I have a confession to make: I am a sucker for classic yachts. Fantails, canoe sterns, and funnels tug at my heartstrings. I am also intrigued by how yacht designers turn a blank sheet of paper into a fully realized superyacht. So, an offer from the yacht design firm Vripack, based in the Netherlands, was impossible to refuse. The company invited me to work with them on designing a superyacht the way one of its clients would. The process is beyond fascinating. If you are considering commissioning a yacht of your own, stop considering and get started. Here is a primer on the process.
First, collect your thoughts, and clippings, representing your personality and preferences. Do not just explain—show the design team whether you are the comfortably casual type or chic. Do you prefer fun family time or formal entertaining? Are you active 24/7, or do you crave downtime? Where do you picture yourself cruising? Think, too, about colors, shapes, and textures you like. All paint a picture of your personality for the superyacht designers. In fact, they will start with one simple question to suss these out: “How do you like to live?” When Vripack asked me, I relayed my love of classics, and a laid-back air with a touch of elegance. I then made physical and digital folders packed with pictures ranging from Hacker-Crafts to the weathered-shingle Hamptons homes I have loved since childhood. Interestingly, it is more important for a superyacht designer to have these answers first rather than the boat’s length. This is not to say that size doesn’t matter. Rather, it is vital to ensure the desired creature comforts and necessary mechanical systems are properly considered and then design the yacht around them. That is why yachts often “grow” between initial concept and final contract. When I met with Vripack, I admitted I really did not know what size I wanted. I felt 148 feet should be the max, preserving intimate spaces for small gatherings. So, I asked whether that was practical. The Vripack team weighed the essentials against the aesthetic. Result: 138 feet (42 meters) would do just fine.
My admission raises two other important points: One, ask questions; and two, hire a proven design firm. As to the former, you are not expected to know everything, but you should pose challenging questions. “People tell you to ‘think outside the box,’” says Marnix Hoekstra, co-creative director for Vripack. “However, the truth is, to be really innovative, you need to start thinking in a really small box.” Good designers make good suggestions and offer good solutions. Similarly, a proven superyacht studio understands that piping runs are just as important as the pretty stuff.
The design process typically takes a few weeks, due to all the considerations, but patience pays off. The yacht I designed is nicknamed the “Classic Enjoyer.” A magnificent hand sketch of it sits in my office. I am now seriously considering commissioning it for build—that is, when I win the lottery. And when I do, I will know just who to call. (www.vripack.com)