Why you should customise your yacht tender

The yacht tender is undergoing a revolution. Today’s yacht tender can be full customised to match your superyacht in every detail and fulfil every waterborne need, but besides looking good and creating a great first impression, why customise your yacht tender?

Beyond series boats that are designed for a purpose – either as sports tenders or as limousines – there is a growing trend toward fully-custom tender designs that meet their utilitarian requirements in a way that considerably enhances the luxury yacht experience as a whole and deliberately, thoughtfully and inextricably links the yacht tender to the superyacht.

Holistically designing the yacht tender to match the yacht, “gives you chance as a designer to create the ambience of the mothership before the guests are aboard,” says Mick Leach and Mark Smith of Michael Leach Design, who were responsible for the ShowBoats Design Award-winning 95.15-metre Palladium built by Blohm+Voss (pictured above). “The tender is a very important boat, and if you’re spending that much [on a yacht] you should be [customizing the yacht's tender]. It’s often the first impression of the yacht, and whether it’s the badges, the lighting or the styling, it should make guests say, ‘Oh wow! Look at this – what’s the main boat going to be like?’”

Why customise your yacht tender? Here are the top 5 considerations…

1) Uniquely yours

Perhaps the most obvious reason to customise your tender is so it can be unique. Great lengths – and expense – goes into personalising a yacht, so why should a yacht tender be any different? Just as a superyacht can be instantly recognisable thanks to her exterior styling, so too can the yacht tender. “I think it is great to tie the mother yacht and the tenders together,” says superyacht designer Tim Heywood, “so a styling feature – or features – from the mothership are incorporated into the tenders. This makes the tenders into the children of the yacht … the tender is more noticeable, unique and distinctive.”

While the DNA of the mothership should be imbued in the custom yacht tender, this is not to say that custom tenders are merely scaled-down versions of the big boat. “You pick one or two key features and you try for what looks best,” explains Andreas Iseli, head of Exterior Design at Andrew Winch Designs. “The details are not copies because the scale is so different, but it’s an association, a subliminal message.”

2) Purpose-built and convertible

The custom yacht tender can be designed to perform – or convert to cover – a variety of specific functions to meet the owner’s very personal brief for how they plan to user their yacht.

“You have to list the functions the client is trying to do. These tenders should not just be … objects,” says Andrew Winch. Feadship superyacht Sea Owl has a pair of custom yacht tenders, built by Hodgdon Yachts in carbon fibre so they can be fast and light, reaching 40 knots, but they are family boats and outfitted to host young children on board. Both boats have enclosed heads, even the open tender. The limo tender is also cleverly designed with folding sofas so the tender can turn into a luggage barge, carrying 65 pieces of luggage at a time. Moreover, the roof lifts off so that the yacht’s cranes can be used to drop or lift the luggage in or out.

For Palladium, the owner’s brief actually called for two custom yacht tenders that were both limo tenders as the owner wanted to be able to transport 18 guests at once. Among the practical considerations were not only trying to maximize the glass to get as much light in as possible and having fore and aft doors to give boarding options and create a natural breeze through the interior when required and to put helm in the back so the driver is more protected from sea or weather.

3) Maximise space

When the tender is custom designed by the team creating the parent yacht, there are other holistic benefits—not least of which is engineering the tender, its garage and launch mechanisms as one. The design team can optimize both the yacht tender and the garage at the initial design and engineering stage so that you get the biggest possible tender in the most efficient space possible. “We definitely design the tender to fit in the garage; you trick out every centimeter,” says Iseli. “You can’t start early enough.” Beam cranes were moved on Sea Owl to optimised her tender.

“We’ve ended up with far bigger [custom yacht tenders] than we would have had [if they had been bought off the shelf],” says Iseli of Andrew Winch Designs, the firm responsible for Sea Owl. “We were also able to ask the yard to drop the sill of the tender garage opening by [four inches], which enabled us to get a better deadrise in the tender’s hull. We also influenced the design of Sea Owl’s open boat, as the ramp at the front has a big impact on hull design.”

Arranging an optimum length of tender first means there is no wasted space in the garage that could be used elsewhere. “We knew ten meters would be enough for Palladium’s tenders,” Leach explains, “and the space saved [over a 12-meter tender] is better used elsewhere – in the engine room, the crew quarters or the beach club.”

4) Easy access

Designing the custom yacht tender along with the mothership means that embarkation and disembarkation can be exactly matched to the arrival/departure points of the yacht as well as ensuring easy and graceful boarding from tender to shore.

Andrew Winch says of Sea Owl‘s customised yacht tenders, “On the bow is a custom-designed beach ramp that you can’t normally see, but which rotates down. It has been designed so that an adult can stand on the cantilevered bridge while the tender is moving, for example when approaching the beach or dock. Both have easy boarding at the back because that’s the other thing, you design the yacht and the tender together, which equates to sophistication.”

5) Worth the money

The price difference between semi-custom and fully custom yacht tender might not be as wide as you think as the design costs are often absorbed by the design of the parent yacht. Custom tenders offer considerable advantages – and not always at a cost that far exceeds an off-the-shelf tender.

But that’s not to say that every project will follow this route. “A lot of people still want a [replaceable standard] tender, and custom yacht tenders can be very expensive, says yacht designer Peder Eidsgaard. A fully custom tender holistically designed by the yacht’s designer (as opposed to a customisable tender modified by a builder) can cost from $1.07 million to $2.6 million. “But,” Eidsgaard continues, “the advantage is getting a mode of transport that is an extension of the mothership, not just in lifestyle but also extending the feel, quality and craftsmanship from the moment you enter the tender. It’s a level most guests have never experienced before.”

It’s also a level that, in some cases, owners prefer to keep exclusive. “Some of our clients have actually requested that their custom yacht tender is not reproduced. So they paid for the moulds, and after the tenders were built the moulds were destroyed,” notes Andrew Winch.

Literally breaking the mould – a move that truly makes these custom yacht tenders one of a kind.

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