the deck. If she has 2,730 square meters of sail area, we’re gonna bet that she can get up to 20 knots, barring some huge design flaw that we don’t know about.
8. Hetairos III
LOA -219 feet
Beam - 34 feet
Draft - 29.5 feet
Crew – 10
Designed by Dykstra & Partners, and built by the world-famous Baltic Yachts, Hetairos III is a bold take on the superyacht. Though modeled with classic lines, she’s actually built from the latest high-tech lightweight materials, and is the largest yacht ever built from carbon-fiber composite.
Completed just last year, she’s already participated in the 2012 Superyacht Cup, which was held just before the Summer Olympics in London. She didn’t win, but the mere fact she competed, while still effectively in boat-diapers, is a feat in and of itself.
LOA- 220 Feet
Beam – 41.1 Feet
Draft – 16.5 Feet
There’s a point where a superyacht goes from “absurdly luxurious” to “I am a supervillian dictator”, and that point is somewhere around Vertigo. Meticulous wood work, chrome fixtures, leather furnishing and sandblasted wood floors make this into a veritable sailing penthouse. She has flatscreen TVs, more computer screens than we’d know what to do with, and even a gym.
When something has hydraulic-powered winches and a gym, we’re guessing at least two offices in the design department aren’t communicating. Putting an exercise bike on the interior of that sailing ship is like putting a rowing machine on wheels and making your friend drag you around on his bicycle while you exercise. Actually, that would be better because that bike machine isn’t even outside. How do you build something with the express purpose of traveling to beautiful places, and then spend any time at all inside a room with a wall-size mirror, watching yourself exercise?
Okay, fine: we’re just really, really jealous, because we never exercise. Moving on.
Three Mast Gaff-Rigged Schooner
LOA- 227.7 Feet
Beam - 29 Feet
Draft – 16 Feet
Atlantic is, hands down, one of the coolest ships on this list. Built in 1903 in the Townsend and Downey shipyard by William Gardner, Atlantic quickly quickly began winning regattas despite her luxurious (and heavy) interior. Her biggest claim to fame came just two years after she was built when, captained by America’s Cup winner Charlie Barr, she set the record for fastest transatlantic crossing by a mono-hull. She held this record for nearly a hundred years and, to this day, it is the longest-held speed record in the history of yachting.
On January 30th, 1982, she was broken up in a storm at Newport News Boat Harbor, Virginia. A full-size replica, commissioned by entrepreneur Ed Kastelein, was completed in June of 2010. We don’t really have any jokes about this ship, because she’s just gorgeous, and we don’t like to make fun of gorgeous things. We like to follow them around, acting like their friend, helping them with their homework and promising ourselves that someday — someday — they’ll see.
Length – 246 Feet
Beam – 31.4 Feet
Draft – 20.5 Feet
Crew – 15
Max Speed Under Sail – 18 Knots
Launched in 1976, the Phocea was the longest sailing ship in the world until 2004, when she was crushed by the current leader, who we’ll be introducing you to shortly.
Her stocky design and numerous masts give her the kind of ridiculous luxury you’ve come to expect on this list: bathtubs you can drown small countries in, and dinner tables reminiscent of the Hogwarts dining hall, are just the beginning. Featuring wood paneling and furniture by David Linley, her $17 million refit in 1997 actually won awards for being so awesome. The refit, that is — the boat itself has never technically won anything.
4. Mirabella V
Length – 247 Feet
Beam – 48.6 Feet
Draft – 33 Feet
Crew – 16
Max Speed Under Sail – Over 20 knots.
We’re gonna list some basic facts here, in no particular order, about the Mirabella V:
– Her mast (the largest in the world) is twice the height of Nelson’s column in Trafalgar Square, with a compression load of 440 tons.
– She is wider than a Royal Navy Type-42 Destroyer.
– It is physically impossible for her to pass under any bridge that she can navigate to.
– She has the largest jib (foresail/genoa) ever built at 19,730 square feet. According to designer Luciana Vittoria, one of the biggest challenges was finding ropes strong enough to control it.
The reason for all this superlative is that despite the fact that Mirabella V is only number 4 on our last, she has a sloop rig (the largest in the world), meaning she has only one mast with one mainsail and two jibs (despite this, she is not technically a cutter rig due the placement of her mast), while most boats this size spread the pressure out over several masts with multiple sails on each.
To give you a sense of what this means, practically, if you were holding on to the starboard jib sheet while Mirabella V traveling at a 90 degree angle to the wind and you got hit with, say, a ten knot gust, then your arms would, scientifically speaking, stop existing.
3. The Maltese Falcon
Free Standing Full Rig
LOA – 289 Feet
Beam – 41 Feet
The Maltese Falcon’s rig is either a marvel of modern technology or an affront to God, depending on your perspective. Most ships of any size will displace the massive pressure put on the sails through a network of steel or carbon fiber rigging. This ambitious superyacht, on the other hand, built three full-rigged free-standing masts in its place. They not only withstand huge amounts of pressure in one of the least structurally sound shapes imaginable, but can even rotate, demanding that the sails be trimmed with knobs and touch-screen computers. The carbon-fiber masts are so big that, during construction, the owner claimed to be the second biggest purchaser of carbon fiber in the world, surpassed only by the US Air Force. When asked how much it cost to build, owner Tom Perkins got all shy and blustery and wouldn’t get anymore specific than “between 150 and 300 million,” because he didn’t want to be seen as a greedy, egotistical d-bag.
This design is actually based on a 1970’s German design called Dynaship, which was a sort of panicked pie-in-the-sky effort to come up with a viable alternative to diesel-powered cargo ships in the event that the oil ran out. It proved unworkable back then, and it wasn’t until the construction of the Falcon that it was proven effective. Due to the success of the Falcon, more ideas are materializing.
Gaff Rigged Schooner
LOA – 295
Beam – 40 Feet
Draft – 19 Feet
Max Speed Under Sail – 20+ knots
This boat is so silly it’s steered by a damn joystick. On-board SCUBA locker with tank-filling facility, and a lazarette big enough for a decompression chamber? Yes, that too. The chefs have one of the most complete food service facilities found on any private yacht. It also has specs, you guys, like so many specs. All the comic conventions in the world couldn’t produce this many specs.
Three Mast Bermuda Rigged Schooner
LOA – 305 Feet
Beam - 44.2 Feet
Draft- 18 feet
Eos is an absolutely gorgeous aluminum sailing ship owned by a really rich dude, and it’s really luxurious and has a glass staircase and blah blah blah whatever, let’s cut to chase: is Eos the biggest sailing ship in the world?
The answer is… maybe. Though Eos is slightly beamier (wider), the Maltese Falcon has a longer waterline. Eos has a longer Length Over All (LOA), but only if you count the bowsprit (Athena doesn’t win because either way, it falls into second place). Different “yachting experts” have come out on both sides, so where does that leave us?
Well, TopTenz consulted our in-house sailing expert, and we came to a simple conclusion: It’s Eos. It’s Eos because yes, guys, the bowsprit totally counts. Why the hell wouldn’t it? A ship’s LOA tells you more about it than any other single number. A windsurfer has more sail area than a laser, but no one argues that a windsurfer is bigger. Weight is a silly measurement to use, because of the inherent difference between a carbon fiber yacht and a steel one.
In closing, length counts. Bowsprits are awesome. Eos wins.