The Magellan arrived as no surprise. It was only a matter of time. In China business as usual means a rocketing economy that recently surpassed every nation on earth, now has the world's largest bank, hosts five of the world's 10 largest companies, and with a growing military and insatiable economic expansion makes a habit of exploring new industries and quickly mastering them. The Princess K, Kingship's latest 110 Magellan Explorer, is proof that the megayacht industry is no different. China has done its homework well.
In reality Magellan himself never really made it. The first European explorer to undertake a circumnavigation, he came to a violent end along the way. But ship and mission succeeded, and that spirit of endurance and persistence is what Kingship founder Roger Liang had in mind for his new line of steel trans-oceanic cruisers.
Princess K took its shakedown cruise through the tropical island gauntlet along the Chinese-Hong Kong border. Surrounded by lush verdant hills and a random fleet of curious fishermen who could have been from any of the past few centuries, the Princess K was a yacht of a size and sophistication locals had never seen.
A full displacement motoryacht, it fulfills Liang's vision for the Asian megayacht industry, combining the initiative of money-churning Hong Kong Territory and the manufacturing prowess of the People's Republic of China. No overnight success, it is intended to still any doubts as to whether the fit and finish and delivery of a fully MCA compliant and Lloyd's certified yacht is an aberration. Liang first produced the 120-foot Pearl of the Orient 10 years ago in Singapore. Recognizing the potential of China's manufacturing juggernaut, he moved production over the border and built a state-ofthe- art 70-acre facility.
Last year he launched the expedition yacht China as Asia's very first MCA-compliant yacht, but realized that the strongest market for his production would be long-range steel cruisers. He chose steel for its strength, counting on improvements in coatings and structural techniques to make it more appealing than in the past, but also because China will soon be the largest producer of ships in the world. Along with having an abundance of highly skilled classed steel workers, the neighborhood is also adjacent to one of the world's most sophisticated container terminals and a supply port, which now supports the Kingship yard. The yard itself can build a half dozen 245- foot yachts at once, launch them on an 800-ton dual railway grid, and house more than 180 devoted employees. For those project managers who might sigh at being exiled to Guandong Province, there's a swimming pool and, 90 minutes away, Hong Kong and Macao.
With the stage set for production Liang, as in his previous build, employed Vripak of the Netherlands to design as well as to pre-cut and bend the steel in Europe and ship it to China. "We're launching another boat in the spring of 2008," says Phillip White, a Kingship consulting engineer, "but by our fourth build we will be utilizing Chinese steel and bending and cutting here with plans to continue using Vripak for naval architecture and engineering needs."
Kingship also brought in Luiz de Basto for interior design and Peter Beeldsnijder for exterior styling and interior layout arrangements, all to lend pedigree and credibility to their early builds. To blend the creative talents of three European contributors with the production 10,000 miles away, remote build programs,and 3D modeling were used, with a stable of onsite engineers to insure there was no miscommunication. "Educating our workforce is our greatest accomplishment," says Liang. "Continually improving their understanding of the expectations of the industry and incorporating outside talent is how we achieve success."
Onsite himself, Liang had input as well. The result is a round- bilged cruiser with five watertight bulkheads and an aluminum superstructure with a classic profile of graceful proportion. Not too rakish, nor overly adorned with curves, the Princess K has the enduring style of many Beelsnjider designs: distinctive white mullions, a curved brow,stainless detailed accents, and warm teak decks from stem to stern. The high brow and bulwarks are well suited for ocean cruising; a large utilitarian upper aft deck divides for security.
The flying bridge supports a midship hot tub with a commanding view and surrounding settees. Between the sweeping Portuguese bridge with its railed midship walkway to the bow, and the aft deck settee, the 110-footer features an abundance of topside social areas ideal for long voyages.
Princess K has the heart of a bluewater voyager and is conservatively powered for efficiency. Twin Cat 3406E DITA of 475 hp eachdraw on 11,700 gallons of fuel to provide a cruising range of nearly 5,000 miles at 10 knots, enough to call the wild blue yonder home and leapfrog continents on your way to distant oceans. At 12 knots range drops to 4,500 miles. The 7'3' draft is complemented by Zero Speed stabilizers.
The 26-foot beam and full bodied form provides the usable volume of an even larger yacht. The interior deviates from De Basto's original concept, and is bright and airy, with a satin-finished maple of honey tones and off-white carpeting. Some ceiling panels feature oval LEDs that shift in spectrum through green, red and yellow. Interior mullions throughout the boat are substantial, yet cozy.
The on-deck full-width master also features a full-width head with Jacuzzi and an adjacent office complete for those owners who wish to monitor the progress of their empire back on land. Side decks jog topside before the master providing privacy where needed and quick access to the wheelhouse. The galley of stainless with wood facings has three workstations and enough light to satisfy any oceangoing chef; the same consideration illuminates a captain's cabin topside, adjacent to the helm.
Below decks are four roomy staterooms, each with a uniquely styled De Basto head featuring superb joinery and showcase glass sinks. A skylounge aft of the wheelhouse provides a media center and den as it opens to the dining area on the upper aft teak deck. Unlike many wheelhouses whose rakish profiles interferes with visibility, Princess K keeps its head on its shoulders.
As befits an ambassador to a new line Princess K handles itself well. As an ocean voyager it proved in its very first passage that its all-star offshore design team indeed produced a seaworthy craft with the safety, integrity and style needed to launch a legacy. While many early builds from young yards suffer kinks in systems, the Magellan Series, thanks to its supporting cast, shows wisdom beyond its years.
As for the future, "It is certain that eventually Kingship will be incorporating more materials and supplies from China itself rather than importing most equipment, steel, glass, aluminum and industry products," explains Michael Ahrens, management consultant to Liang. "But production now benefits tremendously by the contribution of Vripak, who works through the process with Kingship, as well as many outside resources who recognize Roger's commitment to building boats of, as he likes to say, 'Dutch quality'-and who are pleased to be part of Kingship's evolution into one of the world's leading builders."
Which means all eyes will now be on Kingship, soon to appear in major yachting circles.