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New kids on the dock

Innovation in design, materials and the complete concept of how a vessel should work are being driven by a wave of younger owners, visionary designers, and a wide world of information and inspiration at our fingertips.

Written by Jeni Bone

22 March 2024


The younger owner, and the owner young at heart, is demanding more input on layouts and interiors – there’s a rethinking and reworking of space, whether that’s adaptable areas for fitness and fun, expanded social spaces, or investment in high-tech equipment so they can keep in touch or make the most of their down-time while cruising with the latest gadgets and games.

According to esteemed superyacht designer Sam Sorgiovanni, while the age mix of his clients hasn’t changed significantly, their tastes have evolved. “Truth be told, owners appear younger as we, the more experienced in the industry, become older,” he reflects.

“Typically, owners of large superyachts 60 metres and above have been those fortunate to have had a successful business life – they’re now at an age where they have more time to enjoy life and the lifestyle that yachting brings.

“What is true is that the style and functionality of yachts have changed as we’ve seen the client base expand,” he continues. “Eastern European clients over the past few decades invigorated the creativity of yacht design, providing designers with the budget and freedom to create larger and more elaborate yachts.


“Similar can be said with regards to the Middle East client base, where wealth has allowed designers to create spectacular yachts that have a very set and specific usage style.”

In the US, a new wave of clients is commissioning yachts that are practical and functional with many more environmental and technological advancements. “Large cinemas have grown in popularity as TV technology has improved,” Sorgiovanni offers.

“But there are also those clients who feel guests are more inclined to bring their own devices,” he adds. “So, those cinemas and even TV lounges are becoming redundant.”

Another major trend, Sorgiovanni observes, is the rise of the explorer yacht. “The trend has taken US and Australian clients by storm,” he says. “More than half my clients want a vessel capable of exploring vast areas of the world. That doesn’t mean they’re all explorer- styled; it’s more their functionality.”

Sarah Egan, Director at Boat Style Yacht Interiors, has worked with several younger owners for whom their boat is a multi-purpose sanctuary, escape craft and entertainment platform all in one. “Younger clients are very well informed and have a clear vision; they love to browse the net and make storyboards, for example, using Pinterest to collate their ideas,” she notes.

“This is hugely helpful for designers. My aim is to produce boats that produce experiences, so I find it refreshing to work with owners who are proactive and know what they want.”

In many cases, it’s what they don’t want that influences the build and the fit-out. “I worked with Tom Hill on his new Palm Beach 55 Tambo, for which the brief was to leave all the grown-up stuff off, such as forward rails, suncovers, anything fussy and frivolous,” Egan recounts. “The result is a really sleek, pared-back boat; the essence of Palm Beach. It looks amazing.”

Hill, Director at Rivergate Marina & Shipyard, has been a life-long fan of the brand and relished the opportunity to design his dream boat, which will be used for spearfishing and diving adventure holidays as well as entertaining friends and family.

“The brief was literally less is more,” he says. “We were aiming for a great-looking boat that captures a feeling and is also functional. At 55 feet it’s not massive, so it was important to use every bit of space on board.”

As well as storage for spearfishing gear, dive gear and surfboards in the tender garage, the aft deck had to be designed for barbecuing. There’s a convenient, fully opening window between the cockpit and galley that creates a handy servery bench – ideal for seamless entertaining.

Inside, Egan took a minimalist approach, using high-quality materials that are durable and low maintenance with a palette of white marine-grade suede and teak, and carpet limited to below-deck accommodation. “It’s very Zen and very personalised,” she says.

Hill notes, “I love the traditional look and feel of teak, and it’s practical when you’re back on board, dripping wet and sandy. I don’t mind maintaining teak,” he adds, “but I didn’t want the typical white, navy and gloss timber combination.”

When selecting decor items, younger owners are motivated by sentiment, states Egan. “They don’t want art for art’s sake; it must have meaning,” she explains. “You don’t have a lot of walls to work with, so you have to make the most of what you have to create that unique feeling.”

Hill had admired the Pangea map on Rena G, the burnt-orange-hulled PB 65 launched in 2019. “He commissioned one in a similar style that shows his favourite diving grounds, Ribbon Reefs, so we did the 3D relief and made it three tones of blue to work in with the interior theme,” says Egan.

Even the name of Hill’s boat is sentimental. “Tambo was my teddy bear,” he says. “I had a book called The Adventures of Tom and Tambo, which is on board, as a matter of fact!”

Egan has recently completed the interiors aboard the 44-metre Benetti More, and while the owners are not demographically young, they’ve definitely embraced the ethos of laid-back living. “The main deck is zoned for a more casual flow; not fussy,” says Egan.

“We skipped the 12-seater dining table and created a more casual kind of drop-in, drop-out stone bar-counter concept with stools for up to eight with wireless chargers.

“It’s funky and functional, giving guests greater access to the galley, which is much more informal with more flow and connection with the saloon.”

The ancient practice of feng shui is enjoying a surge in popularity, and Egan says she defers to a master when it comes to geomancy on board. “There’s a place for it, and it does work to create balance and order in custom interiors,” she says.

At Australian manufacturer Riviera, the talented team of 20 designers is a mix of ages and backgrounds, contributing their vast experience and design acumen to create the ever-evolving range. According to Dan Henderson, Riviera’s Design & Engineering Director, innovation and youth products are key to appealing to all demographics.

“There’s an enormous amount of amenity included in Riviera yachts and immense consideration given to storage of water sports equipment,” he says. “Lounges with additional cool storage is just one example of Riviera’s focus on innovation meeting practicality.

“Riviera models featuring a crew cabin also allow owners to configure this multi-functional utility room into a mini-gym, yoga area or meditation space.”

Other areas of design innovation in recent years include creating more inclusive entertainment areas with large, flowing indoor-outdoor spaces, meaning family members can interact with one other from anywhere in the saloon to the alfresco deck or cockpit.

“From an entertainment and internet perspective, we receive constant input and feedback from our owners regarding their needs and applications,” Henderson says.

“With the evolution of streaming, audio zoning and surround sound, we aim to create superior entertainment environments. But we’re not just interested in the latest technology; it must be proven and it must be reliable, particularly in the marine environment. The internet option is now taken up by most of our owners, who use 4G and 5G where available, and we incorporate Fusion Entertainment products that are owned by Garmin and integrate seamlessly.”

At Horizon Yacht Australia, Business Manager Erica Rae has worked with many younger buyers, and those not so young, who are pushing boundaries in terms of layout and interior design. “There’s a wave of young buyers coming through who are willing to take some design risks, which have turned into some of our best designs,” Rae states.

“Our clients welcome our design input and appreciate being able to source materials worldwide, which makes the design options endless with Horizon Yacht. Every Horizon is customised so no boat will ever be the same.”

Rae recently worked with a couple on their Horizon FD75. “They chose some daring design choices including a dark grey roof in the saloon and galley, which became a striking feature,” she recalls. “There are plenty of traditional buyers coming through who are willing to work modern features into the design.

“The RP125 Superyacht owner, for example, wanted traditional red timber, so we chose a South American walnut with gloss accents but added a touch of modern design with 3D wall vinyls, some contemporary light pieces, textured wallpaper and strong patterned marble to add flair.”

Technology is an essential part of the cruising experience, according to Rae. “Our owners are specifying easy-to-use AV systems with iPad/smartphone control and Starlink internet so they can work on longer trips away,” she says.

Most clients also have specifications for children, grandchildren and their precious fur babies, and thus, safety and inclusion are priorities. “We’ve designed aft deck gates with glass inserts to keep pets safe, as well as pneumatic doors with sensors so there’s no chance of doors closing on them,” Rae explains. “We’ve avoided open stairs, used slip-proof flooring and hardy, all-weather fabrics on interior lounges, which makes them more pet-friendly.”

Most superyachts also consider children. “Nanny cabins with baths and additional beds for children are common and provide great versatility,” says Sorgiovanni.

“On Barbara, the 88.5-metre Oceanco, we designed a shaded and gated area of deck to allow for play equipment for toddlers where the nanny or crew could assist in entertaining and looking after them. And Nirvana (another 88.5-metre Oceanco) had a swimming pool with an adjustable floor to change the depth to suit young children or adults as needed.”

For the owners’ dogs aboard the 84-metre Echo Yachts White Rabbit, Sorgiovanni incorporated a patch of real grass. “It was set into a recessed part of the deck with its own drainage and watering system to keep it green and healthy,” he says.

Yacht designer Misha Merzliakov says owners across age brackets are demonstrating post-pandemic indulgence. “They’ve decided life’s short, just do it!” he says. “Traditional yacht owners are involving their extended family and may have younger friends, so they’re embracing innovation in all its forms. Younger owners tend to be early adopters and very tech-savvy, so they bring their ideas to the table.”

The younger owner’s appetite for vessels laden with technology and with dockside appeal impacts on a boat’s profile and choice and placement of mast and radar. “Younger owners will specify the same gadgets they have in their homes, which makes every piece of equipment larger and therefore the mast grander,” Merzliakov says. “Blending that into the exterior comes down to clever design.”

“There’s also a lot of multi-generational engagement,” Merzliakov continues. “I’m working with a client in his 30s on a significant superyacht project and he’s very focused on how his family, parents and grandparents will experience the vessel. The exterior space has been extended for entertaining.”

When it comes to art, Merzliakov says owners want hand-picked art and mementos from their travels, or a framed piece of a child’s artwork. He also notes that in the superyacht arena, younger owners are often more considerate of crew and specify more crew space and leisure areas.

Mitch Torrens, Director at Torrens Luxury Collection, sources superyachts for clients and works with them on refitting them to their personal taste. “Over the past few years, we’ve noticed younger owners, in their early to mid- 40s with young families, purchasing yachts in the 70- to 80-foot range and spending much more on refit and accessories, such as high- end bedding, European tableware and decor, and Zip tapware like in their homes.”

This new generation of owners is flamboyant and pragmatic. As well as prioritising aesthetics, they favour durable, sustainable stemware such as the synthetic crystal range from Mario Luca Giusti. “From tumblers to salad bowls and even dog dishes, they can’t get enough of it,” says Torrens, who at 32 owns a 72-foot Sunseeker.

Interiors have broken away from traditional nautical style and are lighter, brighter and more like home. “People want the same decor and the same versatility as their homes,” says Torrens. “One client commissioned a dining table that is stowable to create a lounge space or a dance floor.

“Sourcing fabrics from companies like Silverguard, which specialises in marine-grade vinyl, offers clients hundreds of colours and finishes for interiors and outdoor use, with the opportunity to specify your own custom colours, like we did on our Sunseeker with all external upholstery,” he adds.

Young blood is coursing through the industry and challenging conventions. “They’re coming to yachting, many after travel restrictions motivated them to buy a boat for the first time,” concludes Torrens. “They want to enjoy life to the full and know exactly how they want their boat to look and feel – it’s a reflection of their personality.

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