We go on board the stunning Bannenberg-designed Lürssen Coral Island, launched in 1994 and now sympathetically refreshed for a new life
The Jon Bannenberg-designed 72.6-metre Coral Ocean was one of the biggest yachts on the water when she launched as Coral Island at Lürssen in 1994. She’s may have slipped down the pecking order of LOAs in the years that followed, but she’s still a yacht that commands attention, with a novel two-tone colour scheme, and exterior styling and an interior that pulls off the typical Bannenberg trick of appearing to be entirely fitting and thrillingly audacious at the same time.
A series of refits and refreshes at Lürssen throughout her career has kept the yacht in pristine condition, but last year’s visit was to be an altogether more serious affair: the yacht, under new ownership, was to be renamed, and upgraded from private to commercial use (she is now available for charter through Burgess). That regular refresh programme had given the yacht a head start. “She has been kept in a very good condition by her former owner since launch. She regularly came to the shipyard for refits and updates,” Lürssen says.
As Coral Island, the yacht was cruised privately and was not seen in public at all. When the yacht made her first public appearance post-refit at the Monaco Yacht Show last year, one especially engaged visitor was Dickie Bannenberg of Bannenberg & Rowell, whose father designed the yacht’s exterior and interior. “I hadn’t seen the yacht since the original launch party at Lürssen 20-odd years ago. It was immaculate, and she represents an anti-timewarp in a way – far from looking like an uncovered bit of history, she looked every bit as fresh and cutting edge as she did when my father created her,” Dickie says. “The original brief from the commissioning owner was for an interior that was anti-bling – he didn’t want gold and marble, and had a positive urge that my father did something different. It was the first time that someone had designed an interior that had such a casual feeling, with tribal and ethnic elements,” he says.
Dickie describes the yacht in 1994 as “a bolt from the design blue”, and it’s not just because of the interior. “The layout is extraordinary – the staircase up the aft deck is a breathtaking way to move around the yacht, as are the articulated levels on the top deck,” he says. “My father had a thing about tearing up conventions. Seeing the refitted yacht reminded me of the excitement you can get with unconventional space planning. It was familiar to me as my father’s handwriting, and it was great to see it.”
Inside, there is lot of specially created furniture, some of it in driftwood – “and this is not simulated driftwood from an interior joinery company, but actual driftwood”, says Dickie. Jon Bannenberg had commissioned artist and furniture-maker Andrew Holmes, who specialised in creating pieces in found material (he is still active today). There’s further innovative use of materials, too: parchment, African tribal cloth, rough limestone, bronze taps adapted with conch shells, and thick carpets designed to represent the movement of the waves. “I recognised the bulkhead reading lights over the sofas from American company Cedric Hartman – they were a favourite of my father. Here, they are in a special finish in bronze,” Dickie says.
During the refit, the interior was treated very sympathetically in an attempt to preserve the feel of the original – that thick main salon carpet, for example, has been recreated in the original style. There were to be no exterior styling changes. “We didn’t have an owner’s design team or any external designers involved in this refit. The complete focus was to upgrade her for commercial use and to keep the original design,” Lürssen says.
Configuring a venerable yacht for commercial use is partly a case of working methodically through the job-list and partly a case of fielding any curve balls. The biggest challenge for Lürssen was a relatively comfortable one: moving the dayhead on the main deck from an external location to inside, closer to the living area. This in turn created a new space for the emergency generator, and that generator had to be moved up from its original location in the engineroom to the main deck.
One thing that isn’t timeless aboard even the most time-defying of yachts is the onward spread of regulation, and there needed to be a number of new fire-safety systems installed to bring the yacht up to a commercial rating. The sprinkler system has been extended to the owner’s area and the guest spaces, while to protect the galley area from fire, an additional HiFog sprinkler system has been installed. The engineroom deck and compartment has been treated for fire protection isolation (rated to Class A60 – capable of preventing the passage of smoke and flames for an hour).
With charter guests coming aboard last winter, there has been an external refresh. A dining table has been installed on the upper deck, as well as wind-deflectors, while the whole sundeck area has been varnished and a new sun awning has been installed. The height of the handrails has been increased around the yacht to meet classification requirements. All of the yacht’s audio-visual equipment has been upgraded to something that suits BluRay rather than Betamax, and there is an up-to-date suite of IT solutions throughout.
Given all the work that had to be done, Lürssen managed to complete the job in a short timeframe: Coral Ocean arrived in March, and left at the beginning of August, making that rare public appearance at the Monaco Yacht Show last September. As a charter yacht, she has much to offer. That interior in a neutral palette of creams and browns with a Polynesian vibe creates a calming ambience for guests on board – it’s a yacht that’s easy to relax aboard, and although the interior is immaculately finished, it’s not a space that makes you feel self-conscious if you are in shorts.
There are plenty of desirable spots aboard, including the owner’s suite placed on the top deck, with a sleeping area that offers panoramic views forward, and a skylight from the bottom of the sundeck hot-tub. Guests are spoilt for choice. With direct access from the lower-deck guest suites (the yacht sleeps 12 guests on charter in four doubles and two twins), the gym and spa complex with steam room leads to the swim platform and beach club. The vast sundeck with pool is surrounded by extensive seating and a bar. Guests are looked after by 19 crew.
If you are in search of some action there are plenty of toys in the garage to keep you busy. The main tenders are two 8.6-metre custom-built Yanmars with 315hp engines. There are two Sea-Doo 260i GTX LTD if you want further thrills, as well as two Wakeskates, Jobe Allegre combo waterskis, Jobe Defiant slalom skis, Wakeboards, SeaBobs, a quartet of Naish stand-up paddle-boards, and plenty of other towables. This is not a yacht that any guest is going to be bored on any time soon.
It’s refreshing to see a yacht that deserves to be remembered as something of a landmark in yacht design starting a new life after refit, following a successful career as a private yacht. And it’s tempting to think that the best of Coral Ocean is yet to come.
• The yacht is available for charter this summer in the Western Med through Burgess from €320,000
All photos by Jeff Brown/Breed Media