Top Trends in Yacht Design: Pushing the Envelope

Owner input, technology and innovation through experience are driving the new yacht crop.

When it comes to yacht design, new is always in vogue. But does that which drives the look, layout and function of what we see on the docks and at the boat shows today differ from the past? We spoke with builders bringing new vessels to the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show to get a feel for what’s inspiring them to create models that are driving current design trends, addressing everything from internal volume and light to handling ease and hull designs that could redefine a market segment.Billy Black
Ocean Alexander
As a naval architect and designer with a client list that includes Broward Marine, Hatteras, Horizon and Ocean Alexander, to name just a few, Evan K. Marshall has been watching and creating trends in the yachting industry since 1993. It has been an interesting couple of decades, from the demand for larger and larger vessels to innovations in hull design and propulsion systems. One recent trend Marshall has noticed is that yacht owners are showing increased brand loyalty, starting with a builder’s entry-level boat and then growing into its larger offerings as their experience and billfold grow. With this in mind, Ocean Alexander looks to bridge the gap between its 90- and 120-foot models with its Ocean Alexander 100, which should debut around the time you read this. “We want to have something that owners of the 90 can grow into,” said Marshall. “We don’t want to lose them to a different brand because of a hole in our lineup.” Marshall is also seeing more private yachts joining the charter industry as a way of offsetting running costs. This has led him to dedicate more time to creating layouts with additional staterooms and improved crew quarters. “You never want to underestimate the importance of having good crew accommodations,” said Marshall, who gave the crew quarters in the 100 extra headroom and stowage options. Look carefully and you’ll see the same fabrics and wood choices in the crew quarters that are found throughout the 100’s other accommodations. “If you don’t pay careful attention to your crew, who keep the boating running and well maintained, then your boat will fail, even if it has a great design.”
A swim platform is a trend, if you look at how this builder designs it. For years, Ferretti purchased third-party hydraulic platforms for its vessels, but the lift capacity, basic functionality and mechanical breakdowns took their toll. The builder decided it was time to take a new look at the way older lifts moved out and away from the boat and then lowered, putting significant stress on the mechanism. The builder's new design initially lowers straight down and then at an angle, thereby reducing stress and increasing capabilities. "It's effectively fixed to the boat and drops on two tracks or slides that allow the hydraulics to move in a straight motion, as opposed to a pivoting arm," explained Ferretti Group's product manager, Justin Blue. The refined design increases lift capacity, allowing for easy launch and retrieval of personal watercraft and tenders, creating a sea-level beach and the like. You can find this lift on the new Ferretti 650, 690 and 750. Having a constant connection to the sea is also big with yacht owners, so Ferretti created big hull-side windows in its master cabins and provided 360-degree salon views. Blue said that if you open all the blinds in any Ferretti-built boat, “there’s no space you can’t see into the ocean.” With today’s technological innovations, resin applications and ability to run even bigger windows in longer structures, you can stand in the center of any Ferretti and almost always be looking out of glass.
Outer Reef Yachts
Owners are looking to go bigger and bigger, said Outer Reef Yachts owner Jeff Druek, whose company specializes in the long-range cruiser segment. He added that Outer Reef is busier building 80-, 86- and ­90-footers than at any other time in the company's history. It also is seeing a renewed interest in building cockpit motoryachts. "They're back in rage. It's been very popular," Druek said. He explained he's seeing owners who are into water sports, including diving and fishing, and in general looking to do more than simply drop the hook. On the other hand, some owners are downsizing and moving toward long-range craft with increased speed capability, so the builder worked with designer Ward Setzer to create its soon-to-debut Trident line featuring Outer Reef's patent-pending, semidisplacement Tri-brid hull form. Owners wanted a hull that runs well at displacement speeds, offers solid seakeeping and true tracking, runs with a minimum of horsepower and acts like a planing boat. This pod-drive-equipped vessel is predicted to make a top speed of 28 knots. Druek said most of his yachts’ owners have done the nonstop cruising lifestyle and are now looking to short-hand couple cruise but also get from point A to point B faster when desired. The first model of the Trident series is the 530 debuting this month. Druek noted that the first 12 hulls of this next-generation trawler have been pre-sold in the United States and Europe. A 650 and 750 are planned to follow soon.
Building boats in Australia for Americans requires Maritimo's USA president, Dave Northrop, to be an astute student of trends in both hemispheres. He has spent 30-plus years in the industry, working at Wellcraft and Tiara before joining Maritimo, and he says the concept that is paying off for him recently is the full-beam master stateroom in Maritimo's models. “It’s the single biggest reason that we’ve had such a large surge in sales. For us, the master stateroom had been our weak point, and [we] turned it into our selling point,” explained Northrop. “All of our customers requested a larger and more accommodating master stateroom.” Even though many builders have incorporated a full-beam master in recent years, the accommodation didn’t come easy for the Australian builder. Northrop says many companies added the required space by sliding fuel tanks and engines aft, sacrificing the balance of the boat. That was a trade-off Maritimo was not willing to make. "Australians are fanatical about seakeeping ability because they need it. Boats tend to reflect the boating environment where they're built, and in Australia, 18- to 20-foot seas are commonplace," said Nor­throp. The company achieved a full-beam master and boat balance, he explained, by "moving fuel outboard but keeping it on the center of buoyancy and extending the bottom of the boat aft."
Another trend Maritimo helped establish, Northrop said, was incorporating bifold doors between the cockpit and salon, allowing the two spaces to become one. "I haven't sold a sliding door in years," he says. "People are demanding fully opening doors because owners are entertaining guests in the salon." This is also why many Maritimo models feature an aft galley. When asked to predict the next big trend, Northrop paused before saying, “Weight in boats is going to become very important in the future. So is reducing sound levels. And I’m not sure we’ve seen the end of hydrofoils applied to a recreational vessel.”
Princess Yachts
Princess Yachts sees the industry going in several positive directions, including an increase in the size of the express-cruiser market. James Nobel, vice president and marketing director for Princess, said that while the 40- to 50-foot market was traditionally where express-­vessel owners would transition into a larger motoryacht, now they're staying with the express design into the 80-plus-foot range, which is driving the builder to create larger models. He added the design lends itself to being social and has great appeal to owner-­operators. Having a single helm and single deck also allows the helmsman to be more helpful and interactive with the crew. In addition, aft galleys are crowd pleasing and help combine the interior and exterior spaces. “Our customers are fans of having people around them,” Nobel explained, adding that onboard entertainment and usability are strong reasons for the style’s popularity surge. Natural light and a sense of openness is also big. Building with resin infusion means less material is required and stringers can be built lower, allowing for larger, longer windows and a flood of light into the yacht. "More and more we can bring the outside in," he said. The reduced structure has also increased interior real estate. Nobel added the interior volume on a new Princess 64 will rival that of an older 68-footer. Boat-handling tech is on the rise too. The use of the remote Yacht Controller has been increasing in popularity with Princess owners, Nobel said. It allows “the husband to leave the helm and help with lines,” he says, adding, “I see a lot of customers wanting to be more hands-on.”
Cheoy Lee
If builders want to stay competitive in this market, they need to increase the efficiency of the build process," said Gene Weeks, express project manager at Cheoy Lee Shipyards. "And the only way to make a boat factory efficient is if we start automating as much as we can." Weeks is quick to admit that being part of a company with a commercial yacht division helps the cause. "We enjoy 104 years of heritage and a very stable economic foundation," he said, "so we can afford the machinery necessary to automate the processes." Weeks added Cheoy Lee’s automated build process cut the amount of time needed to build a boat by 40 to 45 percent. With average labor costs running most builders $75 an hour, that adds up to an affordable yacht for the owner and more profit for the builder. Another trend Weeks has witnessed is an increased emphasis on comfortable crew quarters. "Old-school yacht owners used to stick their crew in an out-of-sight galley and then send them to their below-deck quarters," he quipped. "Recently in the United States, people like to be together and the crew starts to become like family. They don't mind if the cook is out there with them cooking," which is why the crew quarters of the Alpha 87 feature the same fabrics and wood as the rest of the boat. “It’s a lot like the motto: happy wife, happy life,” added Weeks with a laugh. “If you have good crew accommodations, then you’ll have a happy crew that is fun to be around. If you use them up and stuff them down a hole, when they get up they won’t be well rested, and they’re cranky.”
Pershing created a chic trend with its drop-down doors, which lower the salon's sliding-glass doors belowdecks and open the entire main deck from the forward helm to the cockpit, creating a massive entertainment space. If you've never seen them, it's worth checking them out at a boat show this season. Pershings have always been surface-drive vessels, and piloting them comes with a learning curve because to maximize their potential you're regularly adjusting trim, speed and props. All the multitasking and finessing took time to master, until now. The builder developed an autotrim system that engages with the push of a button, letting the helmsman adjust the throttles and drive the boat as he would with a standard inboard setup. The system senses the prop and tab requirements, tweaking them on the fly. Perhsing's new 70 features the newest generation of this setup, called Autoset, with extra sensors that account for sea conditions and boat position. Like Princess, Pershing sees more and more owners looking to get into larger vessels in its market segment. In some instances, owners are purchasing a few larger boats and placing them in their favorite cruising haunts as opposed to building a megayacht and cruising from one place to another. Ferretti Group’s Justin Blue said that even guys with the biggest superyachts are buying everything from 64- to 92-footers as their personal­-use boats.
With Riva, the new 88 Florida could be a must-have for the express-yacht enthusiast. The builder created a foredeck section that can be lifted via hydraulics out of the cabin top, converting the open boat into an express-hardtop version. Once the top is set into position, the hydraulic arms retract back into the yacht. The boat can run in all conditions and at all speeds with the top in place.
Azimut Yachts
Azimut says the biggest trend is to be both a global and a local brand. To that end, when it's developing new models, the builder has to offer personalization for each market it enters. In the United States, for example, Azimut is offering "Americanization" of different models. Azimut spokesman Giovanni Bogetto said, "These models are built on the same platform as the standard ones but diversified to meet specific needs typical of the local culture." In the USA (below), these versions have bigger flybridges, increased "infotainment" setups, open galleys, big laundry spaces and high-capacity air conditioning. In Asia, some models have been strongly personalized, and Azimut's "Dragon" version (above) includes bigger play areas, larger entertainment spaces, hidden galleys and fewer cabins. In the end, the builder said client input is driving the changes in design and innovation. Azimut actually uses a software system that enables all of its dealers worldwide to instantly submit suggestions or ways to improve the product based on consumer feedback. Once analyzed by the builder's strategic marketing team, these improvements often show up in new models.
Advanced ergonomics is trending at Kadey-Krogen Yachts, and it has been the focus of the builder's two most recent model introductions, the Krogen 48 AE and the Krogen 44 AE, both of which resulted from collaborative efforts among owners, prospective owners and Kadey-Krogen's in-house design team led by naval architect Dave Glasco. “In the case of the 44 AE, there are more than 50 ergonomic and technical changes that differentiate this model from her predecessor, the Krogen 44,” said Larry Polster, vice president of Kadey-Krogen Yachts. “Some changes are significant and obvious, and others are more subtle or behind-the-scenes. The resulting new look and greater utility reflected in the Krogen 44 AE will be appreciated by those who understand and embrace the cruising lifestyle.” Polster also indicated that Krogen is talking to more retiring baby boomers interested in distance cruising, as opposed to sailors. The most-often-asked question from the boomers is: “Why can’t features and equipment aboard be more like those in a land-based home?” Highlights of the 44 AE include a repositioned, starboard-side, four-burner Viking range and an 18-cubic-foot refrigerator that opens to port for the chef's convenience. On the flybridge are a companion seat next to the helm chair, so two can enjoy the views of the journey, and corner bench seating with a table for entertaining family and friends. Other improvements include walk-through cockpit boarding door access and engine room access beneath lifting companionway stairs that feature household-like risers and treads. LED lighting and a new engine-room ventilation system utilizing intake and exhaust axial fans headline a substantial list of technical upgrades. Kadey-Krogen provides flexible options for the guest stateroom: a den/office, a queen-berth suite or twin berths. Look for a new version of the Krogen 55 on the docks at the Fort Lauderdale show. Improved ergonomics drove changes in access that will make life underway easier for 55 owners, including better walk-in ability to the engine room and a redesign of the stairs leading up to the expedition-style pilothouse.
Marlow Yachts
Performance and comfortable living spaces are as in-demand as ever at Marlow Yachts. “Performance has been a constant quest,” said company founder David Marlow, “beginning with the selection of higher-­technology building processes, along with concentrated efforts to reduce weight, friction and other drag-producing elements.” He also points to the development of proprietary underwater foils and exceptionally low shaft angle, with deep reduction gearing and proprietary propeller technology designed to take full advantage of Marlow’s trademark Velocijet Strut Keels, which create category-leading performance among offshore vessels. “It was never our intention to cross oceans at speeds equal to or lower than a common 40-foot sailboat in modest wind conditions,” Marlow said. “Our design and development path was to cross oceans at speeds of 25 to 35 percent higher than common displacement craft while being able to sprint from, as an example, Jacksonville to Bermuda at 18 knots or more without concern for fuel capacity. In one instance, Vanish, a 2010 76-foot Marlow, traveled from West Palm Beach to Reykjavik, Iceland, at average speeds of 9-plus knots yet was able to sprint to Labrador at 18 to 20 knots while en route to escape heavy weather.” Comfortable living spaces are particularly important to Marlow, especially in the pilothouse. Of the several hundred boats the company has built to date, only one was specified with a galley-down. "It seems a terrible waste of space and utility to isolate the pilothouse, since night watches occupy such a small part of the boating experience versus the enjoyable social atmosphere of a group gathered around comfortable sofas, dining lounges and multiple helm-­companion seats, with all enjoying the passage," he said. "From our considerable experiences, at up to 11 days' offshore passage between points of landfall, a small pilothouse would have kept the skipper isolated to a much greater degree compared to a design that welcomes and comforts six or more at any point, day or night." Marlow is displaying its 58 Open Bridge Explorer, Open and Semi-­Enclosed Bridge 62 Explorers, a 66 Command Bridge Explorer and possibly an 80 Command Bridge Explorer at the Fort Lauderdale show. It’s also bringing 29, 32 and 37 Marlow Mainship pilots.
Because Westport builds series production, our designs are driven less by short-term trends than by incremental long-term improvements, many of which are the result of customer feedback," said Mark Masciarotte, director of sales. "The most frequent conversations with clients revolve around space planning and decor. Because Westport yachts are fully found, and because we offer comprehensive customer service, we strive to ensure that all of the equipment be the best and most reliable available." At the moment, the company is finalizing a design for a boat that fills a niche between its 112-foot and 130-foot yachts. This new model is a raised-bridge style and will have a full-beam master suite on the main deck, as well as the country-kitchen galley arrangement that Westport owners favor. “Another project in the works is a slight redesign of our 130-foot, 40-meter, trideck motoryacht,” he added. “This boat will include all of the features that have made this model extremely popular but will have a modified arrangement in the owner’s suite that will offer individual his-and-her heads, a return to the original 130 arrangement that offers a more generous space plan in the suite and higher overheads in the heads.” Personalization is always popular, and one of Westport’s most recent 112 builds sports a contemporary interior with joinery finished to a level more representative of that found on its customized 164 flagship model. Westport plans to show that 112, a new 40-meter and a new 50-meter, in addition to some brokerage yachts, at Fort Lauderdale.
Sea Ray
Responding to a trending demand for sleek, modern designs with increased luxury, Sea Ray created its L-Class series yachts, including a 58-footer and a 65-footer, both of which will eventually be offered in coupe and flybridge models. They are distinguished by open plans with an abundance of natural light and ventilation, an upgraded selection of materials everywhere you look (light and dark color schemes in woodwork, flawless upholstery and stitching, smoothly functioning cabinetry) and comfortable sound levels underway that speak volumes about engineering efforts to mitigate acoustic and vibration levels. “The L-Class represents a new paradigm for us and for yachting in general,” said Sea Ray Group President Tim Schiek. “True style must be backed up by true performance, and with the L650 Fly we’ve shown that America’s leading boat company can combine world-class aesthetics and grace with power, functionality, reliability and ingenuity.” Fusing leading-edge technology with style and luxury is a global trend these days, so Sea Ray is offering twin ­roll-dampening Seakeeper gyro stabilizers, which work as well at anchor as they do underway, standard on the L650 Fly. Twin 1,150 hp Caterpillar C18A diesels with joystick-controlled docking thrusters help ensure precision docking in this four-stateroom, CE Category A ocean-capable design. Other notable standard equipment includes lower and upper control stations, twin Stidd seats at the lower helm and a suite of Raymarine electronics at both stations. A 27.5 kW Onan diesel genset provides the power for a 90,000 Btu, zone-controlled air-conditioning system.