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Full Speed Ahead

The Monaco Yacht Show is perhaps the biggest event in the calendar for those looking to buy something exceptional

E ach year, around 33,000 players in the yachting industry make a beeline for the principality of Monaco, where the per capita income of residents is said to be the highest in the world, to network, to trade and to admire the latest sleek designs and accoutrements of luxury yachts.

This is no ordinary trade show, however. It is serious business – some 500 companies exhibit here, with more than 100 superyachts and megayachts afloat to be admired, bought and sold.The main interest tends to come from the brokers – with clients to represent – who are here to assess the latest in design, styling and build.

Perhaps its no surprise to learn that the word ‘shipbuilding’, with its connotations of heavy industry and lumbering oil tankers, is rarely, if ever, uttered amid the cobbled streets of the principality.The buzzwords instead are naval architecture and marine engineering. Southampton-based yacht manufacturers BMT Nigel Gee Ltd is reckoned to be in the top six yacht builders worldwide and will be exhibiting at the show.

The firm’s yacht design director, James Roy, says: ‘The first thing to explain is that the superyacht world is somewhat fragmented. The stylists and designers who chose the look and the fit-out of the yacht are closest to the clients in deciding how the yacht will look.That said, they are not engineers so they come to us – we effectively support the stylists, who come direct to the shipyard once the design has been signed off.’

Exclusively so? No, concedes Roy, but eight times out of 10, we will not be client-facing and take our instructions from the design agency. ‘At the end of the day,’ says Roy, ‘it’s the design that can be the tricky bit, where the client will have a lot of input. Many superyachts are similar in terms of basic build, dimension and specs.These are fairly standard for most vessels.’

‘It’s the design that can be the tricky bit, where the client will have a lot of input. Many superyachts are similar in terms of basic build and specs.’

So who attends the MonacoYacht Show? It’s industry players, says Roy, and very rarely the clients.The idea is to market to the brokers.

‘We’ll have a fairly modest stand because we are not there to exhibit,’ he adds, ‘but to network.We’ll have 20 people going off to mingle with the designers and stylists – who ultimately give us the work – when they are between pitches to brokers. And the key thing to remember is that at least as much networking is done out of hours, either over breakfast or coffee in the morning or at one of the dozens of parties taking place in the evening over this four-day event.’

So what trends can we expect? As Roy points out, given that a build can take several years, trends are slow to come to the fore.

He does make the point, however, that it feels as though the very top end of the market is experiencing a resurgence after a few years of consolidation.

As a result ‘high concept’ designs will be rarer, predicts Roy. 'These concept designs are something that design companies do to keep busy when they are not doing paid work for clients. Now the market is coming back, I suspect we will see less of this.’

Roy is, however, expecting to see some innovations in the field of hybrid propulsion. ‘There are two reasons for that,’ he says. ‘One is that it is a “green technology” and that’s a popular theme. But the main reason is one of flexible energy management – these yachts often spend a lot of time moored, so a flexible system for both cruising and mooring is desirable.’

And can we expect any surprises to be unveiled by BMT Nigel Gee? Two, actually.The first is the L3 – a collaboration between BMT Nigel Gee and well-known yacht designer Rob McPherson. It’s an 85m semiswath catamaran.

‘It is an unusual design,’ says Roy, ‘and will go to a bold client who isn’t afraid to make a statement, to be different and to stand out. But we are confident that it is a great yacht.’

And the second one?

‘Ah,’ says Roy. ‘That is something we call Project Star – but no one is going to know anything about that until we unveil it in Monaco…’

Words: Staff

This article was originally published in Halcyon magazine in 2014

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