Water, water everywhere and we have champagne to drink. As the heavens open, lightning cuts deep into the Hong Kong harbor skyline and the windows and deck are awash, the privileged few invited to cruise on the newly arrived Sanlorenzo SL96 Special Edition superyacht are secure and dry, lounging in the spacious saloon on the main deck while the crew proffers canapes and tops up glasses. The toast is to our host for the afternoon, Traugott Kaminski, CEO of Sanlorenzo China Holding and proud designer of the 96-foot behemoth that shelters us in splendid luxury from the sudden, violent rainstorm.
Dubbed the godfather of mainland China luxury yachting – for his pioneering vision not for his heritage (he is German, not Italian) or his slicked-back pigtail that marks him as something of a maverick – Kaminski brokered the deal for Sanlorenzo to enter the Hong Kong and China market last year. He has dealt in luxury in Asia for 25 years, first steering cars and since 2003 helming yachts – he brought two Sunseekers to Shanghai in November that year. “There was no market in China then, but I had an idea,” he remarks with admirable foresight. “Now the market is sophisticated, I looked for a real design boat. Most important for me was to work with a shipyard to design boat specifically for the Asia market.”
Leading a tour over the three decks and 29.1-meter span of the Sanlorenzo SL96, which was tailor-made by the acclaimed Italian yacht-builder according to his specifications, Kaminski identifies the design touches and interior flourishes that make this a very special edition indeed. Privacy is a paramount concern for his Chinese clients, who use their superyachts for business meetings and entertaining as well a day – or usually at the most a weekend – jaunt on the open seas. Typical European yacht owners, by contrast, use their craft purely for pleasure and may cruise for days at a time; for them the crew is part of the family.
Chinese owners, according to Kaminski, prefer the help to be unobtrusive. On the SL96, staff quarters are tucked away at the front of the lower deck (where guests cabins may be found on other yachts) and the four crew share two cabins, each with ensuite toilet and shower so that they can look presentable morning and night. Sliding internal doors between sections of the main deck ensure privacy and external doors allow the crew to pass from their quarters or the kitchen to the back of the boat and wheel house without disturbing those enjoying themselves within.
Sanlorenzo luxury yachts are famed for their customization – each craft is unique, designed and built with the input of the buyer – and their sleek lines. Kaminski wanted to open up the interior as much as possible to provide views and natural light – the lounge has a balcony and floor-to-ceiling glass windows on one side, for instance, and the dining area has a sunroof – without sacrificing the yacht’s cutting-edge appearance. Nifty devices allow windows to be blackened when the space is not in use to ensure a slim-lined seamless exterior. The indoor entertaining areas are all on one level for comfort and convenience, and as you descend to your cabin you enter a lobby area rather than a typical narrow hall, imparting a sense of spacious well-being.
There are four cabins sleeping a total of 10 – the owner’s with double vanity units and a walk-in shower for two, the VIP (almost as grand to give face to a distinguished guest) and two guest cabins each with two single beds and an additional pull-down bed. The show yacht on which we spend the afternoon is tastefully decorated in light tones of fine European wood, leather and marble with lively orange accents; needless to say, material and color choices would be at each owner’s discretion.
There is much more to be done on this yacht than an ‘ordinary’ (if any mega yacht can be so described) boat of this size, stresses Kaminski. For those who want to play on the water, a reconfigured lower deck allows space for a large tender boat and two jet skis. The fly bridge has a jacuzzi and plenty of lounging space for drying off after a dip, a dining table, wide-screen TV and teppanyaki cooking station.
As this first SL96 Special Edition designed for the China market heads for its homeport of Sanya, where Sanlorenzo is opening its debut flagship store in the region, Hong Kong will glimpse the next Kaminski-Sanlorenzo creation later in 2014, the SL106 Special Edition. Apart from another 10 feet and a more lavish interior decor, the SL106 will offer a round dining table – requested by many Chinese customers – two balconies, three jet skis, a sauna and massage bed, and even an auspicious fish tank in the dining area.
Responding to an inquisitive guest’s query about the price of the SL96 (it’s HKD95 million), Kaminski answers smartly, “We don’t sell boats, we sell a lifestyle.” He adds happily that his friendship with a customer will blossom after the yacht is delivered, as Sanlorenzo China also takes care of the craft’s management, ensuring that it’s smooth sailing for many years to come.