A Go-Anywhere Yacht under Passenger Yacht Class and Polar Code

Every superyacht is unique in its own way, but some are more unique than others. One of the most unique superyachts sailing around is Legend, which has a history, capabilities, sailing grounds and purpose which are all very different from any other yacht.

Charter business

Motor yacht Legend is owned by Unlimited Yacht Charters, one of the few yacht-owning companies in the world which are purely and exclusively a yacht charter business. The company was founded by Jan Verkerk, an experienced superyacht captain who acquired a former merchant navy training vessel and converted her into a successful 70 metres charter yacht, named Sherakhan. The vessel is classed as a passenger vessel – for up to 36 passengers – which makes her unique. Most yachts, even very large yachts, stick to the commercial yacht code, which was – until recently – limited to twelve charter guests. Any larger party of people had to either charter two yachts – without the possibility of even dining all at once – or charter the Sherakhan.

A second element of success of Unlimited Yacht Charters is that their yachts venture off the beaten track. This creates unforgettable experiences, which makes many clients come back year after year.


To up the ante in expedition yachting, Jan Verkerk was looking for an ice-strengthened vessel with a passenger capacity over twelve. He found this in the Legend. This ship was built in 1974 in the Netherlands by IHC Verschure as a class 1 icebreaker for the Soviet Union. She had been converted into a superyacht, called Giant 1, from 1999 until 2003, but had been laid up since 2005 after her owner deceased. Jan Verkerk had spotted Giant 1 first in 2008, but then crossed her path again in 2012 and decided to acquire her.

In the basis, she had all the features he was looking for, but it was clear she needed a complete make-over both in the exterior profile, interior, systems and amenities. Jan Verkerk contracted the naval architects of Diana Yacht Design for the exterior redesign and the engineering.

Hans-Maarten Bais, naval architect at Diana Yacht Design: “In total, about 100 tonnes of steel and aluminum were renewed. Still, because so much material was removed, the vessel is now 180 tons lighter. The most visible features are at the aft ship, where the canoe stern was removed and a lengthening created the space for a large swim platform and a 16-person pool. Above the aft deck, a certified helicopter deck was created, and further forward parts of the superstructure were added and renewed. Forward of the wheelhouse, a large garage was created for the storage of a submarine, and two snowcats. Four jet skis, two Long Beach tenders and a fast tender are stowed on deck.”

Passenger Yacht Code

Rather than the SOLAS Passenger Rules, used for Sherakhan, Legend could be rebuilt under the new Passenger Yacht Code (PYC), an extension of the MCA Large Yacht Code for yachts with more than twelve passengers. Compliance took the replacing of staircases, the removal of certain combustible materials and the upgrading of the fire safety.

Legend is also built to be easily made compliant with the new Polar Code from the IMO, which will come into force in 2017 for new ships and in 2018 for existing ships. The Polar Code contains regulations regarding the safety of passengers (a.o. immersion suits for each passenger) and regulations for the protection of the Polar Regions, such as the discharge of waste or oil. The Polar Code is entirely separate from the ships ice class notation – Legend doesn’t just have ice class, it’s a full-on icebreaker. Legend has a steel hull with an exceptionally deep draught of 6.5 metres. She has a typical ice-breaking bow, which is designed to slide onto the ice, making the ice break under the weight of the vessel.


The new certified helicopter deck has a refuel installation with onboard storage of 7,000 liters of jet A1 fuel (kerosene). For this reason, free-standing stainless steel tanks were built into old unused lube oil tanks on port and starboard side. A dedicated pump room was created, and a firefighting system from Minimax with pop-up nozzles was built into the helideck. The helideck can support a Eurocopter EC135, but is mostly used as a very spacious sundeck and social gathering space. A second smaller helicopter is housed forward, but it can be lifted onto the helideck with the ship’s crane.


For the structural work, Verkerk contracted Icon Yachts, one of the few superyacht refit locations with a dry-dock of suitable size to dock a vessel like Legend. The project was managed locally by Unlimited Yacht Charter in a cost-effective way. A lot of pre-used interior decoration materials and furniture were sourced and used onboard. For the technical systems, almost everything was replaced with brand new equipment. Only the (Dutch-built Bolnes) main engines, gearbox and shaft line were maintained as original, and rightfully so, as they work perfectly and are a piece of history. The ship has two main engines which are connected to a single propeller through a dual-input-single-output gearbox. This allows for efficient navigation also at times when not so much power is required.

The propeller blades were cropped, allowing the engines to run at a higher speed and have a cleaner combustion. With the full 7,000 kW of both engines on the propeller, Legend achieves a top speed of 16 knots. The ship has retractable stabilizers from Rolls Royce, which were overhauled and restored to service.


About 80 per cent of the interior was completely renewed by Hoogendoorn, with heating, ventilation and air-conditioning by Windex. The electrical installation was done by Werkina. The complete navigation and communication consoles were transplanted from a vessel which was mothballed during construction. A completely new Balinese spa area was created on the lower deck with spa pool, sauna and massage rooms.

While the cabins on Sherakhan were named after famous writers, the cabins on Legend are named after world cities, such as Paris, New York and Moscow. Several Opti-myst fireplaces throughout the boat create a cozy atmosphere. Even though the yacht is large, and can accommodate big groups at once, there are many smaller social spaces aboard for an intimate get-together.

Lloyd’s Class

René Couperus, project manager of Icon Yachts: “Given the size of this project, it was concluded in record time. Up to 50 people were working full time on the project during 19 months. The value for money created in this project is exceptional. At the same time, safety for passengers and crew was always the first consideration and this is evidenced by the fact that the yacht has been brought fully under Lloyd’s Register class.”

Legend has a crew of 19, but this can be extended with ten more expedition-specific crew, such as guides, scientists and helicopter pilots. There are 13 guest cabins for a total of 26 guests. What’s truly remarkable about Legend, compared to many other vessels around 80 metres, is that the lower aft deck is so close to the water, resulting in close contact with the elements, be that water or ice. After a summer season spent in the Baltic, Legend came back to Icon Yachts for some last items before setting sail to the Antarctic.

One thing is for sure, Legend will spend most of her future lifetime in the summer. While the charter rate of 460.000 euro per week is just below standard for this size of vessel, it is unparalleled value in cost per person for large groups, and certainly in view of the unforgettable experiences enjoyed.

Bruno Bouckaert

This article was previously published in Maritime Holland edition #1 – 2017.

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