Boat of the Week: This Bonkers 288-Foot Superyacht Has a 3-Story Glass Elevator That Would Make Willy Wonka Jealous
Project X, built by Golden Yachts, was 15 years in the making. Before it made its world debut at the 2022 Monaco Yacht Show, the yacht had grown in length by 52 feet to 288 feet, crossed the Atlantic, and spent time in three shipyards.
It all began when the owner, a savvy serial yachtsman, first approached designer Ken Freivokh in 2007. “He’d been aboard the Maltese Falcon [a radical sailing superyacht penned by Freivokh] and really liked our design,” Freivokh told Robb Report. “He asked me to come up with some ideas for a 236-foot yacht that he was keen on building quickly.”
The design took inspiration from the Maltese Falcon’s three-deck sky-lit atrium where the interior stairs spiral around the main mast. “We had greater potential to develop the atrium on Project X,” he says. “Instead of having a solid mast in the middle, we introduced a transparent lift, which I think is more spectacular.”
The glass elevator by Lift Emotion—the largest fitted on any yacht—can accommodate 15 people. It’s enveloped by a circular floating staircase, glass floor panels on every landing and topped by a skylight that fills the triple-height atrium with natural light. Three-story balconies with glass balustrades are flanked by the yacht’s large windows, framed by three ‘X’s.
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Other key features include a 2.8-tonne-capable helipad on the foredeck, side-opening tender garages, a professional DJ setup and an office/conference room with separate secretary facilities.
Armed with preliminary designs, the owner set about finding a builder. A combination of busy shipyards, long lead times and exorbitant prices saw the owner turn to Marco Chilena, an outpost of Seattle-based builder Marco Marine, with facilities in Chile’s Atacama Desert. “The yard specialized in commercial fishing vessels and hadn’t built a single yacht, but they were starting a 236-foot yacht project for a top Italian owner and quoted highly competitive prices,” says Freivokh.
Seizing the opportunity, the owner instructed Freivokh to complete designs for a total of three projects, sized at 236 feet, 256 feet and 328 feet. His aim was to repeat the success he’d had spearheading the build of five Benettis with a group of owners. Marco Chilena commenced work on two of the yachts, building the hull and part of the aluminum superstructure on the 236-footer and laying the keel for the 256-footer, before the yard had serious financial troubles.
All work stopped, and the 236-foot hull was placed on a platform and towed thousands of miles along the West coast to Delta Marine in Seattle, where it sat untouched for the next seven years. Delta’s fee to correct and finish the build exceeded the original quote by $58 million. Incidentally, the other owner, who had started a new yacht in the Chilean shipyard, also had it towed away, first heading to New Zealand before being finished at a shipyard in Turkey. Now named Victorious, it made its world debut at Monaco alongside Project X.
With Project X temporarily shelved, the owner completed Meamina, a 195-foot Benetti that he used to cruise during the summers and winters, before Jonathan Beckett, CEO of Burgess Yachts, reignited his interest by recommending Greek shipyard Golden Yachts. It proved a good fit, and Project X’s hull was sent across the Atlantic where it underwent a 28-month completion program.
By this time, the owner had seen other yachts and wanted to make some changes. He lengthened the yacht to 288 feet and requested more elaborate, textured interior finishes. “I wasn’t so comfortable with the interior changes, so I suggested he engage Massari Design Studio, who had completed Meamina’s interior,” says Freivokh.
More than 40 types of leather, woods, marbles and onyxes are featured on board, including leather ceilings, silk carpets, walls dressed in Amazonian fish skin and floor tiles made from black Sahara noir marble with gold and white veining. The bar on the upper deck has undulating cladding made from glass bottles filled with a whisky-colored liquid, for which Massari designed rubber-coated spring supports to keep the bottles sea-fastened. In the formal dining area, a 13-foot-long wine cellar inspired by a bank vault delivers ‘wow’ factor.
A key area is the beach club, an original part of the design that largely benefited from the decision to move the gym to the sun deck, leaving the beach club entirely devoted to relaxation. It includes two saunas, a massage/beauty room, a large sofa that rotates to face out to sea, and the attention-grabbing pool.
“The glass-sided pool allows the adults to keep an eye on the children as they are playing and brings additional light into the beach club, both of which were important elements for the owner,” Captain David Cherington told Robb Report.
Though accessed from the main deck aft, the glass-encased bottom of the pool sits suspended in the center of the beach club, clad in silver Xs.
The ‘X’ symbol features prominently throughout the yacht, from the atrium to the stern area to the monogrammed cushions and even the yacht’s name. While Project X sounds cool, it was conceived by Freivokh to compensate for structural inconsistencies during the initial build.
“The forward bulkheads were built a little differently from the ones behind the atrium, so I needed to find a way to bring the two together,” Freivokh says. “The X was a structural solution that emphasized the horizontal direction of the multi-level atrium.”
The full-beam 1,400-square-foot owner’s suite, located aft of the bridge and atrium, enjoys 180-degree views and its own exterior deck, with a dining room and spa pool. Even when maintaining a commercially active lifestyle onboard, the yacht suits the needs of the owner’s family as well as proving a popular charter yacht. But, alas, it would seem the owner’s mind is always on the next project. Project X is available for sale “at the right price,” says Freivokh.
Click here to see more photos of Project X.
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