Fortunately, the European silly season has long since passed and our newspapers and magazines are full of real news once again. For over the summer months, barely a day goes by without photographs of so-and-so celebrity on such-a-such superyacht being splashed all over the press.
This year was no different. Thanks to the pack of paparazzi that hide out in the cruising destinations of Saint Tropez, Cannes and Sardinia all summer long, we learned a great deal about the vacations of various rich and famous.
A quick trawl through the papers will reveal that Beyoncé and Jay–Z spent their summer “ hols ” on a luxury yacht off the French Riviera, along with X-Factor judge Simon Cowell. Madonna was there too, on Roman Abramovich’s superyacht Luna, whilst Paris Hilton and her sister Nicky allegedly spent the “ best summer ” of their lives on what Paris is said to have described as “ the biggest and best yacht everywhere we go. ”
Meanwhile, Leonardo DiCaprio was hanging out in Sardinia, where he was spotted working out on the deck of another superyacht with his friend Vladimir Doronin, the billionaire boyfriend of supermodel Naomi Campbell.
The articles might make a titillating read — especially if the newspaper article features Britain’s fourth heir to the throne getting friendly with a stunning young model on board a yacht moored off the Sardinia coast.
But how difficult does dodging the paparazzi make a captain’s work, and what advice can be sought on out-sailing their lenses? Yacht Essentials spoke to a number of captain and crew to hear their stories and ask their advice. Most spoke freely, but like their owners and guests, preferred to remain anonymous.
One crewmember of a larger superyacht cruising the Med this year with famous guests said the sight of photographers trying — by whatever means possible — to get a photo of the couple on board was just another day at sea.
“ I’ve been working on yachts for the best part of 30 years, and I now come to expect the odd battle with prying lenses. It’s just part and parcel of the job. The thing that is interesting is how much more devious, and sophisticated, the paparazzi has become. ”
He said that many now had at their disposal helicopters and speed boats to get those priceless snaps, which they know they will be able to sell on for a lot of money. “ They hang around all the bars and clubs in Saint Tropez and listen to the gossip, speak to people, and then they stalk you out from first thing in the morning to last thing at night. And they think we can’t see them. Don’t they know that their lenses reflect the sunlight, so we can see them a mile off? We can even see them in the trees. Yes, I promise you, I have more than once seen photographers hanging like monkeys in the trees! ”
A captain from another vessel had this to add: “ My most vivid memory of the paparazzi was in Puerto Portas in Mallorca, when I saw the owner of a yacht being smuggled off his boat under a blanket to try to dodge a load of photographers who had gathered on the dock. It was the first time I thought about what it must feel like to be a celebrity and to be always hounded by the press, even on your own boat. It must feel like you can never get away. ”
Another captain, based out of Antibes, had yet more accounts on how to outfox the lens. “ In the early days of my career, I once saw a famous guest wearing crew uniform to get on and off the yacht. That same boat also once used two tenders, which departed and headed off to different places at the same time to confuse the paparazzi. ”
He also said it was not uncommon for famous guests to use two superyachts, so that the photographers follow one and not the other, a reason perhaps for why Chelsea boss Abramovich chooses to have more than one to his name. At the last, count he is understood to have four superyachts.
In fact, not content with having multiple superyachts to choose between when heading for a private, press-free holiday, Abramovich is also believed to have had a special anti-paparazzi device fitted to his latest vessel. The Russian is said to have installed hi-tech infrared lasers on to his new superyacht Eclipse that detect the electronic light sensors in nearby cameras. When the system detects the sensors, it fires a beam of light at the camera, which in turn disrupts the camera’s ability to record a digital image.
The beams can also be activated manually by security guards and crew if they see any photographers lurking near the yacht. The anti-paparazzi device has reportedly doubled the cost of the yacht, which was commissioned three years ago, to £724 million, according to the British newspaper The Sunday Times.
A similar laser device, called the SeaLase, has recently come on the market to warn off potential pirate attacks (and unwelcome photographers). The piece of equipment, made by Finnish firm Lasersec Systems, is a multicolored laser that affects the vision of its victims, making them feel nauseous and disorientated.
Scott Butcher, director of Lasersec Systems, said his company has been indundated by requests for the SeaLase device. “ We’ve taken 100 orders in exactly one year. Around 30 percent of those are for superyachts. ” He said the extremely bright light, which can be meters in diameter depending on the location of the unwanted vessel, can be very affective in deterring paparazzi. “ It won’t stop the camera taking pictures, but it will definitely put the people off coming any nearer. ”
Just remember, should you run into a megastar on your next charter cruise or vacation to an A-list locale, play it cool. Frantically snapped cell-phone photos are so pedestrian — and you don’t want to get zapped in the eyes with a ray gun.
How to Dodge the Paparazzi
- Stay as far away from land as possible, preventing any whispering staff or contacts from letting it be known that you are carrying celebrity cargo.
- Dress all guests in crew uniform when approaching land.
- Hire two yachts and regularly move famous guests from one to the other.
- Never moor near tall buildings, scaffolding or a tree — yes, photographers sometimes hide in trees.
- Use two tenders, so that when famous guests want to go ashore the second tender speeds off in the opposite direction and confuses the cameras.
- Install infrared lasers that momentarily blind photographers and make them feel sick.
- Keep a large supply of blankets to throw over guests when approaching shore.
- Sail very, very fast.