In defence of a (more) frugal superyacht
Is the superyacht industry missing a trick? Is more always more?
In recent years, much of the superyacht industry’s discourse has been about breaking away from specifications and tired conceptions of luxury and focussing on experiences, values and meaning. However, is the superyacht market’s dedication to the highest levels of finish and the cost that this incurs limiting its ability to attract a particular type of buyer for whom experiences and values far outstrip the desire for luxury finishes.
It must be noted at this point that this article is by no means a call for any business in the superyacht market to lower its standards. It remains the case that the minimum accepted standard for superyachting must be excellence. Nevertheless, with superyacht owners getting younger, more active and, in some instances, more frugal, is there an argument for further differentiation and a greater number of options in the market.
One of the industry’s greatest challenges has been converting UHNWIs into buyers and while it is undeniable that the industry has taken steps forward in terms of moving away from the tired big white boat model, it could be argued that the solutions have all been to move in a single direction. Better finishes, more toys, larger yachts, additional support yachts, more advanced technology, greater automation and so on. Seemingly, the superyacht industry’s answer to most challenges is ‘more’. Few have been brave enough to try and strip back the superyacht model.
When you are looking at or writing about superyachts day in and day out it is incredibly easy to lose sight of some of the basic realities. Even those projects that we consider to be entry-level superyachts are finished with such luxurious materials that their high cost is an inevitability.
Engine rooms do not need to look like art installations, you don’t need to be able to do your makeup in the reflection of a superyacht’s paintwork and you certainly don’t need cabinetry finished in shagreen. These are, of course, extreme examples, but the point still stands.
There is another factor within all of this that is perhaps too readily overlooked. You would be hard stretched to find a crew member who remarked of their superyacht: “Wow, this is easier than I thought it would be.” With so many specific materials to consider, so many things to break and so much custom work that invariably causes issues (and cost) during refits, stripping back and simplifying a superyacht may also help crew members.
Superyachts are never going to be cheap, but there is an argument for reducing costs, increasing utility and placing a greater emphasis on the experience rather than the product itself. Of course, the vessel needs to be aesthetically pleasing, comfortable, seaworthy, safe and so on, but with a growing number of younger UHNWIs emphasising their desire to reduce waste and taking pride in their ability to be frugal, perhaps there is space for a project that reflects these kinds of values.
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