World-renowned naval architect, designer and Vitruvius Yachts creative compass Philippe Briand has a lot of experience in the yachting industry. Under the Vitruvius banner, Briand has developed a recognisable aesthetic that is efficient, practical and beautiful, covering the full spectrum of motor yachts from conventional lifestyle cruisers to exceptionally adventurous expedition vessels.
Below, Briand reflects on what he has learned from the past ten years of designing some of the world’s most adventurous motor yachts, and what the future holds for the market.
On the needs of clients
We have historically split the yachting market into an oversimplified, condensed range of categories for owners. In order to design the best yachts for our clients, we need to understand what they want to do with them, and appreciate that this might change throughout their ownership journey.
Galileo G. Philippe Briand's sketches.
In the luxury car industry, there are approximately ten different categories for buyers to choose from, ranging from sporty Ferraris to sumptuous Bentleys to robust 4x4 Range Rovers, with intermediate categories like SUVs in between. By subdividing the market into these niches, the car industry has been able to expand the market by identifying clients more precisely; this is something we need to do in yachting.
Nautilus in New York
At Vitruvius Yachts, we believe that the motor yacht market fits onto a spectrum with three major categories: lifestyle yachts sit at one end, highly autonomous and specialized expedition yachts are at the other, and versatile explorer yachts sit somewhere in between the two, depending on their owners’ requirements for equipment. Naturally, all the yachts, whatever their category definition, need to be comfortable, seaworthy and efficient.
On lifestyle yachts
To be a gamechanger in the lifestyle yacht category, which is by far the most prolific, you need to find ways to improve efficiency and provide a lifestyle suited to young-minded owners.
Lifestyle yachts make up around 90% of the market today. When it comes to designing these ‘Superyachts,’ like those we usually see cruising in the warm climates of the Mediterranean and Caribbean, in order to stand out you need to be able to tailor the offering to owners’ lifestyles and preferences, with the utmost level of comfort.
Najiba. Photo: Tom van Oossanen
Our yachts 58m Najiba and 73m Nautilus (ex Grace E) are great examples of this. They provided their owners with wellness facilities, vast amounts of outdoor space, superb views throughout their interiors thanks to large amounts of glass, and all the desirable water sports toys and technologies to entertain the family.
On explorer yachts
Exploring the world brings you a richness in knowledge and culture. Explorer yachts – which are capable of visiting more remote waters – need to be even more seaworthy and practical than lifestyle yachts, with a wider range of autonomy.
Exuma. Photo: Giuliano Sargentini
It is our job as a designer or naval architect to improve or refine these qualities, bringing our knowledge of hydrodynamics and engineering to create a yacht that complies with the owner’s intended cruising programmes. We also need to take into account additional stowage requirements within the hull for large, specialist equipment such as submersibles or land vehicles. This thinking led to the concepts of Vitruvius’s earliest projects,45m Exuma and 55m Galileo G.
Galileo G. Photo: Giuliano Sargentini
When Exuma was delivered in 2010, she was a completely unique offering. Everything that came before her was more like a trawler, a type of yacht that was a fixture in the market for a long time. Trawlers have a long range of autonomy but they are usually quite small – within the 20-30m range – and are not generally comfortable or modern enough by today’s yachting standards, particularly in regards to the space provided for accommodation.
It is safe to say that the solution we came up with was an explorer yacht that positively encouraged a desire to cruise as much as possible. Since her delivery, Exuma has logged more than 100,000 nm, which is more than two complete circumnavigations and quite exceptional for a pleasure yacht; her owner counts his visits to remote islands in the Pacific Ocean as one of the best experiences he has ever had. Galileo G has also travelled extensively, including to the high latitudes, taking in Antarctica and the Northwest Passage.
Exuma. Photo: Giuliano Sargentini
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and we feel heartened that there has been a growing trend in the use of many design features and capabilities that first appeared on our explorer yacht Exuma, including the plumb line bow. Of course, before Exuma there were luxury yachts that travelled the world extensively, such as Octopus, but their scale needed to be much, much larger to achieve the kind of autonomy required for a global cruising programme with this degree of comfort and lifestyle onboard.
On expedition yachts
An expedition yacht is distinguished from an explorer yacht in that it needs to have very specific qualities and capabilities for a particular purpose or goal, with corresponding tools, tenders or equipment on deck. The purpose of the vessel is usually to take the owner to a particular spot or to carry out a specific activity – the destination being more important than the act of travelling itself – and, once the vessel is onsite, they can then execute the purpose. The entire design concept therefore revolves around these highly specialised owner requirements. It is not unlike the approach for creating a scientific research vessel – much like those adapted and used by Jean Cousteau in his time – except with a much higher level of comfort and detail.
Vitruvius No. 8.
For our Vitruvius No. 8 55m expedition yacht, which is currently being built at Feadship in the Netherlands, all our design work stemmed from the owner’s requirement to have a 6.3-t, three-person submersible onboard, launched and retrieved by a hefty 8-t Palfinger knuckle-boom crane. The yacht’s open aft deck needed to house the submersible and crane, as well as a Toyota Land Cruiser and two tenders, including a 5.6m multipurpose tender and an 8.0m limousine. All this had to fit on the rear exterior deck of a 55m yacht, while still providing ample luxury guest space inside to enjoy the degree of comfort you would expect on a superyacht, including a large owner’s suite and four further guest cabins alongside accommodation for a crew of fifteen. The owner wants to experience the kind of comfort we see on traditional superyachts, so we effectively needed to fit the interior real estate of what would be expected on a 55m luxury lifestyle vessel into half of the yacht.
Vitruvius No. 8.
We are in exciting new territory when it comes to offering truly ‘luxury’ level expedition yachts of this kind. There almost always has to be a trade-off in volume for luxury spaces when you want more functionality, more equipment like SUVs and submersibles, and more opportunity to explore the world. However, less volume does not have to mean that the yacht is less functional or comfortable, and it is down to the designer’s skill to optimize the yacht’s potential. As long as the client understands the realities of the trade-offs, they can gain so much more in terms of the experiences they have with their yacht.
On adventurous yachts for a new generation
The profile of clients buying explorer and expedition yachts is evolving, which is thrilling as a designer. We can offer a modern luxury yachting solution that is not at odds with the values of a newly emerging generation of owners.
In the past, clients for explorer and expedition yachts have tended to be more experienced, perhaps having owned several vessels and expressing more interest in specific design details and technical performance. But I believe that explorer and expedition yachts are becoming less niche, and more first-time buyers will be starting their ownership journeys with them in the near future. It has been reported that the explorer and expedition yacht market has experienced a two-digit growth since 2008, and that it currently represents around 10% of the entire superyacht market, which is not far off the proportion of sailing yachts at this size level. I believe it is not a stretch to suggest that clients who in the past would have bought sailing yachts are now transferring their interest to more of an explorer- or expedition-type yacht, because, just like a sailing yachts, they are ideal for longer journeys, and they can bring you closer to nature.
Exuma in Fiji.
These new clients also want to minimise the impact on the environment from their yachting activities by choosing vessels that offer higher efficiency and lower emissions. The greatest influence you can have on the sustainability of a yacht starts with your approach to its naval architecture, through the development of an efficient hull, supported by technologically advanced propulsion systems. Through collaborative efforts initiated by the Water Revolution Foundation, the yachting industry is making great advances in quantifying the relative sustainability of yachts through the creation of the Yacht Environmental Transparency Index (YETI, for short). This allows us to indicate and provide guidance on what constitutes an environmentally responsible yacht in a more precise way.
Nautilus (ex Grace E). Philippe Briand's sketches.
Although I maintain that the Mediterranean Sea is an exquisite option when it comes to cruising, our oceans have the potential to offer much more. Today’s yachts visit just 3% of the planet’s coastlines; there is still so much left to discover and experience. This can be a point of attraction for both experienced owners who have extensively cruised the typical waters in the Mediterranean and Caribbean, as well as newcomers to yachting who have a respect, curiosity and appreciation for the natural wonders of the world. With the technology and design tools at our disposal, we can deliver the experience that these new owners desire without the yacht’s operation being at odds with their environmental sensibilities.
Najiba. Photo: Tom van Oossanen
Philippe Briand is the founder and designer of Vitruvius Yachts Ltd. He made his name designing award-winning sailing yachts under his own brand name and building on that experience has led him to create a revolutionary range of motor yachts: Vitruvius Yachts with a range in size of over 100m in length.
With over 12,000 boats built to date, Philippe Briand could reasonably be considered the most prolific yacht designer of our time.
Credits: Vitruvius Yachts
The 145m or 140m (the length of the yacht is still in question) Solaris hit the water for the first time on a very foggy Sunday 28 February. Although there’s still not very much information about Solaris, we know that the yacht has eight decks, as well as a helicopter pad and a spacious beach club aft. Solaris can accommodate up to thirty-six passengers and a crew of sixty.The explorer vessel has become the eighth vessel in Roman Abramovich’s fleet. Credits: Instagram DrDuu
March 1, 2021
The 142m superyacht Nord has docked at Gibraltar. Previously known as Opus and Project Redwood, Nord was designed by design studio Nuvolari Lenard. The owner is represented by Moran Yacht & Ship. Explorer vessel Nord can accommodate 36 guests in 20 staterooms.Gibraltar Yachting shows how it was. Lürssen is a German shipyard with headquarters in Bremen-Vegesack and shipbuilding facilities in Lemwerder, Berne and Bremen-Aumund. Founded in 1875, Lürssen is one of the world's leading builders of custom luxury superyachts and has launched many of the largest yachts in the global fleet, including Octopus, Rising Sun, and Azzam.Credits: YouTube/Gibraltar Yachting
March 1, 2021
Project Titanium marks the third collaboration between the Imperial The Italian Sea Group – Admiral shipyard. Boasting an exterior and interior design from the Winch Design studio, Project Titanium has been designed with the intention to find the perfect balance between high-end quality standards and high-tech solutions with particular attention to eco-sustainability, thanks to her innovative diesel-electric propulsion system, powered by Azipods."Imperial is one of the major brokers of the superyacht industry. We would like, first of all, to thank our Client, who put his trust in us to develop and confirm this outstanding project, and we are really looking forward to commencing! Partnering with esteemed professionals such as Admiral and Winch Design on this project, with their proven track records, is another proof of the reputation Imperial has gained throughout the past 15 years to create a certain idea of exigence, of dedication and of detailed achievements within our industry," says Julia Stewart, Imperial Director. The Italian Sea Group"Imperial is now a consolidated partner of ours with whom we are capable to share know-how, values, and purposes." says Giuseppe Taranto, The Italian Sea Group - Admiral Vice Chairman. Jim Dixon, Director, Yachts & Aviation at Winch Design, comments: "Embarking on this project brings equal measures of pride and excitement for the Winch Embarking on this project brings equal measures of pride and excitement for the Winch Design team, and follows a huge amount of hard work already achieved. It’s a privilege to be working with the esteemed Admiral Yachts on the build and again with the management team at Imperial. Project Titanium is incredibly dynamic and will be a landmark for the industry. We look forward to working closely with all those involved and can’t wait to see her develop!""Titanium Project represents our concrete step as a world-wide key player in the gigayacht industry, as well as a fine example of our production capabilities, being able to offer the most incredible client’s experience. We are now fully integrated in the 60m to 100m segment and, for sure, comparison with Northern European shipyards comes at ease in terms of efficiency, quality and performances, while we surpass them in flexibility in accomplishing the most demanding client’s requests," also added Giuseppe Taranto. Project Titanium has an expected delivery planned for 2025. Established in 2005, Imperial builds, brokers, manages and charters many of the world’s finest superyachts. The Imperial main office is located in Monaco, the heart of the superyacht industry. Imperial has been involved in many of the recent major sales and deliveries of the superyacht industry, such as Bel Abri (Amels 52m), Fast Support Vessel 6711 (Damen 67m), Project 783 (Nobiskrug 73m), Amore Vero (Oceanco 86m), Amadea (Lürssen 106.10m), Lana (Benetti 107m) and Flying Fox (Lürssen 136m).Credits: Imperial, The Italian Sea Group
March 1, 2021
EYOS Expeditions, the world’s foremost provider of private yacht expeditions, and Nansen Polar Expeditions have joined forces on a long-term strategic alliance coinciding with Nansen’s recent fleet expansion. Together, EYOS and Nansen will combine their collective experience to introduce a new expedition yacht experience in the polar regions. 72m Cloudbreak EYOS works regularlyNansen Polar Expeditions has been operating since 2019 with their first vessel, Villa, a rugged – yet luxurious – expedition ship, and they’ve recently acquired Nansen Explorer, a 72m ICE 1A+ vessel that will accommodate 12 guests following an extensive refit. EYOS has more than a decade of experience operating private yacht expeditions to the polar regions aboard the world’s most prestigious private and charter expedition yachts. Photo by Reeve JolliffeEYOS CEO Ben Lyons said, “One of the most exciting elements of our new alliance with Nansen Polar Expeditions is the ability to go beyond the boundaries of a typical expedition. Given the high ice-class and helicopter capability of MV Nansen Explorer, we intend to reach destinations far removed from even where most expedition vessels are sailing, and certainly well out of reach of a conventional superyacht.” Photo by Reeve JolliffeNansen Polar Expeditions CEO Audun Lie Dahl said, “Working so closely with EYOS on this multifaceted alliance opens up new markets and opportunities for both companies. There is a great personal connection and history between us, and we couldn’t have found a better partner as we continue to expand our fleet.” Credits: Reeve Jolliffe; EYOS Expeditions
February 28, 2021
The new 94m Feadship hybrid yacht Project 817 launched in Kaag, the Netherlands yesterday. Her advanced hybrid propulsion system allows the yacht to cruise on diesel-electric power at 12 knots. In diesel mode she’s able to reach a top speed of 20 knots. Her exterior was made by Azure and Feadship's Studio De Voogt and the interior is the work of Peter Marino Architects. Project 817 can carry a 14m tender, the largest ever installed on any Feadship. “There she is, the 94m Project 817; this groundbreaking eco-friendly Feadship has left the yard for the first time. Onlookers are admiring her special pearl-white livery, which is housing an exceptionally advanced hybrid propulsion system,” the shipyard’s Facebook page notes. Feadship was formed as a group in 1949 as a marketing partnership between six Dutch shipyards, de Vries Lentch, Van de Stadt, Witsen & Vis, Akerboom, De Vries Scheepsbouw and Van Lent Shipyard, and De Voogt Naval Architects. Feadship is well-known as one of Netherlands’ most elite yacht builders and delivers superyachts from 50–100+ meters in length.Credits: Feadship
February 27, 2021