The troubling curse of yacht envy in Monaco

Worried about the credit crunch? “I have some cheering news,” says Matt Rudd in The Sunday Times. Not everyone is battening down the hatches: the super-rich are doing just fine.

Rudd is in Monaco for a day or two – as a guest on an £8m yacht. Over canapes, George Fortune, a yacht broker, explains what the downturn means in this rich man’s haven. “In the 1980s, the biggest yachts were 100ft long. Now, they’re 300ft plus. The market is booming. There’s a drop-off for 70ft and under, but if you want a really big boat, you’ll have to join the queue.”

In Monaco, size matters. Though on a superyacht himself, Rudd finds himself admiring 12 young Italians having a silver-service dinner on a slightly larger, plusher boat next door, and looks with amazement across the quay to where three of India’s richest businessmen have their super-super-superyachts side by side. One has a glass elevator, an infinity pool that turns into a helipad and four Rolls-Royce Phantoms parked in a line outside. “Because one is never enough.”

“Two days, and already I have yacht envy,” says Rudd. Which, of course, is the problem with an environment like this. However rich you are, however fancy your boat, there’s always someone who looks as if they might be having a better time than you are.

Money is no joke

If you’re going to do practical jokes with money, don’t use your own. Jonathan Routh, who died last week, was a great joker. In his TV show, Candid Camera, a hidden camera recorded chaos resulting from situations set up to fool unsuspecting members of the public – in one, for example, two of his team arrived at a bowls championship pretending to be workmen who had come to dig up the bowling green because the turf was needed for Wembley; in another a car was run gently down a road into a garage and the mechanic asked to change the oil. But when he looked under the hood, there was no engine. He hunted everywhere – to no avail.

But on one occasion, Routh tried to sell £5 notes for £4 10s (£4.50) in Blackpool. “I thought no one would buy them,” he said. They’d think the money was counterfeit.” The only way he could persuade his team to try the idea was by using his own money.

“Unfortunately I did a roaring trade.” In half an hour he was sold out and £50 out of pocket. Which must tell us about something about people’s credulity when it comes to money – though I’m not quite sure what.

All at sea – but not for long

I went out in my boat in Cornwall last weekend, for the first time in a month or two. Amazingly, everything worked: the port engine, the new generator. But nothing’s ever smooth in the boat-owning world, especially, as I’m discovering, the sea. Displacement motor boats like ours can make it out in rough weather, but when they do, their owners start wondering: how long do I have to stay out here before I can head back in without looking an idiot?

This happened to me on our one brief morning of relative calm. We set off from the harbour. Later – not much later – we returned and I went round to the harbourmaster to settle my fuel bill. Another £500 gone. Oh well. One day I’m sure it’ll all seem worth it…