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The Ultimate Tenders to Pair With Your Superyacht

The demand for high-end chase boats has increased tenfold in the past decade.

By Miriam Cain

From the classic mahogany Riva to Pascoe’s custom chase boats and even Damen Yachting’s support vessels, the size and range of superyacht tenders is a wide-ranging term that is growing in tandem with the ever-increasing size of superyachts. While tenders remain a necessity for transport to and from the shore to your yacht, what kind of tender do you need when you want to go exploring?

The demand for chase boats has certainly increased tenfold in the past decade, as owners look to explore further afield while also expanding their toy list for increased fun. Whether your preference is for a custom-built chase boat to match the mother ship or a floating helipad to escort you to remote locations, there really is no need to settle for the middle ground when it comes to your superyachting experience.

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Wallytender48, Wally Yachts

Best for: Avante-garde design

wally yachts
The Wallytender48 can be used as a chase boat and an overnight cruiser / ©Gilles Martin

Back in the early aughts, when the flagship of the custom-built Wallytender was launched, it caused a stir for its avant-garde design and size. Many say it was the original Wallytender that was in fact responsible for a large tender-market segment that has grown in size. And it’s a stir that continues, with the Wally-Ferretti Group alliance revamping the Wallytender line with the Wallytender48.

An evolution of the now iconic Wallytender, the new model is even bigger and serves two purposes — chase boat and overnight cruiser. Practical and stylish, the Wallytender48 is powered by Volvo IPS engines and glides across the open seas with ease. Wally’s trademark vertical bow serves as both a wave piercer when cruising at speed and as a visual aesthetic that pays homage to Wally’s DNA.

[See also: Sea Change: The Sunreef 88 Ultima Yacht]

The functional and fashionable exterior also features an abundance of space, the highlights of which are the large sunpads located both bow and stern, and the flexible alfresco dining/helm station. The classic and modern interior is sumptuous, with luxurious finishes and a choice of color palettes used throughout its double bed and lounge area.

Not one to rest on its laurels, Wally goes into its 30th year with the launch of the Wallypower50. “The Wallypower50 is a key addition to the range, serving as a link between the Wallytenders and the Wallypowers,” says Stefano de Vivo, managing director of Wally Yachts. “As such, we have imbued it with everything that both ranges offer, and more besides — the Wallypower50 sets a new standard for being flexible, practical, dynamic and, of course, iconic.”

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Riva Aquarama, Riva Yachts

Best for: Owning a coveted classic

The Riva Anniversario was launched in honor of the company’s 180th anniversary / ©Alberto Cocchi

Emblematic of the glamour of yachting, the Riva Aquarama is possibly the most stylish superyacht accessory available. Launched in 1962, this wooden speedboat firmly cemented its iconic status just a few years later when it became the day boat of choice for the Hollywood jet set and European royalty alike — the likes of Brigitte Bardot and Monaco’s Grimaldi family were regularly seen riding the waves along the coastline of the French Riviera.

Over the next few decades, a total of 760 Aquaramas were built, 650 of which are still in use. This limited-edition number, combined with the quality of the original build, leaves the Aquarama as one of the most classic, sought-after tenders in the world. In fact, over the decades it has been named by the media as the ‘Best Runabout Ever’ and recently had an entire coffee-table book dedicated solely to the model (Riva Aquarama, published by Assouline).

Riva even created a limited-edition Riva Anniversario in honor of Riva’s 180th anniversary in 2022, and as a tribute to the Aquarama. Taking cues from the beloved run-around, the Anniversario is a limited edition of just 18 models, making it almost as prestigious as its older sibling.

But back to the original: Aquarama’s appeal lies not only in its lofty status but its hand-built, highly varnished mahogany hull, curved lines, signature blue- and cream-colored leather upholstery, gleaming chrome, and well-thought-out detailing (for example, the transom slopes to allow for ease of access to the water, and the helm is oversized to assist fine steering at high speed — everything has been designed for hard use as well as good looks). It may be old, but the roaring twin engines still make it a fun and fast boat and one that, in good condition, can reach prices just shy of a million dollars.

Wajer 44, Wajer Yachts

Best for: Pocket yachting

Wajer yacht in the water
The Wajer 44 as 50% more volume than the Wajer 38 / ©Ministerie van Beeld Gorinchem

In response to the growing popularity of superyacht owners using their tenders for day trips and extended journeys away from the mother ship, Wajer Yachts unveiled the sleek Wajer 44 day cruiser last summer. “The Wajer 44 has 50% more volume than the Wajer 38 and, at the same time, she’s more compact than the Wajer 55,” says Dries Wajer, managing director of Wajer Yachts.

The new model certainly packs a punch into its relatively small size — luxurious, fast, safe, dry, comfortable and ergonomic, she even has room for a double bed — and no creature comforts were jettisoned here. This Dutch builder is known for innovative design and technology, and the Wajer 44 features its Wajer Owners App concept, enabling owners to connect to their boat from an app. This means they can remotely check the anchor position, drop the hydraulic swimming ladder and prepare the air-conditioning — almost as if a crew member was preparing to welcome you back on board.

Aesthetically, the Wajer 44 also has a clean and timeless design that is instantly recognizable to anyone who knows her predecessors, in particular the Wajer 77, to which she bears the most resemblance. She’s not only good-looking, but incredibly capable: Powered by twin Volvo engines, the Wajer 44 can reach a maximum speed of up to 40 knots, has a comfortable (and very respectable) cruising speed of 26 knots, and boasts a 300 nautical mile range — so you can easily jump off the mother ship in Cannes and head down the coast to the golden isles of Îles d’Hyères for the day, returning to the gilded coastline for dinner. Just remember to download the Wajer Owners App before that champagne picnic lunch, though, or you might be struggling to get back on board.

Support Vessel, Damen Yachting

Best for: Over-the-top superyacht support

A support vessel stores all the toys, aircraft and extra crew to free up space on the mother ship / ©Damen Yachting

The benevolent and less glamorous older sister to the major vessel, the support vessel (or shadow boat, as it is often referred to) is designed explicitly for adventure and practicality. Whether required for long-distance cruising as a stand-alone vessel, or as a support vessel for carrying extra crew, aircraft and luxury toys, a support vessel is in effect a way to free up prime real estate on board the mother ship and offers owners more versatility.

On board a superyacht, luxury can cause functionality to be compromised, given that a yacht’s primary purpose is to cocoon its owners and guests in splendor. However, depending on the size of the vessel, this can come at a cost. It might seem that simply having a larger yacht to carry everything required in one space would be the solution for yacht owners looking to elevate the onboard experience, but the bigger the yacht, the bigger the equipment and crew requirements also — not only for operating the yacht’s critical functions but also for various toys and tenders. And the temptation is always there to use the extra space for larger, more comfortable cabins and saloons, or to add more features like spas and cinemas, which take up a lot of space.

Recognizing that a new generation of superyacht owners are looking to head off the beaten track while at the same time enjoying the option of more adrenaline-pumping activities, Damen was the first shipyard to create purpose-built luxury support vessels to boost and augment the capabilities of the yacht mother ship. The winning formula Damen created has resulted in the build of 22 unique support vessels to date. Damen calls this the “Smart Stretch,” referring to the fact that it is more economical to add a second yacht support vessel to an existing fleet than it is to upgrade, for example, from a 160-ft or 190-ft motor yacht up to a 295-ft one.

[See also: Njord’s Sarah Colbon on Ripping Up the Superyacht Rule Book]

Damen tender helicopter
The Yacht Support concept can carry everything from four-wheel-drive land vehicles, seaplanes and two helicopters / ©Damen Yachting

“We developed the Yacht Support concept to help clients achieve more from their yachting experience,” explains Sarah Flavell, marketing manager at Damen Yachting. “Designed to complement the primary superyacht, the Yacht Support facilitates fun and adventure, as well as providing a functional platform for a heli-deck and the stowage of additional tenders, water toys and even submersibles. For owners who want all-out superyacht style but do-anything capabilities, an accompanying Yacht Support vessel is the perfect solution.”

A hybrid between a support vessel and a stand-alone yacht, with grand saloons and guest accommodation, Damen Yachting’s support vessels offer the owner the versatility of a complete yachting solution. However, no matter how customized Damen Yachting’s support vessels are, what they do have in common is their capacity and practicality. First, Damen Yachting’s support models are based on the proven platforms of the patented axe-bow hull design, specifically developed to operate in the most challenging of environments.

Ranging from 148 ft up to 246 ft (to date), their carrying capacity and range away from the mother ship is immense. Large deck spaces provide storage for a multitude of watercraft, including various RIBs, day boats, whaleboats and dive tenders, fishing boats, sailboats, jet skis, and much, much more. And of course, not everything on board needs to be water-related. Owners can specify dive centers and carry everything from four-wheel-drive land vehicles, seaplanes and one (or even two) helicopters.

Damen’s support vessels can also carry extra provisions, including refrigerated goods and spare parts — ideal when cruising off the beaten track, where there is little infrastructure for reprovisioning. This kind of autonomy opens up a world of opportunities for adventurous cruising, allowing an owner’s yacht fleet to spend many months away from base.

Compass Limousine, Compass Tenders

Best for: Custom cruising

Compass tender concept
These custom tenders can be found with some of the largest yachts in the world / ©Mike Jones – Waterline Media

Over two decades have passed since Compass Tenders realized the gap in the market for the ‘mini-me,’ a custom-made tender. Its quintessential Limousine line can be found accompanying (and in some cases, being carried on board) some of the largest yachts in the world, serving as a chase boat for owners who wish to explore further afield, or stored in the vast garages and large tender bays that can often be accommodated on larger megayachts.

Whether nodding to the characteristics of the mother ship to which they belong, or echoing the design, each unique Compass tender exemplifies superyacht style. “The tender often makes the first impression for the superyacht experience, and we strive to ensure that design detailing, styling and level of finish are akin to that of the mother ship,” explains Richard Faulkner, founder and CEO of Compass Tenders.

The Limousine line, which currently ranges from 30 ft up to 46 ft, features a curved coach roof with central glazing for shelter either from the sun or inclement weather, while the aft deck seating area is equally luxurious for fun while racing over the waves. Other commonplace amenities include a spacious interior with custom leather seating, ambient lighting and forward-facing cameras, but the overall style is unique to the vessel, and just about every whim can be catered to. “Compass Limousine tenders are frequently specified with intricate teak flooring, integrated premium audiovisual systems and everything you need for exceptional onboard comfort,” says Faulkner.

J Craft Torpedo, J Craft

Best for: Style and substance

J Craft tender
The J Craft Torpedo takes 8,000 man-hours to build / ©J Craft

Designed in a similar style to Riva’s Aquarama, J Craft’s Torpedo is a stylish chase boat, handcrafted for the most sophisticated of superyacht owners. But the looks are really where the similarities end. With as much emphasis on performance as there is on vintage aesthetics, beneath the highly varnished, mahogany exterior is a modern fiberglass- and resin-infused planing hull, designed specifically to house a pair of powerful and hi-tech Volvo Penta engines. The latter allows the Torpedo R (with a maximum speed of 42 knots) and the speedy Torpedo RS (with a maximum speed of up to 47 knots) to handle a wide range of offshore conditions — which is especially reassuring, considering the first test drive is in the rough waters of the Baltic Sea.

Additionally, thanks to modern engineering at its finest, the Torpedo also provides the mother ship with a smooth and comfortable support vessel — and when first impressions count, how better to escort guests to the yacht for the first time? This is where the J Craft Torpedo excels. Its long, lean lines are finished in an abundance of lacquered wood, while the upholstery, handmade cabinetry and luxurious finishes are a tactile style triumph.

What’s more, the J Craft Torpedo has been designed to double as a self-sufficient mini-yacht, with accommodation space for up to four guests and a captain to stay on board — a dream for those who long to experience adventure on the high seas. One day you could be chasing your own yacht along the coastline of the French Riviera, while the next you could be heading off for a long weekend jaunt to Sardinia.

“From St Tropez to Mallorca, Sardinia to Ibiza, J Craft provides all-around customer service, including transportation and crew provision,” says Johan Halen, J Craft’s chief technology officer, who is also head of production and sales. “If a client wants to use his J Craft on the Venice canals, for example, or Lake Como, it can all be arranged and supported by the shipyard.”

It seems that a bespoke and personal service really runs throughout the J Craft DNA. For example, it takes more than 8,000 man-hours to build a single tender; it’s an unhurried and exacting artisanal method by talented J Craft craftsmen that guarantees the kind of exclusivity and quality demanded by superyacht owners. Since the Torpedo’s debut in 2009, J Craft has delivered 19 Torpedo Rs and three Torpedo RSes — so that is more than 176,000 man-hours in total just for these models. And if you want one, you’ll have to get on the waiting list. But it will be well worth the wait.

This article appears in the 04 Mar 2024 issue of the New Statesman, Spring 2024

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