Young Designer of the Year Award Winners – Where Are They Now?

Yihharn Liu, 2019 winner

Design: Manta, 80 metre motorsailer

The prize for the 2019 Young Designer of the Year Award was scooped up by Yihharn Liu from Taiwan. Liu caught the judges' attention with her 80 metre motor sailer design concept Manta, which beat 41 other entries to the top spot. She originally entered the award as an opportunity to meet and network with fellow young designers. “I thought it would be a great opportunity to meet a lot of great people, all these young designers, and keep in touch with them and get to know each other,” she said, adding that she “had no idea” that she was going to go home with the award.

Since September, Liu has been undertaking a three-month Oceanco design internship. A place on the scheme was awarded as part of the winner's prize and saw Liu based at superyacht yard Oceanco's Monaco office for the duration of her placement.

Image courtesy of Ed Cavendish.

Nicolò Piredda, 2018 winner (student category)

Scooping the 2018 student prize "fast-tracked" the career of Nicolò Piredda, who impressed judges with his 60 metre explorer yacht concept Galàna. Piredda went on to complete his coveted three-month internship at Dutch yard Oceanco, which saw him work across various processes such as feasibility, construction, durability and concept development. He has since landed a full time job at superyacht design firm Sinot Exclusive Yacht Design.

Nicolò described winning the award as a “career shortcut”. “As a young designer, I used to dream about getting involved in the superyacht industry and now I’m handling my own projects,” he said. “I couldn’t even imagine being here a year ago.”

Thibaud Le Merdy, 2017 winner (student category)

Design: Comète, 80m motor yacht with tenders

Winning the student category in the 2017 Young Designer of the Year Awards provided an immediate boost to Le Merdy’s career as he was offered a role with Silver Arrows Marine less than 24 hours after the prize giving ceremony. This placement has seen him work on the Mercedes-Benz designed Arrow 460-GT speedboat.

Le Merdy (pictured above at the Cannes Yachting Festival 2017) is currently undertaking a three-month internship with Oceanco — part of his prize — after which he will return to Silver Arrows Marine and continue to develop personal projects. Summing up the past ten months, he told Boat International: “All the hard working that went into my entry for the Young Designer of the Year award was worth it.”

Baoqi Xiao, 2016 winner

Design: Cerchio, 45m motor yacht

Scooping the Young Designer of the Year award at the 2016 ShowBoats Design Awards kick-started a whirlwind year for Baoqi Xiao, who worked at De Voogt Naval Architects for six months, making several new proposals for Feadship clients with designers from the studio.

Due to graduate from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California later this year, Xiao is currently working on a follow-up to his winning design. Cerchio II is being developed in collaboration with 2010 winner Adam Vorhees with a particular focus on refining the onboard experience.

Timur Bozca, 2015 winner

Design: Cauta, 55m sailing superyacht with revolutionary Dynarig

The 2015 Young Designer of the Year Award brief called for an innovative design for a hypothetical first-time owner — a couture fashion designer who planned to live aboard and who came with an extremely specific set of requirements for cruising and lifestyle. This was the first year a sailing yacht design was specified, and presented a challenge for the entrants, many of whom lacked significant technical knowledge in the field. But it was young designer Timur Bozca and his striking Cauta design, with her forward-looking exterior style and innovative Dynarig sail plan, that won the day.

Despite receiving several job offers after winning the Neptune, Bozca elected to continue working on his own. Based in Milan, his design studio, Timur Bozca, specialises in both yacht and auto design.

Raphael Laloux, 2014 winner

Design: Symphony, 60m SWATH

Three-time Young Designer of the Year entrant and transportation design student Raphael Laloux had his moment to shine at the 2014 competition, when his innovative SWATH concept Symphony was awarded the Neptune. The 60-metre Symphony received the nod from the judges for being a well-balanced design that met the spec as a world cruising family vessel while introducing innovative features.

Laloux’s career in yacht design began a year prior, when as a finalist at the 2013 ceremony he was offered a job to develop a motor yacht range for Loguer Design. After winning the prize, Laloux joined Philippe Briand’s team and currently works on a variety of projects, from production boats for Beneteau to a 50 metre for Pendennis and an 80 metre Vitruvius with Turquoise Yachts.

Benjamin Toth, 2012 winner

Design: ReSeadence 50, survey vessel to luxury yacht conversion

The brief for the 2012 Young Designer of the Year competition was a large vessel conversion that afforded a new interior arrangement and a refinement of the exterior styling from the maindeck upwards. It was Industrial Design degree programme graduate Benjamin Julian Toth who took home the prize for his 50-metre ReSeadence design, which maintained the original hull platform but took an innovative approach in combining modern architecture with traditional exploration vessel style.

Upon winning the competition, Toth worked with UK design firm Redman Whiteley Dixon before venturing out on his own to work for clients and companies internationally on a variety of yacht designs from 50 to 107 metres. Toth also has several product designs due to hit the market, including a client project above 90 metres and an artistic cantilever chair. He is gradually building his team of partnering professionals to cope with new challenges.

Adam Voorhees, 2010 winner

Design: Ra, 66m diesel/electric motor yacht

With an emphasis on multifunctionality and transformability, the winning Young Designer of the Year Award design for 2010 was the 66-metre Ra by California-based post grad, Adam Voorhees — who returned to the competition after being named a finalist in 2009. Inspired by the Egyptian sun god Amun-Ra, the design explored interactions with light to reinforce guests’ connection with the sea. Not only did the concept fully comply with RINA Green Star Plus criteria, it also specified build materials of fully recyclable aluminium and composites.

After his impressive design won him the coveted Neptune, Voorhees unveiled an array of collaborative designs with industry’s leading names. His first superyacht project — the 25-metre sailing yacht Aandeel — launched in 2013. Currently, Voorhees has a variety of design work underway, including a series update with LeBreton Yachts and a Bruce Farr racing yacht refit. Voorhees also teaches at his alma mater, the ArtCenter College of Design, dabbles in residential interior design, is creating a line of outdoor furniture for an American brand, and writes occasionally for Boat International Media’s Megayachts book.

Maila Speitkamp-Thon, 2009 winner

Design: Draconis, 43.6m multihull with low carbon footprint

As the talk of environmental responsibility reached a crescendo in 2009, the second annual Young Designer of the Year competition awarded German industrial design student Maila Speitkamp the coveted Neptune for her design, Draconis. This 43.6-metre luxury catamaran boasted not only a low carbon footprint, but innovative folding sail wings and the ability to transform into a motor yacht as well.

Draconis was the thesis project for Speitkamp’s studies in Industrial Design at the University of Duisburg-Essen. Upon graduation, Speitkamp became a freelance designer working on yacht projects and spent several years lecturing on yacht styling at her alma mater’s Institute of Ship Technology and Transport Systems department. Today, Speitkamp and her husband Adrian Thon run industrial design firm Thon Design, in Essen, Germany, which specialises in machinery and equipment, measuring devices, electro-mobility and smart home appliances, among other applications.

Fadi Pataq, 2008 winner

Design: Pelagia, 70.26m steel/aluminium motor yacht

Words by Rebecca Cahilly

The inaugural Young Designer of the Year competition saw 40 entries from 12 countries, but it was American product design student Fadi Pataq and his 70.26 metre steel and aluminium motor yacht design, Pelagia, who took home the prize. At a time when 70 metre projects were few and far between, Pelagia was not only beautiful and artistic in design, but received a nod for her careful balance of form and function.

Since receiving the Neptune in April 2008, Pataq has worked with Chicago-based information technology firm TZ Intevia, but followed his passion for yacht design when a chance introduction at the Monaco Yacht Show led him to Abu Dhabi Mar. Much of his early work was on military vessels and patrol boats, but Fadi’s first superyacht project was significant — he was responsible for the exterior styling of the the 141-metre Swift141, Yas, one of the ten biggest superyachts in the world. Pataq is currently the Creative Director of Nobiskrug in Germany.

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