As the Icon Yachts team explained the complexities behind the rebuild of M/Y Legend to an audience of brokers, during Icon Yachts’ annual shipyard tour and skûtsjes sailing regatta, I think it’s fair to say that everyone in the room had their eyes out on stalks.
The former 1970s Soviet ice-breaking tug had been converted into a red explorer yacht called Giant, but was put out of action after a major fire on board. With nothing but a sooty, blackened chassis remaining, in 2014 an experienced owner saw an opportunity to transport the hull to Icon Yachts for a conversion into a luxury explorer yacht.
The end result, two years later, was staggering given the complications. And it’s a project that defines Icon Yachts – a very capable and flexible yard, with a keen eye for ambitious projects, that can be built to a standard that merits its ISO certification for quality.
The yard has arranged its design and engineering departments in a way slightly different to a typical shipyard. “After looking closely at how yachts are built time-effectively, cost-effectively and at a top quality, we realised that the key is to spend the least amount of time in the ship and more time in the workshops, which are well ventilated and provide better access to tools,” explained Stephan Vitus, head of project development at Icon Yachts.
“When we look at a new design, we create space reservations for the machinery, the equipment, the ventilation ducts, the double bottoms, etc. – any critical spaces. We define this as the technical platform and then we let it go to our exterior stylists and interior designers for the layouts. It enables the designers to be freer in terms of what they can do, because they don’t have to think about the ventilation ducts, or the escape route, etc. – it’s already in the platform and it’s fixed.”
During a construction, the yard’s suppliers, or ‘co-makers’ as it fondly refers to them, have temporary offices set up inside the shed. Most of them are Dutch and work closely with the other big Dutch shipyards, but by having them onsite, the yard is able to reduce overheads and reduce construction time.
“When you go into the shell of a boat and into the systems, there’s a lot to solve and co-ordinate,” Vitus continued. “We model and simulate anything bigger than 25mm, so there are no collisions on the shop floor. It’s all pre-designed and pre-determined, from every valve, to every handle, to every air pipe, so no-one needs to worry or think about it.”
Vitus added: “With any new project, we’ll look to see if it fits onto an existing platform, initially, or if it fits anything we’ve pre-engineered before. If it doesn’t, we’ll do it as a custom project. We don’t just do platforms, but we prefer them because we know they work and they’re competitive – the end result is a quicker construction at a more affordable price.”
Approximately 50 per cent of the yard’s business has been through refit and conversion projects. In addition to Legend, another notable project from the 12 completed at the yard to-date was its very own 67.5m Icon.
“Icon was sold to a client who basically wanted to refit the boat before the summer season started,” Vitus continued. “We didn’t have long at all to do the work, and had some initial criteria, which was to create a beach club and a sauna and spa area. The client’s favourite boat was Alfa Nero, so when we sketched how the boat could look in front of the client, he thought it worked very well.”
The yard then looked into the potential constraints, such as flooding, and decided it was a feasible project. However, no pre-engineering or design could be completed in the time-frame provided. “Six months later, she was able to steam down to the Monaco Yacht Show and has become one of the most chartered yachts in her size-range,” Vitus added.
The yard says the yacht did 25 weeks of charter in 2016. At her charter rate of €500,000 per week, that’s €12.5 million generated in charter revenue for the year, which is probably triple her annual operational expenditure. The refit, according to charter agents Camper & Nicholsons International, increased her charter output and charter rate by 30 per cent, which has proved to be great return on investment.
“We love taking on challenges – projects where other yards aren’t prepared to try achieving the impossible,” were Vitus’ concluding comments, which neatly summed up the presentation that preceded, and evidently what Icon Yachts stands for.
Pictured: Legend during her refit.