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Giving innovation a focus

Aino Grapin, CEO of Winch Design, on why sustainability gives the concept of innovation a focus…

Why do clients choose a particular designer? And why do they keep returning to the same designer? Some designers may count on innovation alone to win the favours of our demanding clients, but the world’s most successful brands like Apple or Tesla, which exist at the intersection of luxury and technology, don’t rely solely on innovation. How does this translate into the world of superyachts? In my experience at Winch Design, the main reason our clients repeatedly return is because they trust us and what we stand for. We listen to their dreams with intent and design with commitment and integrity that ultimately means clients feel a genuine connection with our designers and with their project. If our clients trust our ethos then it is only right that we speak with the same honesty regarding the ongoing sustainability crisis, the role that the superyacht industry must assume now. 

If innovation in yachting needs a focus, it should be a sustainable one. We are tackling the challenge with the full creative force of the Winch Design team, but it is also essential to share each other’s journeys, to be honest about which approaches work or don’t work. So far, I can report back that the solutions lie not only in design breakthroughs, but also in organisational changes and broad engagement with an innovation ecosystem. 

On a design level, our current projects allow us to work with technologies that excite both ourselves and our clients. They demonstrate that their wildest dreams can be compatible with a sustainable one. Re-inventing the wheel may be unnecessary but sustainability cannot be a tokenistic afterthought either. Through group-think innovation and by harnessing the skills of our partners, we can build on one another to create designs of real sustainable value. As demonstrated through the pioneering work of The Water Revolution Foundation, collaboration with the whole supply chain is vital to trigger a paradigm shift within the industry. We hope many more will join us in signing their Code of Conduct. 

Sailing yachts are back to centre stage, thanks to their potential for sustainable innovation. For instance, we are developing a 100ft eco-concept with Royal Huisman, featuring extending solar panels that fan out like a butterfly’s wings. The withdrawable systems maximise solar charging functions, resulting in unrivalled efficiency – even the sail is an opportunity for solar charging. The aim is to develop new technologies that harness the power of the wind and sea in the most efficient ways. Also on the Winch table are plans for an electric-drive mono hull sailing yacht and multi-mast ‘DynaRig’ concept. These projects take us back to our roots: the first Winch project in 1986 was a Swan 36ft, featuring interiors and deck spaces lovingly designed by Andrew. 

In the motoryacht world, taking positive steps towards sustainable propulsion doesn’t mean that we can rest on our laurels; progress is needed for interior design too. We have invested time into building an extensive database of sustainable materials. Innovative and beautiful materials such as palm leather, aloe vera surfaces and renewable rattan can take the place of leathers, rare wood marquetry and non-sustainable wall finishes. Three-dimensional sand can be sculpted and pressurised to create hard surfaces that mimic the natural form of raw stone, meaning no virgin materials are taken from the landscape. We are currently the first designers to be collaborating with The Water Revolution Foundation to design a concept interior for a new 60m yacht, where all materials are analysed and measured on their sustainability credentials.   

How can we get real traction behind our wishes for innovation in sustainability from an organisational perspective? We have found that transparency is an essential pillar. By launching ‘Life Worth Living - our roadmap to caring for people and the planet’ we have openly shared our targets for the next five years and committed to publicly report back on our successes and, importantly, our shortcomings. Each team member at Winch is accountable for part of this plan. By transparently sharing our desire for innovation, we hope to encourage our partners to come forward with their own innovative ideas and clients with their desires for sustainable yachting, resulting in an innovation ecosystem. In other industries, companies rack up enormous R&D budgets in the hope that their innovation will find an audience. In custom yachts, we are fortunate to have clients who are patrons of innovation: they support us in creating the future of yachting. 

In the words of Elon Musk: “When somebody has a breakthrough innovation, it is rarely one little thing. […] It's usually a whole bunch of things that collectively amount to a huge innovation." We can already see these sparks all around us and in our studio and we are excited for what’s to come.

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