In the discreet, ultra-chic world of bespoke yacht design there is scope only for excellence, as Espen Øino knows well.
The Monaco-based Norwegian has designed some of the most exciting yacht builds in the world in the past 20 years. For clients that include wealthy Russian oil magnates, high-tech US entrepreneurs, South American “old money” buyers, Japanese industrialists and Middle Eastern families, he has translated the desires of some of the world’s richest people into reality.
In his world, while one does not generally speak openly about costs – and in particular ask about yacht prices – most if not all of Mr Øino’s clients are very budget-orientated. He will say only that his ships – boats seems too small a word – can cost hundreds of millions of euros.
Most of his business is for wealthy individuals, often with corporate use in mind. But the design process is much the same, whether it is for a corporate or an individual client.
However, says Mr Øino, the boat must correspond to the buyer’s needs. His starting point for a bespoke yacht is dialogue with the client. “I try to emphasise a good, clear brief,” he says. “Knowing how much time is to be spent on the boat, how they will use it and how they expect it to work for them must be clear in their heads.
“Is it for the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, Greenland, Alaska? Is it for coastal cruising? Will there be great numbers of guests… Every boat is so different.
“How many day guests a client wants to bring on board will affect catering facilities”, for example. Other considerations might be “how internal to external spaces flow and what space needs to be found for extra equipment, such as life-saving gear”.
Mr Øino takes great pleasure from the creative process. In addition to careful sketches, his team produces two- and three-dimensional digital designs. On most of the builds he pays particular attention to the floor plan and making external spaces attractive. “After all,” he says, “most of the time spent on a yacht is in chasing good weather.”
Of course, hulls, keels, ballast and rudders are important, but designing from the inside out is what really counts, he thinks. Mr Øino designs floor plans first, as they largely dictate how a boat is to be used. The interiors are left to others.
Energy efficiency has become a big trend in recent designs. Using 400 litres of fuel an hour may not seem very economical, but for yachts of more than 70 metres it would be considered parsimonious.
“We have done some interesting yachts in Australia, for example,” he says, “ including Silver and Silver Zwei.” They are of a small volume for the length and their low height means they have a reduced beam. This sleek duo are both constructed from aluminium. Silver’s semi-displacement hull is said to create an efficient and stable platform for its 73 metres.
Installed with twin MTU diesel main engines, Silver can reach a top speed of 27 knots. It has twin-screw propellers and a range of 4,500 nautical miles at its 18-knot cruise speed. Mr Øino says its design met the specific performance and environmentally conscious goals of its owner.
Silver Zwei held all sorts of records from the day it was launched, being the world’s fastest conventionally powered motor yacht and the longest made of aluminium (73 metres).
Mr Øino’s latest design, which has just been delivered, is a 134-metre yacht with amenities that include a 12-metre internal pool, spa, hammam (thermal bath), snow room, sauna, helicopter hangar, and mini-submersible.
But what really makes a bespoke yacht unique, he says, is its level of quality. “The houses and hotels where clients stay rarely match the build quality of a bespoke yacht.”
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