On 14th March 2019, members of the design community gathered for the second edition of The Superyacht Design Summit, an event staged during London Design Week to introduce the wider design community to the superyacht industry. The event was held at Summit Furniture, which is a sponsor of The Superyacht Design Forum in June.

Through key figures, intelligence and candid discussion we were able to see the direction in which the superyacht industry is heading, as well as the inner workings of the design sphere, courtesy of an open discussion with Evan K Marshall, Justin Olesinski, and Kate Maclaren of Winch Design.

Discussing the state of the market, The Superyacht Group’s Chairman, Martin Redmayne and Editorial & Intelligence Director, William Mathieson took to the stage to showcase the market in numbers, forecasting through to 2023, where The Superyacht Agency predicts there will be 6,360 yachts of 30m+ on the water.

“There are increasing numbers of new build shipyards becoming refit yards because new build projects are less frequent,” Olesinski said, referring back to the figures. “Shipyards are realising that they aren’t able to support their business models and therefore turn to the refit model, where there is guaranteed work and it replenishes itself by default.” Judging by the discourse at the Summit, the refit market holds huge potential for the design sphere as projects come more frequently than new build projects.

“For us as a business, refit is a huge part of our turnover,” added Marshall. For the industry, it is a very important aspect of what we as designers are doing and what the industry is prospering from.”

Maclaren observes that the nature of the refit market from the design perspective can quickly snowball, highlighting the importance of this sector for this sector. “When you do a refit, it can be a bit like pulling a string on a jumper; it starts small and then the whole thing unravels,” she said. “So, what starts as a small refit, quite often escalates into something much bigger than anyone had anticipated.”

 Conversations in the market today are largely focused around inspiring the next generation of owners to build superyachts. As highlighted by Redmayne and Mathieson throughout the presentation, the number of billionaires has almost doubled in the last 10 years, but it’s about inspiring the ‘new generation’ of superyacht owners. The panellists alluded to the fact that this is having an effect on not just the style of yachts but also the process of design.

“The age of UHNW clients is coming down,” offerered Olesinski. “They want things quicker and they want more of it. In the last five years, we have noticed that on every project, we do about three times the man-hours. We used to do about 3500-man hours a boat, and now were doing 9000, and that is to make sure that the client gets their boat quicker and with more stuff on it.”

It would also seem that barriers between clients and designers are being eroded and the way that they work together has seen a shift. “We want clients to be engaged and we want them to be involved in the design process,” says Marshall. “Those are the more interesting projects for us – when the owner is more focussed on every detail.”

“When you have the younger clients now, they are much more relaxed with you and want to chat and spend more time with you,” explained Maclaren. “Then you have the older generation who want to have a more formal meeting and for you to present to them. This is something that gets affected by age and attitude as well.”

When you have the younger clients now, they are much more relaxed with you and want to chat and spend more time with you. Then you have the older generation who want to have a more formal meeting and for you to present to them. This is something that gets affected by age and attitude as well.

- Kate Maclaren, Winch Design

But, while the new generation of owners may do things a little differently, there are some aspects of the superyacht industry that are unlikely to change. “The service side remains a very important aspect, regardless of some owners who want to see the crew less,” said Marshall. “Ultimately, they all expect top service and no matter how relaxed they may be, they still expect things to be done right.”

From the design side, it’s vital to understand that the service side has to be complemented through the yacht’s design. The panellists stressed that listening to the crew is a vital part of the process and one that everyone could be doing more of, as they understand the real workings of the vessel. “As a designer, most of the time we’re in the office and so you have got to interact,” said Olesinski. “When we design large yachts, we get the crew involved as much as possible and they give us so much more insight.”

“We want to listen to the crew and be sensitive to them. The captain and the chief stew will have so much knowledge of the client’s behaviour that we need them to guide us,” added Marshall.

The way in which owners interact with the crew will, of course, vary. But this is an aspect that may also be changing with this ‘new generation’. “This has a lot to do with the age of the clients and their cultural background,” said Maclaren. It’s ‘the yachting equivalent of Downton Abbey’, the panel agreed.

Things in the superyacht design sphere are seeing changes, and this is reflected in changes to the owner landscape and superyacht technology. During The Superyacht Design Forum, we will examine the superyacht design sector via external perspectives, which provide an entirely new outlook on the future of the superyacht industry. For more information and to register click here.


If you have enjoyed reading this article, you’ll love our upcoming event, The Superyacht Design Forum, taking place on 25 - 26 June 2019 at Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour. The Superyacht Design Forum provides anyone in the superyacht design world with a unique opportunity to explore new thinking and share smarter solutions for the future of superyachts. To find out more or to register, click here.