Crafting an owner’s vision
From one month to ten years – how long will it take to build your perfect yacht?
From initial designed sketches, to the first cutting of metal, to the final maiden voyage, it takes on average four years to build a superyacht. And more than just a fancy boat, it is a floating example of design innovations, complex engineering and smart technology all tailored to an owner’s preferences and lifestyle. But what happens when an owner chooses the path less trodden and presents a shipyard with a head-scratching request? How far will a yard go to accommodate and perfect an owner’s wild and wonderful vision?
Royal Falcon One is a 41m catamaran developed by the Singapore-based Royal Falcon Fleet. It boasts a highly-contemporary design that hails from the drawing boards of the iconic Porsche Design Studio, and forms part of Royal Falcon Fleet’s fledgling time-share membership model.
According to Roger Leitner, executive vice president of Royal Falcon Fleet, it was always intended for the yacht to make a statement in the yachting industry, primarily with its ‘spaceship-like’ exterior, but the main question on everyone’s lips since the yacht launched in July 2019 has been, “Why did it take 10 years to build?”.
Royal Falcon One
Royal Falcon One
The simple answer is because of the owner. In 2009 Porsche Design Studio set about designing a vessel that possessed “speed and dynamics”. The studio describes its multi-hull design as “almost resembling the track of a sports car”, but four years into the build at the Vietnamese-based shipyard Kockums, the entire operation shut down for three long years.
“The three-year pause was the owner’s choice,” Leitner explains. “That time allowed us to reconsider whether we were moving in the right direction, with the right people, and with the right contractors.”
Happily for Kockums shipyard and all involved, the build resumed in 2017, and Royal Falcon One was successfully launched last year. But despite being at the mercy of owners who make changes, swap contractors, and even put the brakes on an entire build, the main priority for any shipyard is to accommodate an owner’s needs.
As one of the few shipyards in the world to successfully straddle the lines between fully custom yachts and those built on speculation, Dutch shipyard Heesen Yachts is in the unique position of being able to offer owners the eye-wateringly rapid delivery time of just one month for a brand new yacht. “That’s because we have one built on spec and ready to sell,” explains Mark Cavendish, sales director at Heesen. However, for owners looking for a degree of personalisation, Heesen’s semi-custom option is the next best thing, which uses one of the yard’s existing and proven platform models (already designed and engineered), making delivery time nearer to two and a half years. And if a fully-custom yacht is the desired result, then an additional nine months is needed to allow for the design and engineering stage.
For many owners, though, it’s not about tight turnarounds on delivery, but craftsmanship, level of finish, and originality of design. According to Cavendish, the sky is the limit. “Nothing is a challenge as long as it’s feasible and allowable,” he says. “If you have an owner who has genuinely no restrictions on the financial front, why shouldn’t he have whatever he wants? Outrageous interiors, helicopters, high speeds – it all comes down to imagination.”
Heesen’s custom Project SkyFall, a 59m yacht with a top speed of circa 40 knots, is a clear example of an owner looking to push the limits. “You can imagine a few raised eyebrows when that’s what the owner said he wanted,” says Cavendish. “When we questioned him four, five, six times and asked, “Are you really sure this is what you want because your entire yacht is going to be designed around the engine room?”, and he said yes, we went away and figured out how to make it happen.”
Bespoke is king in the world of superyacht builds, and each shipyard will bend over backwards to try and accommodate owners’ demands. German-based shipyard Nobiskrug, which currently has a challenging 100m design on the table, has built a name for itself as an expert in daring, technically-advanced custom builds. In the case of 80m hybrid motoryacht Artefact, the owner’s goal was to create something wholly unique with the smallest carbon footprint possible. The solutions included lightweight materials to save on weight, both in terms of volume and fuel economy, and the unusual use of Glass Reinforced Polyester (GRP) instead of steel or aluminium for Artefact’s superstructure.
“The center section of the yacht is built in steel, but the fashion package around the sides and the wings is in GRP, a lightweight structure which is corrosion protected, and allows any future owners to change the design of the yacht using this material as it can be uninstalled,” explains Vesna Bloetz, marketing and communications manager at Nobiskrug.
Sailing Yacht A
Sailing Yacht A
And perhaps one of the most iconic yachts on the water today – Nobiskrug’s 143m Sailing Yacht A, which took six long years to build – contains the largest piece of glass ever manufactured for use on board, a 15m window for the underwater observation lounge.
“A client’s demand is never answered with a ‘no’,” says Bloetz. “If the requests demand innovative engineering, we will gladly welcome all ideas, push the envelope of what is feasible, and seek new technologies to find the solution.”