superyacht design festival 2023

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Superyacht Design Festival 2023: All the highlights from Cortina d'Ampezzo

8 February 2023 • Written by Katia Damborsky

After another star-studded edition of the BOAT Design & Innovation Awards, the Superyacht Design Festival opened its doors in the Italian ski town of Cortina d'Ampezzo. The two-day event brought together an expert line-up of speakers from across the design world for a variety of panels, discussions and networking opportunities in the heart of the Dolomites. BOAT rounds up the highlights live from the event...

Day One

The first day began at Alexander Girardi Hall with coffee and registration. Guests were then invited to the auditorium, where the event was officially inaugurated by Shirley Robertson OBE.

A View from the Top

Alexander Girardi Hall was the venue for the 2023 Superyacht Design Festival

BOAT's editor-in-chief Stewart Campbell kicked off the day with a detailed insight into the state of the superyacht market with data powered by BOATPro. Campbell shone a spotlight on the growth of the fleet between 1900 and 2023, the destination trends of the superyacht fleet around the world, and the future of the market with insights from the Global Order Book. The data indicated a decline in speculative builds suggesting "the appetite for getting on the water as soon as possible is undimmed". Campbell also provided a closer look at the brokerage market, which shows growth compared to previous years, but isn't yet toppling the figures of 2021. "I don’t think we’ll ever see anything like 2021," he added. 

Read More/Global Order Book: Full analysis of yachts on order in 2023

Drawing on Fantasy 

Cynthia Halley discussed her approach to her fantastical designs

The second presentation of the day was hosted by Marvel's art director Cynthia Halley, who brought insight from her experience at the helm of the award-winning Marvel series What If?  "In my field, we are constantly designing around the idea of 'narrative'," explained Halley. She suggested that yacht design could be broken down into three acts — the first impression of the yacht, experiencing the yacht on board, and taking away a feeling or emotional response from the yacht. Halley championed curiosity and pushing the limits of creativity to elicit an emotional response — something which Halley suggests is one of the most important elements of design. "A yacht is a work of art that looks ahead to the future of design," said Halley, but it's also an "oasis" on the water which allows "leisure, romance, adventure, the ability to share good times with friends".

Read More/Q&A with Marvel Studios art director Cynthia Halley
A member of the audience poses a question

Spray Yourself a New Superyacht

Next on the agenda, Dr Manel Torres spoke about his groundbreaking Fabrican software — as seen being sprayed on Bella Hadid during Paris Fashion Week. "That was a big viral moment for us," said Torres, who has been working on the technology for twenty years. Torres explained how Fabrican uses a mix of natural and synthetic fibres which solidify when they meet air, creating a huge scope for creative and functional applications on board yachts. Torres showed examples of a fully-sprayed interior design on board a yacht, and explained that furniture, ornaments, and decorations can be sprayed with a high level of detail and texture. Torres said there was further application for the charter and refit markets due to its ability to transform spaces quickly and easily. 

Read More/Q&A with fashion week 'spray-on dress' creator Dr Manel Torres

Zero to Hero

Marnix Hoekstra gives the audience an inside look into Vripack's net-zero project

Co-creative director and owner of Vripack, Marnix Hoekstra, took to the stage next to discuss the principles behind an exciting new Vitters project called Project Zero, which is set to take to the water in 2025. The ketch aims to operate completely free of fossil fuel without compromising on aesthetics, and all of the technology behind the design will be available in an open-source format that forms part of the Foundation Zero mission. 

Artisan of the Year Introduction

Stewart Campbell took to the stage once again to announce the first ever BOAT Artistry & Craft Awards, which will be held next year at the Superyacht Design Festival. Two winners will be crowned in different categories: the single most outstanding object on board a yacht and an emerging new artisan talent.

Young Designer of the Year lunch 

Some of the top yacht designers in the world meet with the Young Designer of the Year finalists

The Young Designer of the Year Award, organised in collaboration with Oceanco, was presented at the BOAT Design & Innovation Awards and a lunch for the finalists was held on the first day of the Superyacht Design Festival. Winner Alessandro Fulle said it was a "privilege" to be acknowledged for his design and called it a great opportunity to meet prospective employers. Paris Baloumis, marketing manager at Oceanco, said it was motivating for designers to be able to meet some of the biggest names in yacht design at the event. "It's important to open the door to an industry that can be quite closed, and they're presenting their designs to the heart of the industry," said Baloumis. "At the same time, you need the vision and passion of the young designers who have not been in yachting for many years."

Read More/Alessandro Fulle wins the Young Designer of the Year Award 2023

What Will Fuel the Road to Net Zero?

The panel presents their ideas for net-zero motor yachts

The next panel of the day saw Feadship CEO Jan-Bart Verkuyl, Lürssen sales director Michael Breman, and DRIFT Energy CEO Ben Medland take to the stage for a panel moderated by BOAT International US editor Cecile Gauert. Verkuyl discussed the strides that Feadship had made in its journey towards net-zero yachting, as well as the realities that come with this kind of technology. "You need to have an owner who is really determined to do this," said Verkuyl, but added that all of today's Feadship clients are "talking about reducing their footprint, without exception". Breman agreed with the notion of challenges and compromise — "you have to convince the client that [net zero] is worth investing in," he said. Medland's approach to net-zero yachting was less focused on compromise, sharing how his energy-harvesting "Energy Yachts" can be used to meet support yachts at sea and allow them to refuel from sustainable sources.

Read More/Superyacht Design Festival: DRIFT Energy on its plans for the future

The Space Puzzle: The Evolution of the Superyacht GA

Younger owners are fuelling a demand for flexible, multi-functional spaces, according to panellists

The evolution of the general arrangement was up next on the agenda. BOAT's digital content director Sophia Wilson hosted a discussion with Valentina Zannier, chief interior designer at Nuvolari Lenard, Stefano de Vivo, chief commercial officer at Ferretti Group, Ferruccio Rossi, executive director at Sanlorenzo and Sebastiano Vida, head of product development for custom yachts at Benetti. The panel touched on a number of themes, including the importance of multi-use spaces and promoting a closer connection to the outside world. "The time the owners spending on board is longer now, so the rooms have to be flexible and fit a lot of functions," explained Zannier. Vida agreed, saying that more owners are focusing on the importance of being able to convert spaces from day to night use and are more concerned with simple, liveable areas that can be enjoyed with friends and family. De Vivo added that new owners are moving away from the "super-formal" spaces of twenty years ago. He also touched on how new propulsion systems will alter the way we design and argued that indoor-outdoor areas will become more seamless. Rossi said the pandemic had shone the spotlight on two key themes: sustainability and freedom, and the GA is going to have to change considerably to keep up with a new generation of owners. 

Kenshō - The Making of an Award Winner

The design of Kenshō was discussed at length

The final panel of the day saw Stewart Campbell return to the stage to discuss the making of 75-metre Kenshō. Sanjit Manku, associate partner of studio Jouin Manku, discussed the inspiration behind the nature-inspired shapes and explained that an owner's dream living space on board a superyacht looks very different to a dream living space in different environments and different climates. He also touched on striking the balance between "subtle and informal" spaces and the natural strength, power and "precious" element that comes from superyachts. "While it was still a superyacht, you want to have a good life on board. Is it still your home?" asked Manku. He was joined on the stage by Holger Schulze-Seeger of and Kenshō's owner, who provided personal anecdotes into the yacht's build and design and the story behind her numerous unique design elements.


Day 2

Superyacht Design Challenge

Day two was opened by Shirley Robertson OBE, who invited Cynthia Halley to the stage to announce the winner of the Superyacht Design Challenge. Designers were tasked with creating a Heroes versus Villain superyacht, and it was Jim Sluijter, Filippo Rossi and Rob Armstrong of Team Excalibur who won the challenge with their heroic sketch. 

Why Superyachts Are Good For You

Professor Charles Spence was on the first panel on day two of the Superyacht Design Festival. He pointed to a long history of humans using the sea for healing, and explained that a huge number of senses are engaged when we are by the sea, including sight, sounds, smell and touch. He argued that being on the water could be even more stimulating than being in nature on land. "Knowing what we know now, the challenge is to think about how we can take these results and work them into interior spaces that are based on wellbeing," said Spence. He posed the question: "Can we create super-stimuli that digitally replace or augment our natural environment?"

Why Colour Matters

Colour trend forecast Jane Boddy took to the stage next to talk about how she predicts what colours will become "trendy" and how colour impacts our design experience and our mood. Boddy made a distinction between the colours that are popular online, versus the colours that are popular in real life and the way that colours change and adapt according to different light levels in the day. 

Read More/Superyacht Design Festival 2023: Q&A with colour trend forecaster Jane Boddy

Six of The Best

The final panel presentation of the day saw Stewart Campbell joined on stage with Tim Heywood to discuss his award-winning portfolio of superyachts. Heywood discussed the design and development behind 114.5-metre Pelorus, 72-metre Kogo and 101.5-metre Symphony, to name a few. "I'm proud that from that initial sketch – nothing really changed," said Heywood, speaking about Pelorus. When looking at Kogo, he added: "An attractive-looking boat is the most important thing to me." He also touched on some of the most memorable moments in his career, as well as explaining his love for curved lines and shining the spotlight on some of his best-loved design signatures. 

Ski Cup

The second day was rounded down with the Ski Cup, hosted in association with Lürssen. With prizes for skiing, snowboarding and team skiing, the Ski Cup included networking and dining on the slopes of Cortina.

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