Luxury yachts sit moored in the harbor as hotels and residential property sit along the coastline beyond during the Monaco Yacht Show (MYS) in Port Hercules, Monaco, on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016. Over 125 of the world's most luxurious yachts will be displayed in Port Hercules during the 26th MYS which runs from Sept. 28 – Oct. 1. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
© Bloomberg

There was recently a big article in the FT about superyachts and how huge and expensive they are, and how it is beyond our normal comprehension to grasp the point of building a vessel that is seemingly so “surplus to requirement”? Might you enlighten us on their owners’ thinking or aims?

I fear there is no real secret to mega-rich people building mega-sized yachts other than to flex their testosterone levels or camouflage their innate sense of insecurity with an outward sign of vanity. I’ve often wondered what goes through the minds of people prepared to spend $250m to $750m on a vessel, plus a crew of between 60 to 100, and annual costs, if they are lucky, of $5m to $10m. This sort of extravagance, or should I say ostentation, always makes me a little nauseous.

The Arabs and the Russians lead the way when it comes to owning the 30 biggest private yachts in the world. I estimate there are 15 Arabs and eight Russians who own vessels measuring between 100 metres and 180 metres. I have been on a few of them and I can tell you they are never as impressive as Britannia, the Queen’s former yacht, or the much smaller Talitha G, or the Haida G. On these classic boats, there is always a sense of understated luxury, never any ostentation; always a supreme sense of comfort, never any awkward piece of designed furniture; and an ultimate sense of intimacy and romance, with wonderful pictures and fascinating libraries. They never include a space for the sake of showing off the square footage of the boat.

So why aren’t more boat owners keen to create attractive vessels rather than just boats whose main distinction appears to be that they are the longest/widest/tallest/flashiest or whatever? The answer is of course that the owners think that professional designers know best. So they all defer to these professionals. When the owners show you the boat they always mention the architect or the interior designer, because they believe that having the “best” in their trade gives the best results. It is unfathomable to me that anyone who is a multi-billionaire could be so stupid.

I also blame all the continental shipbuilders: the Dutch, the Germans, the Italians. They all love chrome, glass and marble, combined with more chrome, more glass and more marble.

Notice the curious fact there isn’t a woman who owns one of the top superyachts in the world. Lady Green’s new Lionheart, at 90 metres, only just makes it into the world’s top 60. Maybe Germaine Greer should begin encouraging women to splash out on their wealth and become proper owners of proper superyachts.

What sartorial advice would you give Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn?

The UK prime minister has always, in my opinion, dressed well. Her secret is her occasional cleavage which makes her look rather sexy. This becomes more prominent in Parliament when the camera is positioned at a high level and zooms in at an angle of 45 degrees. The only thing I would say is I am not particularly fond of the large pearl necklace that she wears all the time. It makes her look older. Otherwise, I think she looks particularly good in lime or sycamore green.

As for the opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn dresses exactly right as leader of the Labour party. That emphasis on the working class look is exactly the association he wants to carry. Even when he dresses more smartly at prime minister’s questions, the slightly loosened tie round his shirt collar defines precisely that working class mode. I have also noticed that he wears very sensible shoes with rubber rather than leather soles. Just like Michael Foot. Remember Foot? He went a bit too far as he was always dressed like a scarecrow. When I was a student living beside Hampstead Heath, I used to see him every morning with his stick and his beloved dog Dizzy. We always said good morning to each other, but never an extra word. His poor glasses didn’t help his demeanour, whereas Corbyn has a very affable countenance.

Who is the best dressed broadcaster, male or female, in British television?

Without a doubt David Dimbleby with his collection of kaleidoscopic ties which he displays every week with immaculate suits on Question Time. Andrew Neil tries hard, but his shoulders almost go off the screen. And nobody has beaten Selina Scott in total elegance since her retirement.

Please post comments and questions at the end of this article or email

Photograph: Bloomberg

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2023. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window) CommentsJump to comments section

Follow the topics in this article