Andrey Igorevich Melnichenko is a Russian billionaire who recently unveiled a big ticket item that's been earning him headlines all over the world for years now. It has the deceptively low-key name of Sailing Yacht A, a $399.1 million sailing yacht that ranks, as promised, as the largest sailing ship on Earth, with masts almost 300 feet in the air and a length of 468 feet. And now that the craft is actually in sailing shape, it's more impressive than ever.
Sailing Yacht A, or if you don't mind the potential for confusion, just A, is currently undergoing its first sea trials in the northern German region of Kiel, where many of its novel features (like its underwater observation deck and on-board helicopter pad) are being used for the first time. It also has some pretty impressive performance stats by sailing standards, with a top speed of 24 miles per hour and a cruising speed of 18 miles per hour. As if to either acknowledge or accentuate his yacht's top-of-the-pops status, Menichenko is reported to have chosen his ship's minimalist name specifically so it would automatically appear first on any shipping register, and not as some might guess because he's a big Radiohead fan.
The yacht is the brainchild of famed French designer Philippe Starck and was constructed at German Naval Yards in Nobiskrug, Germany. And although its nearly $400 million price tag makes it completely unfathomable by most financial standards, even a billionaire like Menichenko is spending his money wisely in at least one way – he's reported to be planning on recouping a significant fraction of what he spent on the craft by licensing out some of the technology developed specifically for Sailing Yacht A to other companies – who knows, in a few years' time, we might all have a spiritual piece of A in our very own homes.
Of course, even if these plans fall through and Menichenko doesn't end up getting any of his money back, it's unlikely he'll lose any sleep over it. He's got a fortune somewhere in the neighborhood of $9 billion after having founded several different successful companies (including EuroChem in the fertilizer industry, Suek in coal, SGK in energy, and more), and yachting is one of his passions, having previously dropped almost $300 million on Motor Yacht A before deciding to get into the much more environmentally friendly field of sailing and upgrading to this new behemoth, which easily outsizes other massive sailing yachts like the Sea Cloud and the Maltese Falcon.
Side Note: Melnichenko also owns this incredibly-cool looking Yacht that you've may recognize from the movie "Friends With Benefits":
It's important not to let the massive size of Sailing Yacht A trick you, though, because it's packing some serious high technology under the metaphorical hood. Most striking, particularly to someone not particularly knowledgeable about sailing, would probably have to be its unusual control interface – a sheet of touch-sensitive black glass found on the bridge. This will allow whoever is at the controls to perform formerly complicated tasks (like lowering or raising the sails or dropping anchor), with an iPhone-like finger sweep.
If you're angling for invite onto Sailing Yacht A, you'll just have to be patient for a little while longer, since even though it's seaworthy its opulent interiors have not been completed as of yet. But once they are (a process that is expected to take several more months), A's status as the most impressive sailing craft ever built will be completely sewn up, at least until Menichenko gets bored and decides to spend $500 million on the next one.