ICON Yachts sets conversion challenge

26 March 2013

The Dutch builder ICON Yachts has challenged three design studios to plan the transformation of a real-life survey vessel into a superyacht.

The focus of the project is HR MS Blommendal, a 59m built by Amels in 1973 for the Dutch Maritime Institution. The ship is one of a whole series retiring from service and becoming available for conversion – making the challenge a highly practical exercise.

‘We saw a huge potential to be able to cost-efficiently and relatively quickly gain a vessel very much tailored to an owner’s own needs and requirements,’ says Stephan Vitus, head of project development at ICON. ‘The principal layout is a very classic set-up, not that dissimilar to our 60m platform. So it can have four guest cabins on the lower deck, fairly good-sized accommodation and the required saloons and observation lounges.’

The supply of these vessels has never been more plentiful, and they have been successfully converted in the past. Akula, Altair, Wega, Capella C and *Intuition II *(whose engineering Vitus worked on during her refit by Vosper Thornycroft) all started life as identical or near-identical to the hull at the centre of the challenge.

But ICON’s intention is to spark a variety of fresh conversion concepts that will excite and inspire a range of clients. ‘We chose a set of designers we know work in very different directions and presented them with the same challenge,’ says Vitus.

‘Ivan Erdevicki came up with a very classic proposal, maintaining most of the classic lines of the existing vessel, still creating a very capable 60m superyacht. Dixon Yacht Design came up with a very contemporary but functional profile and proposal.

'H2 Yacht Design took it a little further and had everybody in the office do a little proposal, which was a fun way for them to do it. We picked one (winner) out of them. It would be more challenging in the realisation than the other vessels, it’s probably the most different, but still has an explorer touch.’

While the designers have been envisioning the conversions’ styling and lifestyle requirements, ICON has already given serious thought to the engineering. ‘They are diesel electric, something quite new at the time they were constructed, and we’d probably like to – in agreement with any prospective client – look at LNG or dual fuel for future-proof and efficient propulsion,’ says Vitus.

Awards will be announced during the Antibes Yacht Show by judges from ICON Yachts and Boat International Media.