September 20, 2020

Russian superyacht Serene


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11136655Russian superyacht Serene leaves Auckland [Flies Cayman Islands flag]

By Michael Field

One of the world’s more extravagant superyachts, the vodka-financed Serene, has left Auckland.

It arrived from Europe on January 22 and has spent most of its time docked at Princess Wharf.

Ship tracking software shows it sailed at 8.35am and listed its next destination as “Milford,” arriving there at midday on Tuesday.

It sailed out of the inner harbour at a modest 9.8 knots – inside the 12 knot speed limit – but once in the Rangitoto Channel she cranked it up.

But at 14.5 knots she was chased, and passed, by the all-aluminium police launch Deodar, powering along at 18.9 knots.

Off Takapuna beach, Serene dropped its pilot and sailed out into the Hauraki Gulf, then set a course for the Colville Channel into the Bay of Plenty.

Its owner, exiled Russian vodka magnate Yuri Shefler, has a taste for big parties and mansions, and wants to diversify away from vodka to super-premium wine.

His company, SPI Group, says Shefler has been travelling to key wine-making regions of the world “personally spearheading” the company initiative to get into premium wineries.

The 8231-ton, US$330 million ($431 million) Cayman Islands flagged Serene, has always caused a sensation wherever it moors.

At 134 metres long – longer than New Zealand’s two navy frigates and the multi-role ship Canterbury – Serene is said to feature an internal seawater pool, two helicopter platforms and a helicopter hangar. It is also rumoured to have a mini submarine aboard and a place known as the “Nemo room” – a glass panelled bulkhead for looking at the ocean beneath.

Its underwater lighting is said to be dazzling from above.

When Shefler is not using the boat, it can be chartered for €1.6 million (NZ$2.4m) a week.

In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992, Shefler and a group of investors moved in on 43 state-owned vodka brands, including Stolichnaya and Moskovskaya, and went into US$50 million worth of debt to get them.

Today Shefler is said to be worth US$800m (NZ$1.07 billion) although not without a struggle.

Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted the vodka brands back and at one point Moscow had Interpol issue wanted notices for Shefler. He is not formally wanted now.

However the battle continues and while Shefler makes “Russian” vodka, it is produced in Latvia.

Stolichnaya and Moskovskaya is banned in Russia and international court battles continue.

IMAGE: At 134 metres, the Serene is longer than New Zealand’s two navy frigates. MICHAEL FIELD/Fairfax NZ

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