Despite the exponential growth the Chinese economy has experienced in the last few decades, traction in the superyacht market is something which is yet to happen in the region, regardless of its burgeoning Ultra-High-Net-Worth-Individual (UHNWI) population. In an attempt to rectify the issue, designer Karel Nguyen used his MSc thesis at Delft University of Technology to investigate how to design the perfect superyacht concept for the future Chinese elite, in cooperation with Guido de Groot Design.
“Findings have shown that current Chinese yachting clients perceive and experience the yachting lifestyle in a different way than general Western yachting clients do,” the thesis begins. The rich culture which is engrained in China is essentially the opposite to that of the more successful superyacht regions. As Nguyen highlights, “Emphasis is placed on gaining face, having a social impact and building relations for the sake of their business. Little focus is placed on ultimate leisure in an individual sense, but more in a collectivistic sense.” Furthermore, the “appreciation of modesty is one that characterises the Chinese behaviour within a professional context.”
With the lack of interest in the market, China’s superyacht infrastructure is significantly underdeveloped, which impacts the country as a destination for both existing and potential superyacht owners, as Nguyen explains. “The lack of professional yards, professional yachting services and complicated legislation structure are the principal issues mentioned by Asia-based yachting professionals.”
Despite the increasing number of yachting and lifestyle events in East and Southeast Asia, “it takes time, as yachting doesn’t appear to be part of their nature and the industry needs to teach the new Asian elite the yachting lifestyle and understand their needs,” explains Nguyen.
In an attempt to identify the demands of the yachting culture, Nguyen has identified the cultural demands which the ideal Chinese superyacht would have to accommodate, including: a large kitchen to emphasise the importance of food in the Chinese culture; shade and fewer outdoor activities, as there is a perception that the Chinese eschew endless sunbathing; and a social area with privacy and practical Feng Shui. These attributes rarely brought together among the existing fleet, so based purely on Nguyen’s conclusions, it’s not surprising that the market doesn’t necessarily appeal to the Chinese culture.
“When designing for this region, information and climate is needed to adapt the yachting concept to it,” explains Nguyen, who has found that there is no particular type of yacht that appeals to the Chinese in general. However after investigating a variety of hull types, Nguyen went through a process of elimination in favour of the Small Water Area Twin Hull (SWATH) hull type which offers the best stability due to its decreased volume near the surface area of the sea.
For the design process, Nguyen has decided to meet the various criteria that fit the Chinese culture and what he calls the fictional “wonder woman” client for 2025. As a result, the brief of the exterior has been to incorporate “a modern Chinese feminine flair, social synergy and electric autonomous technology”, which fits the need for social and responsible yachting.
Following a significant amount of planning and a number of sketches, Nguyen selected together with Guido de Groot the best aspects of the initial concepts, and scaled them into realistic dimensions for the final concept. At this point, the general arrangement of the yacht was also decided upon, based on how the functional ‘wonder woman’ client would use the yacht. This includes the vital aspects, such as a social aft lounge, large galley and growing garden. Furthermore, the interior styling has a very light modern Chinese feel, with plenty of green and neutral shades.
Nguyen finally selected the Chinese word ‘Rén’ as the concept’s name, which means ‘benevolence’, defined as: desire to do good to others and an act of kindness, epitomising the values of the concept and the Chinese culture engrained within it.