Cast off in the chicest tenders, as the nifty nautical runabout comes into its own.

Boy racers take to the sea as the tender becomes the latest yachting obsession. Think size doesn't matter? Think again.

To boast possession of a mega-yacht is all very well, but as the size debate reaches fever pitch, even nautical add-ons have now come under scrutiny among seafaring braggarts. Even an economic crisis hasn't seemed to quell yacht owners' ardor for vessels of colossal proportions. Size apparently does matter, as marinas struggle to deal with the growing demand for such monolithic moorings. As space becomes a premium, forcing superyachts further out to sea, the tender has flourished into much more than a mere ship-to-shore runabout.

As Tomaso Polli, tender expert at London-based yacht broker Edmiston, observes, "The new trend is for big tenders, which are not kept on the boat, but follow behind. These can be anything from 50ft and above. They make great support vessels for taking guests ashore, and they are almost like small yachts." Leading the way, the ever-innovative Italian yacht builder Wally has offered up Wally Tender – an absolute beauty, built to the finest specifications. Danish Yachts' Moon Goddess, the glamorous dayboat of the 78m Princess Mariana charter yacht, reaches a nifty top speed of 45 knots, making it ideal for a daytrip nipping around the islands. However, one of the main advantages of these ship-to-shore extensions is that they offer guests many of the amenities of their floating palace, such as showers and a fully functional kitchen – a godsend during daily picnic and swimming excursions to secluded spots.

According to Poli, one of the biggest errors fledgling owners make is insufficient tenders to service crew and guests. (Remember Titanic?) "We're sometimes horrified to see two little tenders on a 60m yacht, while personally I would put at least six tenders, so that the crew and each guest can go to shore if they need to. But some people just prefer one very nice one. We try to advise and educate our owners, because they are first-time buyers. The more tenders the better; you can never have too many." Although a fleet of rubber dinghies and a nifty little Riva adequately service smaller yachts, with considerations such as function, size of crew and, of course, image, today's vessels carry an exhaustive selection of tenders to cover every eventuality. From beach-landing boats and rigid inflatables (ribs) for daily crew chores to the aforementioned luxury crafts and limo tenders to impress visiting guests, no expense is spared.

With so much variety on offer, what to buy? This depends on many factors, from the kind of activities you like to indulge in to the size of your onboard garage – although boat builders such as Cougar Powerboats custom make crafts to specification, and the latest trend is to set sail with a mammoth tender proudly trailing on tow. For the thrill-seeker, there's nothing like the sporty sophistication of XSMG Marine's new XSR48, with a top speed of up to 90 knots, the ruggedness of a rib (although the urbane styling of Cougar Powerboat's R11 is far from unrefined), or how about a natty little Sea-Doo for a spot of water sports?

For a more laidback way of life, such as picnic excursions and exploring sandy shores, Hinckley's Talaria 29R is a favorite, not only for its classic styling, but for its waterjet engine, which allows it to land on deserted sandy beaches, rather than having to wade, Robinson Crusoe style, onto land. In the style stakes, Ferretti's AquaRiva Super pays homage to its Fifties heyday with retro carved mahogany and maple decks, while Frauscher's classic runabout, the St. Tropez 757, and the Silvestris 23 boast sports-car styling. Peter Freebody's bespoke slippers, a British favorite, celebrate craftsmanship at its finest. Paolo Murzi of Hinckley advises, "When choosing a tender or dinghy, the first consideration is the specifications of your yacht's style and dimensions. If you have a 40-meter explorer vessel, it's better to choose a small fisherman craft, but for a fashionable superyacht, a Wally Tender is better. Of course, for a classic mega-yacht, it has to be a Hinckley." With beauties like these, who needs a garage?

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