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Key talking points from the Superyacht Design Symposium 2018

As the dust settles after the Superyacht Design Symposium 2018, we round-up the key talking points that got tongues wagging in Kitzbühel...

The influence of car design

It’s often said that yacht design has much to learn from the world of automotive design and Giovanna Vitelli, vice-president of Azimut-Benetti reinforced this message, saying: “Automotive prototypes are launched in a way that influences the market before they are put into production. I think we should do more of that in our industry and set an avante garde than can be met afterwards.”

Further re-enforcing the point, the Studio FA Porsche designed Dynamiq GTT115 yacht 1 of 7 (pictured below) was one of the key winners at the Boat International Design and Innovation Awards, being nominated for five categories and winning one.

However, this relationship is by no means a one-way street, as guests learned from Alex Innes’ presentation on Rolls-Royce’s bespoke Sweptail project, which was custom-designed and built for a private client. He described the process as an “experiential luxury”, in much the same way that building a custom yacht is.

In terms of managing the total price of the project, Innes added, "We’ve probably got a lot to learn from the yachting industry in that sense. Our CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös put it best when he described the Sweptail as 'substantially expensive’.”

Of course, it’s not just the car industry that shares a special relationship with yachting. Stephen Attenborough of Virgin Galactic touched on the link between seafaring and space exploration in his presentation, saying: "One of the things we have in common is a language; we call our vehicles ships, depart from a port, and we are creating astronauts — literally the sailors of the stars."

The sharing economy

Much has been said in recent years about whether the sharing economy will start to have an influence on the superyacht world. This topic came up many times at the 2018 Superyacht Design Symposium, starting with the Extreme Frontiers panel.

Raphael Sauleau, CEO of Fraser, said, "We do believe there is a market [for shared ownership]. Whether we can develop this market is another question. Cruise lines are also looking into this, but it’s very hard to replicate the superyacht experience when you have more than 12 guests.”

The subject came up once again on day two during the Millennial superyacht owners panel. Daisy d’Isernia (pictured above), whose family owns the 43 metre schooner Columbia, was similarly sceptical about fractional yacht ownership. "I would love to own a yacht with my friends, but I think our friendship would be destroyed in some way,” she said.

Environmental issues

With an increasing prevalence of hybrid and diesel electric projects, the issue of the industry’s environmental responsibility was regularly on the agenda at the Superyacht Design Symposium 2018.

Speaking in the Extreme Markets panel, Winch Design CEO Aino Leena Grapin summed up the attitudes of many, saying, “A lot of designers and yards are getting involved in protecting the oceans and ridding them of plastic because without the oceans there is no pleasure in yachting at all.”

A prime example of this is the 182.6 metre Vard explorer yacht REV (pictured above), which was analysed in depth during the Extreme Builds session. As well as being fitted with plastic trawling nets and an on board incinerator for disposing of waste, the project will also feature the latest state-of-the-art noise and vibration reduction technology to minimise the underwater noise pollution created wherever she cruises.

Dead space on board

No Superyacht Design Symposium would be complete without input from the end users themselves, superyacht owners. During the Fireside Chat session, Christophe Albin, owner of Escapade, and Alan Dabbiere, owner of the 60 metre CRN motor yacht Constance, regaled the audience with tales of their globetrotting adventures on board.

Whilst the pair shared many common opinions on the benefits of travelling the world with your children and bringing a tutor with you, they were divided over which spaces were most valuable.

"We sit in the upper saloon and the upper deck aft more than anywhere else,” said Dabbiere. "The main saloon was largely redundant. Generally for us on both of our past two boats the main saloon has ended up being a pretty dead space.”

However, Albin’s experience on board the 37.5 metre sailing yacht Escapade was very different. "Having living and lounging areas in different places was a key thing when we designed it, so we weren’t on each other’s back all the time,” he explained. "We specified a hard Bimini and removable sides so we could enjoy a saloon experience on the main deck.”

Albin added that Escapade’s lower saloon proved invaluable during heavy downpours in the South Pacific.

Form vs function

By far the most talked about part of the Superyacht Design Symposium 2018 was legendary designer Philippe Starck’s keynote speech. During the Q&A session afterwards he was pressed to give his view on the relationship between form and function.

“We don’t need to speak about form, we just have to speak about function, that’s all,” he argued. "I have never designed anything in my life starting with the form. You have to start always with the centre, which is the function.”

Many of the speakers came back to this point, with Dan Lenard, co-founder of the Nuvolari-Lenard design studio, adding, "With explorer yachts we are desperately trying to give a purpose to our yachts. Vulgarity is form without function, the circle without the centre."

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