There was a time not long ago when 100 feet was notably large for a yacht. Oh, how things change. Today, it seems it’s the 100-meter mark that must be surpassed before eyebrows are raised in anticipation. The trend toward ever-larger yachts is indisputable, but this doesn’t mean that innovation is only taking place on the far side of 300 feet. Forward-thinking hull designs, glass technology and eco-friendly solutions are being explored in all sizes. And builders are experimenting in other ways — yards renown for building semi-custom are going custom, and custom builders who would never before dare whisper the word “production” are offering owners semi-custom platforms. It’s an exciting era for exterior styling as well; a time when brash, futuristic designs coexist peacefully next to more organic shapes, and even so-called “timeless” style is applauded when executed with a nod to future proofing. Meanwhile, “openness” has never had more of a moment – think balconies as the de rigueur, floor-to-ceiling windows, expanding decks, indoor-outdoor dining rooms, glass-bottom swimming pools and beach clubs that go above and beyond the norm. Most thrilling, perhaps, is that bold experimentation isn’t just being seen in the far-out, never-to-be-built; designers are dreaming up cutting-edge yachts, and owners and builders are making them a reality. If you want to take a peek into the future at the projects, concepts and new builds that will shape the superyacht landscape, look no further.
Does size matter? Glancing at the order books of some top builders, you would think it very well might. European yards, for instance, are taking orders for and delivering their largest yachts ever.
In early 2015, Feadship launched its new flagship, the 333-foot hull number 808. She marks the first time the Dutch builder exceeded the 100-meter mark. Less than a week prior, Feadship launched another sizable superyacht, 274-foot SAVANNAH. Hull 808 is designed by the famed Tim Heywood; in keeping to her big-boat pedigree, she has been built to Passenger Yacht Code (PYC), which is another first for Feadship. The PYC aims to strike a happy medium between SOLAS and LY3, allowing yachts to accommodate more guests than the standard Large Yacht Code – in the case of 808, 16 to 20 guests – while forgoing some of the pesky regulation found when building to SOLAS. However, PYC comes with its own level of regulations that have caused some to ponder whether it’s worth all the effort to gain a few more guest accommodations.
If 808 is a guidepost, her accommodations certainly make a compelling argument for PYC. The owner will luxuriate in an entire deck dedicated to his use, with a full-beam stateroom, his-and-hers bathrooms, a sauna, office and study, and a private forward deck with Jacuzzi. The owner’s aft deck has alfresco dining for 20. Making full use of the outside spaces, hull 808 boasts an outdoor cinema and a 20-foot contraflow, glass-bottom swimming pool – and don’t forget the waterfall feature. The observation lounge also does a nice job of letting guests enjoy the vistas while basking in climate-controlled comfort. The beach club is in a world of its own with a lounge, wellness center and ultra high-definition movie theater.
Benetti also is building its largest-ever custom yachts. The Italian builder reported two new orders for yachts around the 100-meter mark last fall, and the next big Benetti to launch in 2015 will be a 295-foot behemoth. Not enough specifics have been confirmed on these builds to make a strong case that a particular Benetti yacht will change the face of yachting, but the mere fact that the predominantly semi-production builder will deliver nine yachts larger than 164 feet from its custom range in 2015 is game-changing in itself.
As the builders of the largest yacht in the world – that’s the 590-foot AZZAM, of course – Lürssen Yachts is certainly not afraid of going big. But larger doesn’t only correlate to LOA. The German yacht builder’s latest new order is pushing boundaries in terms of her volume, which is reported to be larger than any other 242-foot yacht floating today. Dubbed “Project Thor,” the full-displacement steel yacht is currently in build. Designed by the legendary Andrew Winch, inside and out, she will have a spacious 43-foot-plus beam, affording her an especially ample volume that stands out even from a yard known for delivering the largest of yachts.
Delta has debuted a new 67-meter concept and, while not it’s largest ever, it’s certainly up there – and it’s packed with big-boat amenities. The 67-meter is designed specifically, in fact, to offer the maximum number of features in an attractive package. Touch-and-go helipad, check. Full-beam gym and fitness space, check. Twin 8.5-meter tenders, double check. The wow factor however, is the 15-foot-long, nine-foot-wide swimming pool found at the stern, which boasts an underwater window that allows light to filter into the beach club below.
The U.S. builder describes its new 67-meter as being designed with bountiful storage and the ability to provision for long periods. There are accommodations for 14 guests and 20 crew. The upper deck owner’s suite offers inspiring views and rambles over nearly 1,200 square feet, including a private forward deck lounge. Designed to suit a variety of tastes, Delta designer Christian Oliver notes that the 67-meter is presented in two styling options, classic or modern, either of which can then be customized to an owner’s brief.
Refusing to be pegged as one-trick ponies, the latest trend spotted is builders strategically crossing over into new markets.
Prior to last year’s Monaco Yacht Show, Blohm+Voss – builder of some of the most iconic, custom creations in the world, including the uniquely formed A, designed by Philippe Starck, and the ahead-of-its-time ECO by Martin Francis – announced that it would be embarking on something new. Rather than introducing a custom project, the German builder revealed that it will enter the semi-custom market. Shorter delivery time was the motivating factor behind the new 262-foot, semi-custom yacht, the BV80, says Patrick Coote, sales and marketing director of Blohm+Voss, who notes that thorough market research informed the decision. “One of key things from our research is build time, people want boats fast these days,” Coote says. Blohm+Voss tapped Eidsgaard Design for its new BV80 project, with a brief that the yacht carry forward the Blohm+Voss DNA, while having a widely appealing exterior design, flexible interior and that little something extra, such as fire pits, full-height windows, indoor gardens and outdoor cinemas. BV80 has large, square windows reminiscent of Blohm+Voss’s 1990 launch, 344-foot LADY MOURA. A racing stripe running from foredeck to aft is a standout exterior detail, and living areas are split equally between interior and exterior spaces.
“In respect to the exterior, we were keen to pick up on heritage from Blohm+Voss’s iconic yachts, we wanted to tip our hats to that heritage,” says Ben Harrison of Eidsgaard Design. “With the square windows to the guest cabins on the BV80, we’ve acknowledged just a hint of this heritage. We also worked with the yard to give the boat a fantastic bow flare, a very fine entry into water. It makes for a very pretty, pretty hull. The BV80 is highly customizable within this package; interior layouts and amenities can shape shift widely. What we were trying to achieve was to be cost effective and produce a platform onto which we can provide the opportunity for clients to modify to their own tastes,” Harrison says. “Blohm+Voss wanted to bring more than the chance just to change the fabrics.”
On the other side of the coin, a yacht builder renown for its semi-custom platform hull dependability recently announced its new bespoke offerings. Amels, which offers its Limited Editions series designed by Tim Heywood in sizes ranging from 180 to 272 feet has broken its molds by going custom. This also is a commitment to building larger yachts for the Dutch builder as its one-off custom yachts will start where its Limited Editions range leaves off, at 272 feet, moving upward to 360 feet. Amels is responding to market feedback as well, but unlike Blohm+Voss, its owners are, “coming back to us and asking for larger yachts and, in particular, full-custom yachts,” says Amels Managing Director Rob Luijendijk. “The difference with our Amels Full Custom offer is that in the 80- to-110-meter segment, we’re really talking about a quite small market for very high-value, one-off creations. Our clients can decide for themselves what better suits them.”
Crossing over into new territories is proving successful for some yards and designers already. Dubois Naval Architects, whose founder Ed Dubois is regarded highly for his sailing yacht designs, is riding a wave of success for its foray into motor yachts. The 151-foot Dubois-designed Feadship motor yacht COMO was launched in 2014 with much acclaim. The follow-up from builder and designer came just a year later in the similarly sized KISS. Feadship is careful to point out that these yachts, while sharing a similar length and design team, are not sisterships. For starters, COMO has a top speed of 19 knots and KISS has an upper deck devoted to the owner. But what Feadship does affirm is that it took lessons learned in COMO and previous builds to enhance its custom build experience.
“With yachts like COMO and KISS, we are effectively building a sporty type boat around our average size of more than 15 years ago, but now with all the know-how and intelligence that Feadship has developed,” says Feadship Director Henk De Vries. “This facilitates a clever approach to high-end production, one which remains entirely custom while keeping the costs of a Feadship of this size within the bounds of reason.”
Eco and hull overhauls
Eco-friendly yachts are a hot-button topic that doesn’t come with an easy answer. Motor yachts, after all, burn fuel. But yards are looking at how they can make their new builds greener prospects with hybrid power options and solar panels, among other environmentally kind solutions.
At the same time, unconventional hull shapes are having their day in the sun. The SWATH superyacht is a reality, as are other multihull proposals. And spates of low-resistance hull forms are leaving the standard displacement and semi-displacement shapes in their wake. Perhaps not surprisingly, there is overlap here. New concepts extolling the virtues of eco-friendliness also have innovative hulls, thus recognizing that power packages aren’t the only answer – hull shapes that allow less resistance and burn less fuel are agreeable to both the environment and the yacht owner’s pocketbook. Case in point, Oceanco’s 383-foot concept Titan, code name DP055. Her slender hull is specially designed for low-resistance, and this is complemented by hybrid power. Titan is predicted to reach a top speed of 18 knots, yet cruising in an eco-aware mode, silent operation, low emissions and fuel efficiency are guaranteed.
Meanwhile, Blue Coast Yachts has introduced a 197-foot hybrid power trimaran concept, propelled by MTU diesel engines and electric drives. With naval architecture and interiors by Coste Design, the carbon and fiberglass multihull can top out at 30 knots and also take on transat-lantic voyages at more economical speeds of 11 knots. Bonus: She can run six hours on only electric power.
But move over displacement, semi-displacement and dis-planing. The next big thing in yachting might be something else entirely. SWATH vessels have been creeping into the superyacht lexicon, staking their claim that superior hull stability also can be comfortable and luxurious. Andrea Vallicelli Design proposed an interesting concept for Fincantieri Yachts, a 246-footer based on a SWATH hull form. Fuel-cell technology could give this concept zero-emission propulsion, giving her major eco-credibility. With fuel cells, the yacht could move silently with a range of 450 nautical miles.
So what is the future of yachting from the vantage point of the present? The key word is growth — growth in yacht size, growth in builder’s range of offerings and growth in eco-intelligent design. And from our vantage point, it’s all on the up — the future looks very bright indeed.