Is This Russian "Forever President" Vladimir Putin's Yacht?
The man who could be the world's richest has a navy of warships and nuclear submarines, but does he have a super yacht?
There is no doubt about it: For better or worse, Vladimir Putin has been on one hell of a roll. Since the conclusion of the 2014 Winter Olympics, the man has seized territory thought impossible to seize, consolidated power in the Middle East, injected doubt into America's democratic process, caused near hysteria on Capital Hill, and seen solidarity among NATO and the European Union begin to fray.
So what does a judo gi-wearing "forever president" at the controls of the world's largest nuclear arsenal do to relax beyond riding shirtless on powerful steeds and hitting the weight room with his number two man? Perhaps it includes taking a spin on the 269-foot super yacht named Graceful.
It is no secret that while Vladimir Putin may fancy himself a state employee, he is one of if not the richest man in the world—and he clearly has a penchant for the finer things. One of those things appears to be a unique super yacht with a rather opaque existence.
Although details surrounding Graceful's genesis remain sketchy, we do know some facts about the vessel. Officially launched in 2013, Graceful displaces 2,500 tons, has a steel hull with an aluminum superstructure, features a bulbous bow, and is powered by a pair of 3,100-horsepower diesel engines that push twin screws. Supposedly, she can sleep 14 guests in six rooms, including one large owners suite, two VIP staterooms, and another three guest cabins. The ship is designed to accept a crew complement of 24.
The yacht has few uncovered or non-concealed areas, with a comparatively large flight deck for her size. Supposedly, her most unusual luxury is a 50-by-10-foot indoor pool that can be converted into a dance floor (see renderings here).
Although Graceful stands out for her size and beauty, there has been much speculation that another yacht was was gifted to Putin by Russian oligarch and super yacht aficionado Roman Abramovich. The businessman owns the world's second largest super yacht, the massive Eclipse, among a fleet of other yachts and exploration vessels.
And Russia's wealthiest citizens clearly have a flare for the nautical. For instance, take Andrey Melnichenko and his other-worldly tumblehome hull design super yacht A, or Alisher Usmanov's imposing Dilbar—the world's largest yacht by gross tonnage—or Andrei Skoch's rakish Madame Gu. In fact, Russia's wealthiest have largely shaped the yacht industry for the last two decades. So it is not reaching to think that the guy at the very top of the pyramid would have his own piece of sea-going pleasure.
Beyond her basic stats, Graceful is interesting on a number of levels. First off, her owner officially remains anonymous. This is not unheard of by any means—but in the yachting world, and especially when it comes to those owned by Russian business kingpins, the level of anonymity surrounding Graceful is less than common.
Second, although she was designed by H2 Yacht Design and outfitted by Blohm and Voss in Germany, she was constructed in Russia's Sevmash shipyards on the White Sea, which is far better known for building nuclear submarines and oil derricks than super yachts.
There has also been talk that the Graceful is captained by a Russian with an extensive naval background. Another interesting aspect of the ship's short history is that it has spent a tremendous amount of time in Putin's beloved Sochi—Russia's resort town on the Black Sea. Sochi has hosted the Olympics and a slew of other high-profile international sporting events in recent years, and is the location of lavish properties directly associated with the Russian ruler, some of which have murkier origins than others.
Although Sochi offers some of the best weather within Russia, it is not exactly what comes to mind as an ideal home base for the average billionaire's super yacht...but it would be for Putin.
That's not to say that Putin uses the vessel regularly, but as with other yacht owners, it is something to be enjoyed when applicable—and especially something that friends and business connections can be invited to use extensively.
And really, the idea that there is a pink slip somewhere for the yacht with Vlad's name on it is laughable. These assets, like so many others, are bought, transferred, held and transferred again across a web of nebulous shell companies and individuals that do not reflect their intended user.
It's also possible that the yacht is owned by another prominent Russian official, like Putin's number two man Dmitry Medvedev—a guy who shares in the great luxuries that go along with running modern Russia. These include access to mansions, motorcades and of course, Russia's fleet of dedicated VVIP jets and helicopters—Medvedev likes to use the new AW139 while Putin still prefers the Mi-8.
Beyond these peculiarities, there is nothing but persistent rumors that the ship belongs to Russia's ruler. And although there has been no concrete evidence that seems to make such a conclusion irrefutable—and there likely never will—it also has not been unproven even years after Graceful hit the seas.
And hey, we all know Vladimir loves the ocean. He has even dived deep below it in submersibles on multiple occasions, not to mention having a unique connection with marine life. In addition, for a President, he sure gets photographed on a lot of yachts.
So maybe even if it's just going on a little quiet spin around the Black Sea for a weekend, Graceful could very well give the Russian strongman a moment of tranquility in what has become a very turbulent geopolitical sea.
Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com