Then there's Meduse, which may be Number 90 in the list of top 100 superyachts but remains a favorite within Paul Allen's fleet. Built in 1996, and named rather ominously after the opera Le Naufrage de la Méduse ("The Wreck of the Medusa," written in 1839 by the German-born French composer Baron von Friedrich Flotow), the yacht has served the Microsoft cofounder on cruises up the Amazon River and many other undisturbed areas of the globe. A keen student of music who has broken his share of Fender Stratocasters, Allen had her fitted out with a full digital recording studio with the reported assistance of Peter Gabriel, who has cut tracks on board, as have other stars, including the Eurythmics. The vessel also boasts a 12-seater acoustically optimized cinema. This Feadship has the owner's and principal guest suites on the main deck and four other staterooms below, together with a gymnasium for guests to work off the five-star a la carte fare. Essential toys include a helicopter and a garage full of tenders, PWCs and scuba equipment. Meduse has a maximum speed of only 16 knots, but a range of more than 5,000 miles that allows her to "disappear" from the prying lenses of the paparazzi for long periods, reappearing almost anywhere in the world.
Larry Ellison also retires to his yachts to avoid prying eyes-but also uses them to enjoy the limelight. Dubbed "the Playboy Philanthropist," he's endowed medical research, and hosted wild parties-though he seems to have settled down with fourth wife Melanie Craft, a romance novelist. As befits a man whose biography is titled The Difference Between God and Larry Ellison, his yachts are impressive. The Rising Sun, christened like all of Larry Ellison's yachts with names linked to Japan, was extended during her building from 387 to 452 feet to include an internal canal to carry a personal submarine and other toys. The owner's personal quarters take up the entire top deck and have suites for 16 guests on other decks, all styled by Jon Bannenberg Ltd. She also boasts a basketball court, a billiard room (suitably gimbled we presume) and a theatre. Considering that she produces 48,000 hp, her top speed, said to be 28 knots, seems reasonable. She was launched last autumn but at the time of going to press, she had still to be handed over to her owner.
Where is Rising Sun today? Track her by AIS:
Before the Rising Sun there was a striking Martin Francis design was built in 1991 for the late Mexican media mogul Emilio Azcarraga. When he died, the 32-knot vessel, originally named Eco, was snapped up by Larry Ellison to act as a fast mothership for his racing maxi Sayonara and the Oracle America's Cup campaign in New Zealand. Ellison replaced the flying boat on the stern for a more fitness-orientated basketball court and changed her name to Katana, a type of Japanese sword. During the America's Cup he held frequent "Silicon Valley All-Star" basketball games to stay fit and hypercompetitive. Her twin diesels are used for slow-speed running and to help her get on the plane, which is where the gas turbine takes over to push her speed up to 32 knots.
Ellison used her to shadow Sayonara in the 2002 Newport-Bermuda Race. On arrival in St. George's Harbor, she was refueled by two aircraft-fuel bowsers driven over from the nearby airport in preparation for a high-speed hop across the Atlantic to the South of France. She covered the 3,000-mile distance in little over three days, but not without stopping midway across to refuel. Where do you find a filling station in mid-Atlantic? You send your own fuel barge out for a little rendezvous. One can only guess the number of frequent-flyer miles Ellison pocketed with each fill-up.
Katana has since been sold to the Barclay brothers, two British entrepreneurs who own several national newspapers and hotels and live on a secluded Channel Island castle; they have renamed her Enigma.
Built in 1995, Larry Ellison's maxi racer Sayonara won four consecutive ILC Maxi Boat World Championships and also took line honors in the storm-ridden 1998 Sydney-Hobart Race and the 2001 Chicago-Mackinaw Race. A well-known campaigner, she has given Ellison a well-respected reputation in an uncompromising field of endeavor-and an area where he trumps Allen resoundingly...for now.