Design of the times
Marnix Hoekstra, co-creative director at Vripack, believes true innovation comes from doing what we are already doing, only better…
The need to tell stories and create more choice within the superyacht market, as a means of attracting new clients, is a crucial element of yacht design. It transcends the boundaries of budget or time and frees the mind. For those who do not believe it until they see it, storytelling is a compelling method of transforming a 2D sketch into a tangible reality.
Many of our Vripack designs have journeyed to the ends of the Earth. They have placed the owner at the heart of the experience and breathed fire into the coldest of climates. Take 46m Pioneer, for example, a private expedition yacht with an incredible 11,000-mile range and robust cruising capabilities. She was the first yacht to circumnavigate North America and has tackled many high-latitude destinations, from Greenland to Alaska, and British Columbia to the Northwest Passage. She has two owners who share their time on board, which means the yacht never stands still. But it also highlights an alternative ownership model with real appeal, particularly in the current Covid climate.
Gayle Force is another example of a Vripack design – one of our legendary Doggersbank Offshore series – that has pushed the limits of what is expected from a compact yacht. Captain Scott Whittaker has some incredible tales to tell of when they spent weeks cruising around Patagonia in 2018 as part of their world tour. The owners typify the ambitious and visionary clients that Vripack’s creative, holistic and collaborative approach attracts. And so, despite being in their 50s and 60s, the rough conditions, relentless winds and high seas only added to their excitement of being on board their robust 29m vessel.
It’s hearing about these types of first-hand experiences that make future owners not only seriously consider having a yacht in the first place, but also to think hard about the type of yacht that they would like. Explorer yachts are really coming into their own because of the level of autonomy that they offer. Reports this year of owners spending weeks, if not months, on board their yachts in an isolated pocket of the world has given true meaning to the idea of escapism. And this need to feel safe, secure, and private is compounded by a desire to innovate, too. Inspiration leads to market growth if what you’re putting out there as a designer has relevance.
Our yacht concept Futura, which we launched earlier this year, aimed to do just that. It’s a concept that takes its design inspiration from nature itself. The crux of Futura is to create a 66m fossil-free yacht whose design captures wildlife’s innate ability to freely propel through air and water because our enjoyment of yachting should not be to the detriment of the oceans. We believe yacht design should be in harmony with the world around us.
Of course, reducing yachting’s impact on the world is not a new topic. The superstructure on Futura, with its egg-shape sliced onto a beautiful slender hull, is a concept that has been maturing in our minds for over a decade. Used with a biometric way of structuring, the result is lighter than traditional shipbuilding methods and something that is aesthetically beautiful, too. Capable of holding 100,000 litres of fuel, the yacht can run solely on ‘blue diesel’ if desired (a type of Finnish biofuel made from waste food, currently being used in the trucking industry). It also possesses revolutionary bio-based batteries made from salt, sand, water and plants. And the battery bank is 100 per cent biodegradable, charged by an enormous kite on an electric winch that can be released at the touch of a button (an innovative means of harvesting energy, formulated by Vripack in house).
The important thing to remember about innovation is that the market needs to be ready. If it’s too advanced to comprehend, the industry won’t be receptive. That is why we held back on developing Futura until a time when we felt it would truly resonate. This is true on an even smaller scale, too. Innovation is not necessarily the development of futuristic concepts, but rather the development of unique projects that perfectly reflect the requirements of the client in question. Inspiration is dependent on a client’s ‘readiness’.
There is a lot of pressure in the yachting industry to try to create the next big thing, to improve on the latest technology and create a new way of being. For me, it is not about repeatedly reinventing the wheel but doing what we already do, better. And this applies to our clients, too. Just the possibility of upgrading from a standard yacht to a hybrid explorer is revolutionary for some owners. It changes their outlook on where they travel, how they live, even how they bring up their children; it raises the bar for that family. And I think, from a design perspective, that is innovation.
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