With increasingly hot summers and luxurious destinations to explore, it’s no wonder the superyacht industry is attracting attention from people all over the world. As an industry that once was used for a leisurely holiday, it has managed to transform its technology, design and purpose and now we look to the future of superyachts.
We spoke with Charlotte Hogarth-Jones from BOAT International to learn more about recent sales, increasing trends and what’s in store for future superyachts.
With 2022 marking the 500th anniversary of Magellan’s ship circumnavigating the world, why do you think boating has changed from into more of a luxurious and leisurely activity?
The word yacht actually developed from the word ‘jachten,’ which is the verb ‘to hunt’ in Dutch. In the early 19th century, they built these incredibly fast commercial boats and soon realised how fun it was to race them, and that really marked the turning point where business and endeavour turned into a leisure pursuit.
Are there any cultures or nationalities that still prioritise explorer yachts that take long voyages? Or are they used more for vacationing?
Typically European and American buyers have dominated the market of both explorer and motor yachts, however in recent years this has diversified. People of all nationalities and backgrounds love to go out and discover, and what they have in common is a profound appreciation for the natural world.
Has there been a rise in the number of sales in recent years? If so, what do you think is the reason behind the rise?
There has and it’s been steady and sustained, albeit a modest increase compared to the rise in the number of more typical motor yachts. Partly I think the rise is down to designers becoming more adept at designing this kind of craft – early explorers were fairly rugged, and this breed still very much exists, but now there are increasingly luxurious hybrids that look and feel sleek, and yet have impressive capabilities when it comes to where they can travel and what they can do.
The pandemic has also had a noticeable knock-on effect – I think it’s made people realise that it’s the memories and experiences they look back on, not materialistic purchases – so, people are keener than ever to have these once-in-a-lifetime trips, and this is true across the board in the world of luxury travel.
So, what’s changing? Are superyacht consumers wanting more expedition yachts or is the industry expanding?
The move is definitely driven by owners and charterers, and the industry is diversifying to accommodate this. It’s still a small percentage of owners that want this in relation to the whole superyacht fleet.
What are key design elements of expedition yachts?
One of the key differences between a normal motor yacht and an expedition one is that expedition yachts need to have much more storage – for food and supplies, parts, and the waste that comes from spending longer periods at sea. They also have more space for a flotilla of toys – off-road vehicles and tenders, water toys like jet skis and electric surfboards as well as diving equipment, perhaps a helicopter too – anything that an owner would want to make the most of the location they’re travelling to.
Submersibles are becoming increasingly popular, although still rare. If going to colder climes, you’ll often find spas, hot tubs or beach clubs onboard to counteract the more inhospitable weather, and the hulls of some yachts are specifically strengthened to make them suitable for icy waters.
What cutting-edge technology attracts owners toward expedition yachts, specifically, as opposed to just owning a superyacht?
To be honest I don’t think the technology differs that much – there are very advanced GPS and sonar systems that you can get, but these would apply to either kind of yacht. Obviously explorer yachts have a more impressive range, but captains have told me that you still need to rely on very basic methods of navigation e.g. listening for how the sound of ice is changing, and often people take a team of local professionals with them, rather than loading up on fancy kit. What attracts people to expedition yachts is where they can go – they can visit some of the most remote, beautiful places in the natural world, and they may be the only yacht there, as opposed to lining up in the dock in Monaco or St Tropez.
What are some of the most popular journeys or destinations for expedition yachts?
Places like the Arctic and Antarctica, or the Northwest Passage, Greenland and Alaska, as well as hotter destinations like Papua New Guinea, Melanesia, Indonesia, Costa Rica/Central America.
How do you think future superyachts will affect competition and demand?
There’s huge demand at the moment, which is leading to an ever increasing pool of designers – including some from disciplines outside of naval architecture, such as residential architects, car designers etc. There’s more pressure than ever to build new yachts quickly – the standard timeline is around 3 years, but most owners at the moment want to receive their boat faster – so that, plus the number of orders on their books, is pushing yards to their limits. I think it’s a good thing for the industry – competition always breeds more creative and innovative solutions than ever before – but there’s some concern that this rise might not be sustainable.
Where do you see the superyacht industry moving as new technology, designs, and owner interests shift?
We’ve seen a big rise in semi-custom yachts lately, and I think this signifies a shift in the way owners think about their yachts. They are becoming less like vanity projects, and more a tool to help them get to where they want to go, and do the things they want to do. This means that designers are thinking less about individual projects, and more about successful series boats that yards can sell a number of quickly. Aesthetically, there’s also a move towards a more sporty, casual, laid-back look, versus some of the more opulent and flashy designs of the superyachts of the past – although there remains a market for that style.
To learn more about future superyachts and their innovative technology and designs, visit boatinternational.com
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All imagery courtesy of Boat International.