Throughout the debate, there was a reoccurring emphasis on the importance of good communication and understanding between the parties involved in the design and build process. Dialogue between designer and owner is essential for developing the right concept, for the lawyer communicating the design intent to the builders in the contract and for the yacht consultant keeping communication flowing with the owner builder and designer.
Frank Neubelt highlighted the fact that “as a designer, you should be very open to the owner and work with him”, and the others echoed this. “Communication is key,” explained Richard Orme, “clients need to see what they are getting into before they get into it. With any client, if you can avoid nasty surprises then they are going to enjoy the process.” John Leonida agreed, describing himself as “the necessary bridge that encapsulates the spirit of the design and converts it into words which allows our friends in the project management team and also the builders to convert the design intent into the yacht.” He went on to emphasise that the way he communicated the design intent was vital: “There’s no point in the designer designing the sexiest yacht on the planet if at the end of the day the builder doesn’t build what he had in his mind, or indeed what the owner had in his mind. My job is to make sure that the owner and designer understand each other, that the designer understands what he has to deliver from a practical perspective in order to make the yard enthused and in order to make the yard understand what we want at the end of a 36 month period.” When asked how a design is translated into a legal document, Leonida explained that the lawyer should include as many details of the design as possible, to the point that there is no room for speculation or questioning. He emphasised the importance of 3D renders and how these should be used more to help clarify the design to both the owner and shipyard.
According to Orme, a big part of his job involves working alongside the lawyer and designer to make sure they manage the owner’s expectations throughout the process: “I think that to deliver a successful yacht or successful project, it very much comes down to working out what the client’s expectations are and managing them.” Leonida went a step further, saying that a good broker will always advise the owner to pursue the right yacht for them, even if this means a smaller yacht: “Sometimes an owner sees others who have a big boat, and he thinks that he needs a big boat too without thinking about whether the 70-metre is the right thing for him.” He went on to say that the same applies to technology: “You see so often that they get hauled into a process without anyone actually sitting down with them and saying ‘Do you actually need he very complex AV system because everyone else has it, or do you only really want to put DVDs on and watch Sky?”‘ Frank Neubelt explained that Newcruise tries to get as much information as possible about the way their clients live their life and use spaces on board before getting too deeply into the design process, even suggesting that taking a charter with the client is often the best way for him to observe the owner on board a yacht and work out what he does or does not want.
As the debate drew to a conclusion, contributions from the likes of Rory Boyle of Burgess and Ken Hickling from Awlgrip and Justin Ratcliffe, Editor of SuperyachtDesign, lead to specific issues being addressed by the panel. One question from Hickling, for example, queried how the debate related. to production craft and refit projects. Leonida responded with his view . that more and more clients who are buying semi-custom and production boats are demanding a more personalised product than they would have a couple years ago: “It doesn’t take a lot to bring in a designer just to finesse what is already there to give them the yachting experience that they deserve for the amount of money that they are going to spend.”
Boyle followed this by pointing out that unrealistic concepts are sometimes presented to the shipyard and how this always involves time consuming and expensive modifications. In response, Leonida tackled the issue of variations to contract (VTCs) and stated that these must be signed off by all concerned before the build commences.
This article originally appeared in SuperyachtDesign.