Over the last three days, the yachting world has gathered in London for a unique superyacht event. Not just "another show", SuperyachtDESIGN Week at Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour is always a hub of information, interaction and innovation that brings together designers, builders, suppliers, owners and anyone in between who is interested in the world of large yacht design. Having been around since the beginning of SYDWeek at DCCH, even since its initial incarnation as the half-day SuperyachtDesign Summit, I can say with confidence that this year has been the best yet. I return to my desk energised and inspired; mainly by all the potential there is for owners to build something truly amazing.

I have always been one to lament the typically inward-looking nature of our industry. For such a small dot on the map of global industry, we have a tendency to stay within our bubble, to do things as they have always done and avoid challenging things. Whether this is with our marketing strategies or our client approach, we rarely veer off the tried-and-tested path.

I return to my desk energised and inspired; mainly by all the potential there is for owners to build something truly amazing.

But what about design? A common comment is that "all yachts look the same". Looking down the line at any major marina and you can see why some people might feel this way. A yacht geek would be able to point out the obvious nuances and aesthetic signatures on each boat. An untrained eye, probably not.

For me, It comes down to more than just aesthetics though. If there was one thing that was extremely evident during SuperyachtDESIGN Week it was the R+D that is going on behind the scenes, the technological advances that are being made in other realms of design and the potential for some real boundaries to be pushed. Biomimicry, 3D printing, alternative fuels, harnessing energy; all areas that have real potential to change the future of yacht design and the world. During the opening keynote presentation on day one, David Nelson, co-head of iconic design giant Foster + Partners, spoke about their first yacht project, the 58.5m Izanami. “[She] saw us wander into new realms of technology," he explained. Clients that want to do something special aren't common in this industry, but this owner did."

A concept inspired by tree roots drawn by Claydon Reeves
during a session on biomimicry

This isn’t an uncommon phrase in the superyacht industry. Considering the budgets, the possibilities and the experts at your disposal, it is rare for superyacht owners and clients to invest in much boundary-pushing. Pushing boundaries doesn’t need to be about building a yacht like Izanami or M/Y A. It can be about investing in new technologies that will make your yacht more efficient and less impactful - and hopefully save you money in the long run.

Foster + Partners first yacht project, Izanami

In a workshop with Fincantieri's Andrea Ivaldi, Imtech's Peter Rampen and Feadship's Ronno Schouten discussed the future composition of superyacht fuel. Fincantieri presented it brand new local zero-emission, hydrogen fuel cell concept FC SWATH 75. As well as needing visionary owners to support radical designs like this, Ivaldi pointed out that regulations are slow to catch up with new technology, which is ultimately making clients more reluctant to support fuels of the future.

Implementing new technology doesn’t need to be completely ‘radical’ though. Take hybrid and diesel-electric propulsion for example. Diesel-electric ships and submarines have existed for a long time and several superyachts have been built with diesel-electric technology, including Eclipse, Luna and Kogo. Bill Joy’s S/Y Ethereal is also one of the first examples of hybrid technology in a superyacht. But technology is fast evolving, meaning that Feadship’s hybrid yacht Savannah has even more efficient and advanced propulsion and power management systems than before. Indeed, Feadship claim that Savannah should burn up to 30 per cent less fuel than a traditional yacht of similar size. Surely this is technology worth investing in?

“There is a phrase that the future is already here, it is just not evenly distributed,” said Arup’s Josef Hargrave, pointing out that while Germany had no autonomous cars at all, for example, there were fully operational models in many other places. “There is always risk associated with new technology. But there is also so much possibility.”

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