For a number of years, ‘exploration’ has been all the rage, but how many of the ‘explorer’ yachts that we see on the water actually deviate from cruising the Mediterranean?

These days an ‘explorer yacht’ is a pretty fluid concept, which could refer to anything from a full-blown ice-breaker conversion project, to a superyacht with slightly more stowage space on the aft deck, should the owner wish to carry an additional tender.

Now, there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with this trend – I for one am actually quite fond of the utilitarian aesthetic – but perhaps as an industry, we should be slightly more aware of the fact that there is a tendency to brand anything which has a slightly more industrial finish as an explorer when this just isn’t the case. It isn’t until you really start scrutinising a yacht’s specifications that you are able to separate the wheat from the chaff.

It isn’t until you really start scrutinising a yacht’s specifications that you are able to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Funnily enough, this is a trend that isn’t bound to the superyacht industry. In September 2016, Land Rover introduced its fifth generation Discovery to the world. To clarify, this is Land Rover’s work-horse vehicle, now that the Defender is no longer in production. Yet, like the ‘explorer’ yachts that we see in the Mediterranean, this ridiculously large lump of a vehicle is, all too often, spotted clogging up the roads of West London, with its unnecessarily large boot, and a wheelspan that is utterly impractical for the English capital’s narrow, congested streets.

There is a middle ground of course, going back to my earlier point of exploration being a fluid concept. My idea of an expedition is likely to be completely different from yours and, if that is the case, we’re likely to have very different ideas of what an explorer yacht should really be able to achieve. So, I have no problem with a diverse mix of explorers, and I don’t think that every explorer yacht should be kitted out with ice-breaking competence if the owner’s definition of exploration is to visit areas of natural beauty in the Amazon basin. The issue I have here is vessels that are designed to look like roughty-toughty explorers, but lack the technical capabilities to venture anywhere remotely challenging.

As The Superyacht Migration Report will show you at the end of this month, exploration is not just a design trend; there is an undeniable appetite on the part of owners and guests to look for and explore new and less frequented cruising grounds. But I do think there are some cases where design has got the better of us by convincing owners that the exploration aesthetic is enough to jump on the growing trend for adventure.

It’s essential that we stop thinking of an explorer as something that looks tough, and start focussing on the design criteria that will allow a vessel to cruise further afield.

With this in mind, I think it’s essential that we stop thinking of an explorer as something that looks tough, and start focussing on the design criteria that will allow a vessel to cruise further afield.

During The Superyacht Design Forum, we will be continuing this discussion with exploration consultancy firm, Pelorus, examining the ways in which our industry is succeeding in designing yachts that are built for discovery, and how to avoid ending up with a ‘Chelsea tractor’ of the sea.

Join the discussion, and have your say during The Superyacht Design Forum, 25th – 26th June, Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour. Remaining tickets are available here.

Profile links

Design Centre Chelsea Harbour


If you like reading our Editors' premium quality journalism on SuperyachtNews.com, you'll love their amazing and insightful opinions and comments in The Superyacht Report. If you’ve never read it, click here to request a sample copy - it's 'A Report Worth Reading'. If you know how good it is, click here to subscribe - it's 'A Report Worth Paying For'.