As featured in The Superyacht Report, December 2018

With our focus at Cecil Wright being on well managed and maintained yachts primarily from pedigree Northern European shipyards, we spend many hours inspecting and evaluating tangible value (usually per Gross Tonne) by direct comparison to yachts from more competitively priced shipyards from around the globe.

Aside from value attributed to shipyard pedigree and quality of build, we keep our analysis scientific by comparing a broad range of measurable criteria.

Less measurable however – although often more important – is design. Specifying a yacht’s designer among comparison criteria while helpful, does not directly translate into added value attributable to a forward- thinking design or general arrangement (GA). Yet great care must be taken to factor this in to price.

To get a clearer picture of the value of design let us start by leaving aside the term “ground-breaking”. Although different, perhaps even bespoke, ground-breaking will not necessarily be adopted as the next must-have design feature and hence add value, whereas a “forward-thinking” design is more likely to.

A broad look at motor yacht design from the mid 1970’s to date presents some obvious examples of forward-thinking trends that have had a clear impact on residual value. Up until the mid 80’s the predominant motor yacht design of 30-60m (most “superyachts”) featured a same-level main deck owner’s cabin set beneath an exterior coach roof with windows to Port and Stbd. By the mid to late 80’s, forward-thinking designers (like the late Jon Bannenberg) were shaking up this principle by raising the owner’s cabin (some being split-level) and creating 180-degree panoramic views. As these yachts were avant-garde for their time and often built far away from Europe these new principles took some time to filter through to Northern Europe’s yacht building establishment, giving a design/ value boost to some less established non-European builds of the time.

Not wanting Northern Europe to get left behind, Oceanco joined the Dutch elite in the mid to late 90’s, taking these principles and refining them with sleeker profiles, floor- to-ceiling windows and pushing out from the 180-degree owner’s view stateroom to a fully private exterior owner’s deck, even with Jacuzzi (think of yachts such as SUNRISE). Now we start to see how a combination of forward- thinking yet timeless design and Northern European pedigree building could hold good value per GT over decades to come (assuming of course good management and maintenance).

As such designs prevailed over the following decade and new builds grew dramatically in length and tonnage, so designers came to ponder the next set of quandaries these changes presented. For example, a forward-facing owner’s cabin/private deck overlooks a technical space cluttered with mooring systems that must be operated by deck crew in plain sight of the owner’s cabin and private deck. This led to the advent of the enclosed foredeck, which in turn provided an ideal surface area for a touch- and-go heli-facility. Interestingly, one of the first fully enclosed foredecks on a private yacht was RISING SUN, one of Jon Bannenberg’s last designs!

A key consideration for all designers is, of course, lifestyle. A shift towards fitness, sport and adventure has not only driven the creation of spaces that better provide for such recreation, but also spaces that enhance one’s connection to the open ocean. I remember in 2002 pondering the GA for a 60m CRN project, (later launched as ABILITY) and admiring how the owner, a keen boxer, had pushed his design team to create a beach club, with gym, punchbag, sauna and steam, all open to the sea via a fold down lazarette. Perhaps it was not the first beach club – we could probably trace the history of the beach club back to LADY MOURA in the early 90’s – however, this GA spoke to me of a forward-thinking design shift that would add value and catch on. When the time came the yacht sold at a Price Per Ton that some considered punched above its weight, all things (such as pending global meltdown) considered! Fast forward a decade and a half and I find myself at the De Vries Feadship yard in Makkum, Holland, standing in the aft section of what was soon to be the 96.5m FAITH’S beach club. For those unfamiliar with this yacht I invite them to ‘Google it’ so that I may rest my case!

A few yachts have undergone extensive reconfiguration of their aft sections to include beach clubs. However, few or none have undergone wholesale superstructure rebuilding to include forward facing windows – excluding conversions from merchant vessels. This reinforces the idea that picking up on early trends and design cues can have a material and sustainable impact on value.

So what’s next? There seems to be a good deal of interest in the fluidity of layouts of late – creating a primary upper deck penthouse with everything a family may need to dine, relax and take in a movie on the one uninterrupted floor above the bridge. We have seen this in larger designs; however, I expect to see further clever optimisation of this concept, perhaps into the 60-65m range from the 70m+ range. Also, we might consider continued optimisation of a pool/main deck that perhaps flows more seamlessly into its guest accommodations. It seems rather odd that a poolside guest must venture forward through both a main saloon and an expansive yet unused interior dining space to descend into lower deck accommodations to retrieve their favourite sunglasses from their cabin.

From a broker’s perspective, of course most owners want their yacht to be a thing of beauty, given the cost. But only when we combine the aesthetics with careful consideration on how the client will use and enjoy his yacht to its full potential, will sustainable value be added through design.

- By Matthew Ruane, Sales Broker at Cecil Wright & Partners

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