Trending (adjective 1. Emerging as a popular trend 2. Widely mentioned or discussed on the Internet, especially on social-media websites.)

‘Explorer yachts’, ‘expedition yachts’, ‘refit’, ‘rebuild’, ‘conversions’ and ‘green/eco’ are all currently trending. All present different challenges for designers and naval architects but, more importantly, opportunities for both. Keeping a weather eye on what is trending is not good enough. Instead, being part of creating projects that go viral is the responsibility of the whole industry.

Explorer yachts/expedition yachts

The demand for an explorer/expedition yacht has hit 10 on the trending front, with numerous builds, projects and concepts flooding the industry. You need only to look through magazines and surf the net to see that explorers and expedition yachts are in vogue. For designers, a new door has been opened to style and functionality; for naval architects, there is an opportunity to challenge the industry norms in terms of range and area of operation. Actually, the term ‘range’ when referring to explorer yachts has been replaced by ‘endurance’, the capability to self-sustain for a period of time, both in passage-making and in staying on station for substantial amounts of time (garbage disposal, large-stores capacity, etc). However, it is important to distinguish between the two divergent strands of explorer/expedition yacht design. The first are styling exercises with no real explorer credentials, the second have become very well-conceived vessels with a great deal of attention to creating a go-anywhere platform.

Refits, rebuilds and conversions

There are many of these projects around the world. Taking a vessel and refitting it makes good financial sense; rebuilding and conversions have some of the fiscal advantages but, more importantly, the time from concept to delivery can be reduced compared to a new build. The designer and naval architect of these projects are unsung heroes as there is normally a misconception about the amount of work that needs to be done on a ‘quick refit’ or ‘sympathetic conversion’. The technical side of rebuilds and conversions can be more demanding than starting from a clean sheet of paper, and the key here is to choose a vessel that is right for the conversion or rebuild.

Eco and green

Eco and green credentials are an essential part of many modern designs. There is lots of technology here, with emission regulations, solar power and wind power being promoted as the future of yacht design. However, a philosophy that needs to be explored more is that of designing hulls to be as efficient as possible, then looking towards the renewables. Light, long narrow hulls, with attention to detail such as bulbous-bow design, defiantly makes large inroads towards a green and eco starting point. Specifications always focus on ‘top speed’ but we need to rewrite this as ‘cruising speed’, and design stabilisers and bulbous bows for this speed rather than compromising the efficiency of a cruising speed used in 90 per cent of its life.

What’s next?

The crystal ball question! Technology will play some part in the future trending projects, and there will also be developments in green and eco aspects, but it would be great to see larger sailing superyachts being built – in my mind the ultimate eco-superyacht. For sure, owners, designers and naval architects will be at the forefront of the next trending project.

But if I look to the future, what is my favourite trending project? Well, to quote Carroll Shelby, “I’ve always been asked, ‘what is my favourite car?’ and I’ve always said ‘The next one’”.

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