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- 2 Apr 2012
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The New Wave of Superyacht Owners: Younger, Richer

Superyacht Design Summit @ CHDC MArch 2012 from Superyacht Images on Vimeo.

Belinda Liversedge, communications manager at The Superyacht Group, details the key insights from 2012’s Superyacht Design Summit

With an average overall design and build time of four years, a superyacht is a work of art, a technical marvel and an unrivalled way to explore hidden corners of the planet. Every inch is maximised for luxury, and there are few limitations on where it can travel, so it is with good reason that an increasing number of ultra high net worth individuals (UHNWIs) see superyachts as the ultimate accessory.

Being a public advocate of superyacht ownership is, however, a little less popular, not least because encouraging such media interest flies in the face of the very privacy that UHNWIs covet on board. It is unsurprising, therefore, that information on this unique sector of the luxury market, such as how large yacht design is evolving – not to mention how these elite consumers are adapting to the economic realities of today – is hard to come by.

It was with great excitement, therefore, that SuperyachtDesign magazine welcomed three of the world’s most eminent superyacht designers – Andrew Winch, Terence Disdale and Tim Heywood – to Design Centre Chelsea Harbour for Designer: Question time. Together the three engaged in a lively debate covering subjects such as the changing tastes of their clients, the owners and purchasers of multi million pound yachts.

As such it was a fascinating and rare insight into the minds and preferences of today’s UHNW consumer and, taking prime spot at London Design week on 13 March, it was a highlight for the superyacht industry, as well as the wider design fraternity who made up the 170-strong audience.

 With an average overall design and build time of four years, a superyacht is a work of art, a technical marvel 

A trio of highly esteemed peers and past colleagues, Winch, Disdale and Heywood are British yacht designers who began their careers over 20 years ago working for the legendary Jon Bannenberg. Referred to (with tongue-in-cheek) as the ‘Bannenberg School of Design’ – owing to the fact that so many imminent yacht designers’ careers have started by working with Jon – it was here that the three panelists honed their craft before striking out on their own.

Since then, they have between them designed some of the most beautiful, iconic and awe-inspiring superyachts ever built. Their combined portfolio comprises Eclipse, Al Mirquab, Pelorus, Ecstasea, Ice, Phoenix 2, Imagine and Cloud 9. Editor-in-chief of SuperyachtDesign and Chairman of The Superyacht Group, Martin H. Redmayne chaired the interactive Q&A session, posing questions and welcoming participation from the audience.

Collectively, the trio identified passion as their overarching driver of personal success, noting that enthusiasm in doing what you’re doing, as well as being happy in what you’re doing, helps to design well. “Our clients respond to that,” suggested Tim Heywood.


Superyacht ECLIPSE, owned by Roman Abramovitch, designed (exterior and interior) by Terence Disdale

Terence Disdale reiterated the need for functionality – not just aesthetic – when it comes to the design of luxury yachts. “When we create something it works, it functions and that’s the key to success. People will then come back to you – projects are recognised as not just a stunning looking thing – it’s something that functions correctly. All three of us come from that school where we don’t create just fantasy – you never see anything on the drawing board that can’t work.”

On the whole clients are younger and richer than ever before. “We had one client in his mid-20s with his first yacht in excess of 90 metres; that type of thing is relatively new,” explained Tim Heywood. “If you’re fortunate to have a long-term relationship with a client you see how they grow and their style of yachting grows and changes.”

People are also starting to see how they can explore other avenues of their wealth, according to Terence. “One client is using a helicopter so he can play golf….another [owner] is using the tender to investigate, for example, a beautiful river estuary where he could never have gone with the mothership.”

 When we create something it works, it functions and that’s the key to success. People will then come back to you 

The trio believe superyacht clients have always been attentive to cost but primarily concerned with value and the highest standards of design and functionality. “The value of everything that one does is considered – it was before, and it is now. It might be a lot of money being spent but the clients still want the value,” advocated Andrew Winch. “People want to create more uniqueness, more individuality. If they’re going to spend the money today they want to create something that hasn’t been done before.”

Tim agreed, going on to suggest that despite the credit crunch, buyers remain adventurous and want to do something new and unique. “We are well-known for our textural and innovative finishes, which forms the basis of most of the concepts, and we are fortunate that the majority of this is seen through to completion,” finishes Terence.

When faced with the future, the trio believe sustainability will become more and more influential in design and production. “Yachts are becoming more efficient and creating less fumes and less mess,” explained Tim. “I think that will progress. I see size stabalising in the bigger market at around 120 metres – there are egos that want possibly the biggest yachts. The rules relating to helicopter pads is also making yachts bigger.”


Superyacht Al Mirqab, owned by Qatar’s Prime Minister, built by Kusch Yachts and designed by Tim Heywood with interior designs by Andrew Winch

It’s been widely reported that the top tier of the world’s richest individuals have been largely unaffected by the recession and are still spending vast amounts of money. Whilst this may be true, the SuperyachtDesign Summit showed superyacht owners are arguably nonetheless responsive and connected to the world around them.

Regard for impact on the environment as well as, if not a frugality, then a determination to be creative and push boundaries in response to the economic crisis is also apparent in their choices of superyacht design.

As younger and more adventurous entrepreneurs hit the Forbes billionaire’s list every year, the prevalent segment of this sector of superyacht owners is also telling. With this same latest Forbes list growing (1,226 billionaires in 2012 compared with 140 some 25 years ago) it could be that we see this small sector of ultra luxury consumers grow and more superyacht owners enter the market.

To further investigate Superyachts and Design on Luxury Society, we invite your to explore the related materials as follows:

- Key Insights from The Superyacht Group’s Annual Report 2012
- Yacht Makers Point to Shipyards Further East and South
- Paris & Beijing Legitimise Commitments to Design
- 7 Must Know Luxury Brand Yacht Collaborations


The Superyacht Group is a privately owned media company dedicated to, and focused exclusively on,every aspect of the superyacht arena. With four diverse but harmonious divisions: print, digital, art and events, The Superyacht Group has created an unrivalled position as the world’s most intelligent media group covering the superyacht market.