dickie bannenberg and his yacht designs

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Designer's insight: Dickie Bannenberg on six of his most compelling designs

2 January 2024 • Written by Holly Margerrison

Holly Margerrison speaks to Dickie Bannenberg, one-half of Bannenberg & Rowell, about some of his most memorable and recent yachts out of the studio...

The award-winning British atelier has become a leader in the field of superyacht design and is always moving the needle – most recently with the 112-metre Renaissance, which is the largest yacht built in Spain. During the national flagship programme, a competition to build the UK's most iconic ship, the studio designed a 140-metre superyacht "unlike anything else afloat". As a result, his team (Team Signal) was among the final two contestants. With so many projects under his belt, Dickie picks six of his iconic yachts and reveals the story behind each one...


Builder: Freire
Year: 2023

"In a nutshell, she is the biggest yacht delivered in our studio's history and almost, in fact, in my father's studio. She measures 112 metres, 7200 GT, and has been built for a very experienced yachtsman and yachtswoman, who've done a lot of chartering. She has the underpinnings of explorer yachts – Ulysses being an example. She was built at Freire in Spain, which is pretty unusual – they've done one yacht in the past, but they're more known for their oceanographic and commercial vessels. She's a huge boat with volume, able to take 36 guests and owners and is built to PYC (Passenger Yacht Code). She had three different interior subcontractors with our exterior and interior design. 

"She will charter quite a lot, that's part of the owner's philosophy. There aren't many yachts out there which offer those facilities. Apart from the ability to take 36 passengers, she's got the biggest gym probably on any yacht, it's about 70 square metres, and she's got a big spa and wellness area. She's got a cinema, pizza oven, double-height main saloon and dining saloon, cocktail bar, business centre, four big custom tenders – you name it. Everything you could possibly need. She's got a very rich and detailed interior, beautifully built by the various subcontractors."

Read More/7 of the coolest features on Spain's largest superyacht Renaissanceloading...

National flagship

Naval architecture/regulatory compliance/engineering/technical design: Houlder

"Our consortium, which was called Signal, ended up making the final two before the plug was pulled by Mr. Johnson. So that was of course, hugely disappointing because, A, we've never really had a project with such an extraordinary brief. And B, we've never had one with such a process involved in it, including interface with the MOD (Ministry of Defence) – but, of course, there are all the things which come underneath that umbrella, by which I mean, the Royal Navy, civil servants and consultants. It was an extraordinary project with hundreds if not thousands of pages of briefs and scenarios and sample operating scenarios which you had to conform with. Then there was how the project was assessed and how it was going to be marked, and how it had to address economic levelling-up. 

"There were an unbelievable set of parameters and guidelines which, frankly, would be quite good for the yachting industry and brokers to operate by instead of just throwing us all in a beauty parade. Anyway, that's another subject. But it was a fascinating thing and we retain the IP for the design. Whether or not there are many national states out there that are ready for a 140-metre yacht to go remains to be seen, but it's a pretty compelling design and proposition. A lot of the things that went into it – from sustainability to progressive glazing design and accessibility – are all very valid and could be used in other applications, albeit at a different scale. 

"Once the misconception that it was just a royal yacht replacement was corrected, there was a very strong case made for the national flagship. It was a sort of multi-purpose, multi-platform, ambassadorial-visit, humanitarian rescue support vessel. It had pretty admirable purposes and missions attached to it. But even so, it probably wasn't strong enough to overcome the kind of political and world headwinds at the time."

Read More/The story behind the UK's ill-fated national flagship competition


Builder: Ares Yachts
Year: 2024

"Spitfire is under design development right now with Ares Yachts in Turkey. We'll start construction early next year, I should think. In terms of her derivation, we have to collaborate quite a lot with different naval architects, but we particularly did with leading naval architectural consultancy Lateral, based out on the south coast. They had an existing relationship with Ares Yachts – they've done quite a lot of naval architecture and engineering work for their range of offshore patrol vessels. 

"The idea was to take one of those because they have quite a range, and use that proven and high-performance hull as a basis for a yacht. In this case, she's based on a 48-metre military patrol vessel, so she is a high-performance, low-volume, radical yacht, which is designed for probably a younger-end user making shorter trips. She's certainly more than a weekend boat and I think the idea is that she'll blast from port to port and perhaps do shorter trips than some of those more extensive two or three-week voyages that people do. 

"We've given her a very different layout but also without labouring the point of "Spitfire" and the heritage behind it. There are some nods to that. All the interior spaces are rechristened to break that link of the boring main saloon, owner's saloon, all those things. They've been ditched in favour of scramble spaces and bosses' quarters. It sets the story for that sort of boat and how she will be perceived."


Builder: Heesen
Year: 2021

Moskito is our most recent collaboration with Heesen, who we've done nine or 10 projects with now. We're known for our collaborations doing on-spec designs, where there is no client other than Heesen themselves. We're given pretty much total carte blanche to come up with an interior concept which is interesting, by which I mean we deliberately steer clear of playing it too safe so that they appeal to as wide a market as possible. Even within that requirement, we make sure that she's got a pretty strong and individual appeal. 

"We don't always get the chance to select the artworks and books. In fact, that was when the incoming owners or buyers had acquired her with about six months to go, which is a situation we've had before, but what was unusual and good about it this time was that the incoming owners 100 per cent loved what we had designed, so there was not a single change made. They also said: "You've done a great job here, so can you also finish it off", which we did by putting together some art and a library of sorts, which we are very happy to do. I think they're almost all British artists. The result is a nice, clean metropolitan smartness to her.

"We're very happy with this one. We've had a very good relationship with Heesen over the years doing that kind of project. We're sensitive to the budgetary landscape and how they're taking a risk and building on spec, so we have to be mindful of that."


Illusion, previously Galactica Star
Credit: Jeff Brown/Breed Media

Builder: Heesen
Year: 2013

"Illusion, ex-Galactica Star was quite something because the budget for commissioning the art in particular was set pretty high. So we had the very happy position of being able to choose original Warhols.

"She is now owned by a previous client of ours who has a considerable art collection in his own right. We did a lot of refit work on his previous yacht, which was also called Illusion. So it's quite a nice full circle on that one."

Moon Sand

Builder: Lürssen
Year: 2021

"Moon Sand is 55 metres and was built at Lürssen. Those two phrases are pretty surprising in their own right because Lürssen is known first and foremost for its large 80-metre-plus yachts. So this was a very radical departure for the yard in terms of building. It was a project for a long-term client of ours who we've done two other smaller vessels for (not built at Lürssen but built at Feadship), and this came about because he was very captivated by some concept work we've been doing in the studio, based on on the very famous Carinthia VI design, which was designed by my father. 

"We were exploring a more modern, smaller iteration. The owner saw some of our early profile work and was really taken by it. As you can see, she's very interesting with a clean-looking exterior. That's oversimplifying it really but very, very sophisticated with subtle surfacing and shapes and quite a contrasting interior for owners who like their colour and pattern. She's got a pretty vibrant and bright interior. 

"Moon Sand had very, very hands-on owners who we went backwards and forwards with, questioning and debating the value of centimetres of space here and there and how it can be used. They are a very experienced yachting husband and wife. It was an interesting project and was fully our design inside and out. She came up the Thames a couple of years ago, which was fun."

Read More/Moon Sand – Inside Feadship's contemporary masterpiece

More about this yacht

Lurssen   55.5 m •  2021
Heesen Yachts   55 m •  2021

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