#humansofyachting – Rob Doyle
The Ireland-based designer and naval architect on his lifelong love of superyachts.
“As a kid growing up in the 1980s, I never thought I could be a yacht designer. It was one of those jobs which seemed unattainable. But my dad was into boats and sailing, so I was always drawing and building model yachts from a young age. I didn’t realise I was actually teaching myself a trade! I got the fundamentals pretty right early on by trial and error.
I was always fascinated by the technology of raceboats. I remember looking at the brochure for an industrial design course in Southampton and being thoroughly convinced that was what I wanted to do. The Solent was the mecca of race boat design back then. After the course, I got my first job with Roger Martin in Rhode Island which was brilliant, then I went racing on the maxis for about a year and a half. When I came back, I got a call from Ron Holland inviting me to join his studio. I never dreamt in a million years I would be able to work for a giant like that.
Ron gave me a huge amount of free rein, so the learning curve was fast and I credit him with a lot of my success. In 2012, he wanted to take more of a back seat, so I took over the studio and started trading under my own name in 2013 – it was a nice transition. I’ve designed 35 superyachts now so I’m quite experienced at knowing what works and what doesn’t. I trust my gut a lot.
Inspiration comes from having a pen in my hand and drawing – before you know it, something materialises in front of you on the paper and you love it. I don’t get inspiration from staring at the sea and dolphins and stuff, unfortunately. It’s about proper grafting and hard work.
On the sustainable side of things, we are almost at the stage where we can go transatlantic without fuel. We push a lot for aluminium – it offers great cost savings and is completely recyclable. The green issue is starting to have real dividends and cost savings and benefits for clients, but it’s important to ensure the proper use of green credentials.
ETHEREAL. PHOTO: BEVERLEY WELLINGTON
ETHEREAL. PHOTO: BEVERLEY WELLINGTON
On the motor yacht side of things, we’re seeing more insulated boats that don’t need so much air-conditioning and things like that. It’s always going to change in slow increments though and it depends how far down the rabbit hole clients want to go. You need to have people with an appetite, owners like Bill Joy [owner of eco-focused yacht Ethereal] who really want to push things and make a difference.
I think in the future, boats are going to have less gloss and more substance. It’s becoming more important to give crew more space too – we push for our vessels to be over and above crew regulation. We’ll give more beam intentionally because it’s easy and it makes a big difference to them. I’ve slept on these boats a lot, so I know what it’s like. We should always push more for the wellbeing of the crew.
As far as memorable moments go, the first time I sailed M5 and looked up at the mainsail, I felt really humbled. I really got a feel for the scale of it. The regattas are always memorable too; it’s pretty hair-raising when you’re crisscrossing and dicing between forty other superyachts. Growing up, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I’d get the chance to take part in something like that. It would have felt as likely as flying to the moon.
Another great part of the job is when clients are finally on board their new yacht, enjoying themselves, entertaining their friends and having a couple of drinks. Sometimes you can hear them explaining all the details of the boat and how they got to it – it’s their boat at the end of the day and their vision.
I have children ranging from 6 to 13, so if I were to charter a yacht myself it would be to somewhere like the Balearics. These islands are a little gem in the Med, not too far away and with really great cruising grounds. They are also very safe and secure.
I’d never retire, the drawing is too much fun. It’s not work, it’s play and I am very fortunate to be able to play as my job.”