Luxury yachts all the rage for rich Russians this year

Mon Jul 5, 2010 8:51am EDT
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By Gennady Fyodorov

MOSCOW (Reuters Life!) - The glitzy casinos of Monte Carlo and the posh Alpine ski resorts of Courchevel and St Moritz have become familiar with the Russian accent.

Now, wealthy Russians are invading the open seas, swapping fancy cars for multi-million dollar yachts with a sharp increase in the number of high-class boats over the past year.

Roman Abramovich, the billionaire owner of English Premier League club Chelsea, already boasts a fleet of yachts, one of which cost at least $300 million.

Russian businessman Ruben Khokhryakov has tried to capitalize on the craze by building a unique three-masted sailing ship, tailor-made for his deep-pocketed compatriots.

The special design of the boat enables it to float much higher than most other yachts of its class, generating a top speed of up to 20 knots and prompting Khokhryakov to name the ship "Running on Waves."

Chris Weafer, expert on Russia's business elite, told Reuters that for many Russian oligarchs owning a yacht is simply a way of showing off their wealth to their peers.

Weafer, who is chief strategist for investment bank Uralsib, said that yachts are this year's must-have toy.

"But for many new owners of these expensive toys the enjoyment is more about ownership than actually taking it out on the water," he said.   Continued...