Have you ever wondered why it should take so long to have your yacht painted? If so you wouldn’t be alone, as it was one of many questions raised during the first SuperyachtDESIGN Week. The three-day event, hosted by SuperyachtDesign at Design Centre Chelsea Harbour in London, provided a platform upon which design-related topics could be discussed. The Superyacht Owner explores some of the points discussed during the event and the various options on offer in the market.

A male manikin wrapped in a carbon fibre finish vinyl

In a session called ‘What Can We Change?’ Azure Naval Architects’ Hugo van Wieringen questioned the time it takes to paint and maintain a paint finish. It was an interesting point and one that Ken Hickling, Awlgrip’s global business development manager, put down to the high number of flat surfaces on yacht, which make it difficult to get the perfect finish. He stressed that in order to achieve the desired high quality look, it takes time. He went on to reveal that to get a better finish on a yacht would require applying less gloss, which means you conceal many of the elements that are troublesome and visually displeasing. However, less gloss equates to a less shiny finish, which is not always desirable.

Few owners opt for a vinyl coating on their yacht despite the many advantages of the material such as image printing, special effects such as wood, satin, chrome, fading or even standard colours. In addition, the overall wrapping process takes significantly less time due to its ease of application and is therefore cheaper than the equivalent in paint. Greg Hoar, managing director of Wild Group International, gave an example of how one of his clients likes to have his car wrapped in a new colour every six weeks; while he didn’t suggest the same for a yacht, it certainly opens a new avenue for owners looking for a quick way to update not only the exterior but elements of the interior of their yacht.

A female manikin wrapped in vinyl at SuperyachtDESIGN Week 2013

Moving away from traditional surfaces was not something that only Hoar was keen to promote. Designer Christina Norris was invited on stage to discuss her Purple Rain project, which features an integrated art piece using Esthec composite decking. The material provides the owner, together with his or her designer, with the freedom to be more experimental in the look, colour and pattern of the deck. It is also said to be stable in bad weather, providing grip when wet and is maintenance friendly.

The materials and finishes offered by Bolidt, and specifically by sister company Esthec, are not new concepts. Composite materials have been applied in other areas of the marine sector for more than 30 years, specifically in the construction of cruise ships. Likewise, vinyl has a proven track record within the automotive industry, with luxury brand cars such as Bugatti and Bentley experimenting with its application frequently. So, why don’t we see more of these innovative ideas on superyachts?

A render of Purple Rain with a custom designed deck using Esthec composite decking

Jonny Horsfield, of H2 Yacht Design, commented that while designers can suggest alternatives, the decision ultimately comes down to the owner. “It’s all about perception for the client and trying to persuade them to move on to something different or something new and to explain what the advantages for them are,” said the English designer.

In a realm where design traditionally favours the more classic expressions of luxury, phasing out teak in favour of composite decking is a hard sell. This tendency to stick to tried-and-tested design decisions arguably stifles innovation, though. Ken Freivokh, designer of the boundary-pushing sailing yacht Maltese Falcon, remarked that the healthy budgets of some projects were often spent on adding ‘bling’ to a yacht rather than investing in new ideas. “It is like gold-plating a syringe,” he remarked, asking what would happen if the medical world spent research money in the same way that the superyacht industry did.

While yachts such as McMullen & Wing’s Big Fish innovated and pushed the boundaries of superyacht design, most still don’t. Whether this comes down to owner willingness to experiment, or to fund innovation, or down to designers playing it safe, there is little doubt that there are plenty of options out there waiting for the more imaginative owner and design teams willing to try something new.

Read the full article in Issue 9 of The Superyacht Owner.

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