No Way Out for Sailing Yacht A?

Published on October 20th, 2016

The Sailing Yacht A (known until recently as project White Pearl) is currently under construction at Nobiskrug. She will be the world’s largest sailing yacht and is built for the Russian billionaire Andrey Melnichenko at a cost of 400 million Euros under great secrecy. At 142m in length, with ship masts 100m high, ‘Sailing Yacht A’ is the world’s biggest sailing yacht, with 8 decks and a 0.3m thick glass underwater observation room located in the keel.


Andrey Melnichenko

The vessel was ridiculed by some in the boating world with one pundit saying it was more akin to “a cruiser for Darth Vader’s navy than a family pleasure boat for the Mediterranean.” Another sailing expert Peter Mello called it “one of the most hideous vessels ever to sail the seas.” British yacht designer Donald Starkey said: “It is aggressive, like a giant finger pointing at you. It seems to have nothing to do with the whole idea of yachting, which is about cruising around at a leisurely pace, and enjoying your friends and the sea.”

Sailing Yacht A is currently being uncovered for the second time at Nobiskrug’s shipyard in Kiel. The 142m Sailing Yacht A returned to the German yacht builder’s facility late last year following a series of sea trials. Her 100m masts have been restepped and her hull has been painted grey, bringing her closer to completion for her estimated 2017 delivery date. reported this week, Sailing Yacht A, undergone a sea-trail from the German port of Kiel. A tug pulled the 143-meter vessel on the morning of October 4th 2016 from the dock of the Nobiskrug shipyards. The yacht then sailed in the Baltic Sea at a speed of 20 knots. At the German Fehmarn island, the yacht turned around in the direction of Kiel to specifically test the three sails. Intense stress tests for the sails will begin in the coming weeks near the Danish island of Bornholm to avoid curious onlookers.

This is a very interesting time and the question remains where the billionaire Melnichenko will take delivery of his monster yacht. If delivery must take place in the little pond (Baltic sea) then it will be no problem for the Nobiskrug shipyards.
However, to take Sailing Yacht A out of the Baltic may cause a severe problem which nobody seems to have calculated!


The Baltic Sea is enclosed by Sweden, Denmark, Finland and the North European Plain. It is about 1,600 km long, an average of 193 km wide, and an average of 55 metres deep. The Baltic Sea drains through the Danish islands into the Atlantic ocean by way of the straits of Øresund (under the Øresund bridge), the 6.8km Great Belt (under the Storebælt Suspension bridge), and under the Little Belt Bridge.

The Øresund bridge is a combined railway and motorway bridge across the Øresund strait between Sweden and Denmark with a clearance below of 57m for a length of 7.8kms and then it turns into a tunnel under the sea named the Strait of Drogden.

The Great Belt Fixed Link (Storebælt Suspension bridge) runs between the Danish islands of Zealand and Funen. The vertical clearance for ships is 65m, meaning the world’s largest cruise ship, an Oasis-class cruise ship, just fits under with its smokestack folded.

The New Little Belt Bridge is a suspension bridge that crosses the Little Belt strait between Jutland and the island of Funen in Denmark. The total length is 1.7km with a clearance below of 44m.

The only way to exit Sailing Yacht A into the Atlantic Ocean is to pass through the Strait of Drogden. At this point the underground railway and road tunnel runs for four kilometers between Denmark and Sweden. Drogden is located on the Danish side of the Øresund, between Saltholm and Amager. It passes over the Øresund Bridge (now an underwater tunnel) with a maximum depth of ships that can pass is 8.3m. Drogden is highly congested and passes about 30 000 ships per year from the Baltic sea to the Kattegat and then on to the Atlantic.


Any Captain who has to sail through the Strait of Drogden with Sailing Yacht A need nerves of steel. Sailing Yacht A is constructed in such a way that the laden draught is 8m and unladen is 7.5m. Normally this will not pose a problem for any skipper with a normal (small) sailing yacht. However, this is a 142m 12,700 ton monster!

The bracken Baltic sea has very little tide differences which a skipper can count on. The Kattegat sea (east of Denmark) has semi-diurnal tides because of the opening into the North Sea and the Atlantic. The amplitude of the tide is normally around 5cm in the Kattegat, but during spring tide the amplitude can be as high as 20cm which will be much less at the furthest end at the Strait of Drogden.? The Baltic Sea is itself too small to have its own significant tides, and it has too narrow an opening to the North Sea to be influenced by the North Atlantic tides. The total tidal effect is only a few centimetres. Tidal waves from Kattegat through the Sound contribute a few centimetres of tide in the Southern Baltic.?

The Captain therefore has 8.3m (27.2ft) less the draught of Sailing Yacht A (depth of the yacht below water) which is 7.5m (24.6ft) after the crew has offloaded everything of the yacht to make it as light as possible. That leaves a gap of 0.8m (2.6ft) below that 1.8 ton glass keel. Springtide might offer an extra 10cm but that is negligible.

In addition, the Strait of Drogden is right next to and in the air corridor zone of Copenhagen Kastrup International Airport. To comply with safety standards, the maximum height of any vessel is set to 50m. Sailing Yacht A will have to notify the Copenhagen airport to reserve a slot for the passage through the Strait 24 hours before the intention to carry out the passage and again 30 minutes before arrival. Copenhagen Kastrup International Airport will then ground or divert aircraft in order for Sailing Yacht A to sail to the Kattegat sea (east of Denmark) and then on the Atlantic.

Andrey Melnichenko (44) has a fortune of $10.1 billion, according to Forbes in 2016, and occupies 11th place among Russian billionaires. His assets include:
• 90% share in EuroChem: top world producer of mineral fertilizers.
• 92.2% share in Siberian Coal Energy Company: a major global coal-producing company.
• 92.2% share in OOO Siberian Generating Company: the leading electric power generating company in Siberia.
• Married to the Serbian former model and pop singer Aleksandra Nikolic.

Report by Royalty Yachts. More information here:

Alex Andreev, who works for Mr Melnichenko, submitted the following report to clarify the information provided by Royalty Yachts.

This is factually incorrect and erroneous:
• Sailing Yacht A has been built in Kiel to specifications that fully allow her to sail out of the Baltic when the ship is delivered to her owners, which is scheduled to take place in the next few months. There was never an intention to sail under the Oresund Bridge. She will travel through the Drogden Strait where the draught is 8.3 meters in the south. Although S/Y A is designed to have a maximum draught of 8 meters fully loaded (please see the references below), she can sail in “light” loading conditions at 7.5 meters, which is its standard light mode. Drogden is not too shallow with 7.5 m draught of the yacht and 8.3 m depth in the area, it is perfectly normal. Even with the lowest 8-meter depth, the captains familiar with the area know the margin is 20-30 cm, and it depends on air pressure and other climate conditions. In any case, with the draught of 7.5 meters it is enough room. There is completely no risk, and has never been, about S/Y A not being able to get out of the Baltic Sea whatsoever. Such assumptions are fully made up and have no basis in fact.
• As with all ships over 40 meters in height, Copenhagen Airport needs to be notified and a slot needs to be reserved to pass through the strait 24 hours in advance of our intention to do so and then 30 mins before arrival. It is a standard procedure and does not affect the airport’s normal operations or safety of aircraft as many vessels are above 40 meters and would pass by such notification.
• It was not known as White Pearl, the only name is Sailing Yacht A.

Factual references:
• SYA’s Project Director’ statement: “Some media reports have amused us here in Kiel. SYA was specifically designed to have a light load draft of 7.5 meters for the very purpose of passing through this channel, as people will see for themselves in a few months’ time”. Please see this article.
• Please see technical specifications here. “Max Draught:8.0m (26′ 2″)”
• Please see the official document about navigational safety in Oresund enclosed, p. 4.4 on page 21:
Specific limitations and requirements for navigation in Øresund. There are large differences in e.g. width of the navigation channels at various places, in water depth etc. Ships coming into Øresund from north may have a draught of up to 11.5 m when visiting the port of København and 13,5 m when visiting the port of Malmö. However, further south – through Drogden and Flintrännan –the water depth is 8 m and 8.4 m, respectively. Details here.

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