Except for those fortunate enough to climb aboard their own yacht, it feels like the rest of us have spent the past two years looking at pictures and videos of them and longing to relax in a cabin while moored in a tropical lagoon.
Plymouth in England in winter is hardly tropical and honestly, there was no relaxing in the cabin, but for the first time in a long time we finally got to slip off our shoes and step onto the deck of a new model. We had joined Princess Yachts for the launch of their new V50 and X80 vessels.
Yacht orders have risen significantly during the pandemic as people have sought out their own private space and freedom, and the British yacht builder has a full order book well into 2024. Many of those orders are coming from new customers, something that we are hearing across the industry.
Many are buying for the first time, to get an idea of what it’s like to experience luxury on the water and this is where the new Princess V50 sails in. With its elegant but athletic exterior inspired by the Pininfarina design of the V55 and new X80, the V50 is totally new and starts at about £600,000. It’s very much a sports boat, with a cruising speed of up to 30 knots, but it still has two luxurious cabins for four guests and the option of a third in place of one of the seating areas in the below-deck seating area.
Everything is hand crafted and the company is looking at a range of sustainable materials, though customers are generally still choosing traditional leathers and woods. Teak is one of the most traditional yacht materials, but sanctions are making it difficult to get from countries such as Myanmar. So the industry is working on a range of replacements, many of which have the advantage of being more resistant to water and therefore need less maintenance.
On the subject of sustainability, the company continues to look at alternative forms of propulsion but we were told that even a regular hybrid system from truck and marine company MAN can cost as much as £1.6m and no-one is going to add that to the cost of their V50.
They might add it to their X80 though, and one client has specified a battery pack so they can sail about the fiords of Norway in silence and with zero emissions. The X80 is also brand new and marks a radical design departure not just for Princess but for yacht design in general. The new approach allows for a full walkabout deck, perfect for when you are moored in that bay enjoying some relaxing downtime with friends and family.
Priced from £6m, the design will not suit everyone but it is definitely spacious and luxurious. Standard is a four-berth but there's an option to add a fifth, and there is an almost infinite range of finishes available, not to mention technology. We took a look about boat number one, which has a traditional interior with walnut and granite — and seemed to have a television everywhere we went. We think we counted six, but some were hidden so it might have been more.
Other X80s in build have more contemporary finishes inside, with a more modern look and feel. This is a trend we are seeing more in the yachting industry as owners go for a style similar to upmarket boutique hotel rooms or, for that matter, their own homes.
To get more insight into the trends of yacht design, we sat down with Pete Cullum, who is the principal creative designer at Princess, and before that worked in design at luxury carmakers Aston Martin and Bentley.
He says that the move from automotive to yacht design is a logical one, especially as yachts provide plenty of inspiration for design elements in cars such as Bentley, Jaguar, Rolls-Royce and many others. Interestingly, he says that in cars they can be a feature, but in a yacht a piece of automotive-inspired design is harder to spot, though we saw numerous uses of Volkswagen parts throughout the new yachts being launched.
The biggest trend is not the blend of automotive and nautical though, but rather making yacht interiors feel like home.
“We’re moving away from a time when a yacht interior was a yacht interior, now we are moving into a more residential type of design,” Cullum told us. “It’s a living space, an extension of the client.”
Craftsmanship still remains at the heart of the business, but design is taking more of a lead, and Cullum sees the pandemic as having been a major catalyst in speeding up the process. He says the same is true when it comes to sustainability, which is being driven very much by the industry itself. He and the rest of the design team are looking at more environmentally friendly materials, even to the extent of shifting from PVC-based wallpapers to ones that use linen, though he stresses that whatever they do, the materials have to be as good or better.
There’s a steady sea of change in the luxury yacht industry, one where people are looking for their vessel to be more reflective of them and offering a degree of familiarity to the homes they live in. It’s all part of what Cullum says is seeking out an antidote to being connected and bombarded by the world and whether it’s a staycation, an overseas holiday or time out on your yacht, we could all do with a bit of escapism right now.