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WHEN OWNER AMBROUS YOUNG considered enlivening his seagoing aboard his 230ft Ambrosia, he confessed that selling her did cross his mind. The former Benetti shareholder had been scrutinising the 11-year old yacht, his fourth built at the Italian yard to his own design. “I had some offers for her and was looking at the market,” Young said.

However, recreating all the customisation that went into Ambrosia – such as the art deco interior, unusual electrical diesel propulsion and cosy rooms that made this yacht Young’s primary residence – made the Hong Kong industrialist rethink and then opt to refit with Jade Yachts in Taiwan.

Refitting maintains your asset and can add value, from the basics such as anti-fouling and topside paint to relaying worn teak decks. Some decking companies can even travel to the vessel, make templates and return with finished decking, thus minimising downtime.

Minor refits can sometimes be done around the owner’s usage, such as by the STP Yard in Palma for Mirage. The 53m Feadship won the 2016 World Superyacht Award for Best Refitted Yacht after three winters of work which kept it free for the summer season. The Palma yard is famous for its plastic tents, allowing fast paint jobs on floating vessels and also specialist refits to classic sailing yachts.

The futuristically designed Ocean Emerald has a busy schedule in Southeast Asia, moving locations during the wet and dry seasons. With limited shore facilities in the region, the need for self-sufficiency led to several upgrades of gear during the refit by the Wangchao Yard in Bangkok.

“Charter yachts work hard for their living,” said Ocean Emerald owner Nigel Plaskett, who’s based near Ocean Marina on the Gulf of Thailand. “Working in the charter business means we had to keep everything fresh aboard.”

Refits may be forced upon owners for legislative reasons, as happened to the classic motoryacht Constance in 2015. At that time, Constance still retained many of her original 30-year old systems and engine-room equipment, but a surveyor’s report made the boat uninsurable.


The remit given to the Pendennis Yard was to ensure the structural integrity of the yacht complied to offshore cruising requirements, to modernise systems and equipment – not only improve efficiency but also to comply to emission regulations – and to refresh the interiors to the style of the new owners.

Since then, the yard has gone on do the biggest yacht refit carried out in England, on the 281ft Aquila, which had a full interior rebuild.

Among the refit yards are specialist companies – such as HYS in the Philippines and Tuzla in Turkey – that go beyond this to transform vessels. Changing former commercial vessels into luxury yachts gives the new-look vessel a special character and also can be a good business proposition.

Mark Prangnell, who heads HYS, said: “You might say we build ‘four-wheel-drive’ style yachts rather than Ferraris; ones that are commercially engineered, which often means tougher than recreational yachts.”

At the premium end of the market is Lurssen, which runs five operations with 1,800 staff. The giant German builder recently took over a Hamburg yard and its current expansion includes part of La Ciotat yard on France’s Mediterranean coast.

Alberto Perrone Da Zara, Lurssen’s Director Yacht Service, said the company did eight refits last year, including extending Global by 7m.

“We have the scale to offer owners large bank guarantees and are probably one of only 12 global yards able to build and work on 63m-plus superyachts,” Da Zara said.

Electrical issues were a major problem for many ageing yachts, Da Zara explained, so fitting emergency generators and other safety equipment, including fire exits, were typical of the work carried out by the German yard.

Read on for examples of recent refits – and a transformation …


The privately run Ambrosia – one of the stars of this year’s Singapore Yacht Show – was the fourth of the marque commissioned by owner Ambrous Young.

“I was considering a new boat but chose instead to have Ambrosia refitted by Jade Yachts in Taiwan,” Young said.

Choosing the right yard for the US$6 million refit was based on good maintenance work Jade had previously carried out on Ambrosia. Then 10 years old, the 213ft Benetti required substantial work.

“The 12-month job was overseen by my former Captain and done with all the original vendors such as Benetti, ABB Azipod (for the transmissions) and others,” explained Young, whose former Captain, Paul Brackley, has since been succeeded by Jo Bartholomeus.

The Azipod pod drives have the ability to turn in circles, allowing Ambrosia to be highly manoeuvrable when docking.

Maintenance also included a major overhaul of the twin Caterpillar 1630HP engines. The steel hull and aluminium superstructure were fully restored and painted while the interior was largely left intact.

“The classically styled interior, originally designed by Zuretti, is still very beautiful and I enjoy living aboard her,” Young explained.

Natural finishes include cherrywood throughout the interior and teak decks. The yacht is normally cruised around Asia with 15 to 20 crew who look after up to 12 guests in six cabins.



The futuristically designed 135ft aluminium Ocean Emerald – another star of this year’s Singapore Yacht Show – made quite a media splash when it launched in 2006 at the Rodriquez Yachts yard in Italy.

Designed by Englishman Sir Norman Foster, its swept-back transom and decks feature a lot of teak and that – among other small items – was why owner Nigel Plaskett chose a minor refit in the Wangchao Shipyard in Bangkok during 2016.

“Working in the charter business means we had to keep everything fresh aboard,” Plaskett explained.

Unlike Mediterranean boats, Ocean Emerald often is at sea throughout her 10 or 16 day charters, so being self-sufficient is important and she has a cruising range of 2,600nm.

“We go through a lot of water for laundry and washing so we upgraded the watermakers, which run continuously,” Plaskett said.

Other modifications included upgraded air-conditioning for the high humidity experienced during its cruises around Phuket in the high season and the Gulf of Thailand in the low season.

Ocean Emerald’s five-month refit required the owner to engage his own contractors – interior by Euro-Designs, and exterior painting and fabrication by PD Yachts Pattaya – while the yard supplied general engineering staff and fitters.

“We found the standard of Thai workmanship to be high and in fact better than Europeans in some ways because they were able to fabricate and fix rather than simply throw away some gear,” Plaskett said.

Ocean Emerald is now back in service and available for charter throughout Thailand and the southern Myanmar archipelago, with the latter offering a level of privacy for charters rarely found elsewhere in the world.



Last year, the Pendennis Shipyard completed a one-year refit of the 281ft Aquila, which was then the largest yacht refitted in England.

Built in 2010 by Derecktor Shipyards in the US, Aquila (formerly Cakewalk) had its interior designed by Dalton Designs and exterior styling by Tim Heywood Design.

The refit at the Falmouth yard on the south English coast was a major project for Pendennis, which also managed the work for this charter vessel.

Adrian Tinkler, Burgess Charter Manager, explained: “To facilitate the extent of design and technical changes required, the interiors on Aquila needed to be stripped back to bulkheads across most areas.

“The team completely updated the social spaces, modernised technical systems and lighting, and restyled the boat across an area of over 750sqm, the scale of which was unprecedented by any of the suppliers in such a short time period.”

Technology upgrades as part of the yacht’s five-year survey included a new AV and IT system, radar equipment, air conditioning and fresh-air handling systems, along with the rebuild of the four generators. A complete infrastructure repaint rounded off the refit.

Redman Whiteley Dixon (RWD) and Susan Young Interiors were commissioned to evaluate the existing room and exterior layouts to reformulate spaces and improve flow between each area of the yacht.

Significant enhancements included reconfiguring the owner’s suite along with the addition of a 60sqm private deck area, repositioning the jacuzzi to the forward sundeck, and integrating a cinema into the main salon.

Now back for charter in the Caribbean, Aquila can host 12 guests in eight rooms, including a master suite, four VIP staterooms, two twin cabins and a bunk cabin. She can have 28 crew and can cruise at 15 knots with a range of 5,000nm.



Transforming commercial vessels into superyachts for a fraction of the cost of buying new is what Philippine yard HYS has been successfully doing in Subic Bay for the last 18 years.

A recent conversion was the 147ft Lucas, a former Japanese expedition vessel that was transformed into a CKLASS motor yacht. Originally built by the Niigata Ship Yard in 1992 and launched as Sakae Maru, the sturdy engines and drive transmissions were kept but much was changed.

Mark Prangnell, CEO and chief engineer at HYS, said the rebuild required a deck-upwards redesign, involving his naval architect Simon Jupe, to create a luxury yacht with five staterooms – an owner’s suite and four double cabins. Lucas has a cruising speed of 12 knots and a huge range of 10,000nm.

“You might say we build four-wheel-drive style yachts rather than Ferraris; ones that are commercially engineered, which often means tougher than recreational yachts and with huge ranges,” Prangnell said.

Some notable HYS conversions include Dr No for Silicon Valley mogul Tom Perkins and Ark Angel, which also had a bulbous bow added during its luxury conversion.

Prangnell, a former engineer with Prometheus Marine Singapore, had worked on motor vessels and yachts before moving to the Philippines in the late 1990s. With Jupe, an experienced naval architect who worked for Bill Dixon, they formed a successful partnership that has done many conversions.

The old US naval base at Subic Bay had a skilled maritime workforce and facilities, so was a logical place to operate from. It was also close to Japan, where Prangnell’s favoured donor vessels could be procured, as the country has an abundance of recently built hydrographic and research ships.

“Currently we have an ice-strengthened vessel in stock that is waiting for a conversion, should any new owner be interested,” Prangnell said.