A Study in Design Lurssen's PHOENIX

The latest project to leave the Bremen yard had very specific design criteria, the result of the client owning and chartering a wide range of yachts to find out exactly what he wanted. Looking at this project, he has achieved his goal.

Motor yachts for decades have missed the point when it comes to exterior style. Time and time again, projects have looked very similar and plagiarised other yacht designs, but perhaps not quite adding the individual detail needed to make a yacht look special. Lürssen have been fortunate in the past few years with a handful of unique projects that have represented the personal marque of an intelligent client and designer: Izanami and Foster, Skat and Oeino, Carinthia VII and Heywood to name a few. However, these yachts are special and it is fair to say that many clients like to focus on resale value and follow the floating herd when it comes to design and exterior style. Pages and pages of brokerage advertisements demonstrate that modern motor yachts can all look the same, apart from window configurations and hull colour.

It is not necessarily a criticism of the industry and it is understandable that yachts, in the same way as cars and planes, all have common external features and requirements. While the lines of a sailing yacht can be more forgiving and aesthetically pleasing to the eye, it is a refreshing change when you come across a large motoryacht that includes all the commonalities but achieves a style and line that are both unique and well proportioned. We are often faced with sleek renderings that promise beauty afloat, but in reality, the external pro-portions have been sacrificed to expanding interior volume. One of Lürssen’s latest projects is from the drawing board of Andrew Winch Designs (AWD). Not only is this the first AWD project to be delivered by the Bremen builder, but it is also one of the most attractive conventional motoryachts to enter the fleet. On first sight of the drawings you expect the end result to mimic many of the lines and radii, but to be an exploded 1:1 working model is a rarity. The discipline of design needs understanding to explain this phenomenon. There are probably hundreds of people operating as designers in our industry, many of whom can draw an excellent external view of a proposed project, but many of the ‘pretenders’ have little understanding of how the project will actually come together. A good designer, no an excellent designer, can not only draw the perspectives of a project on paper, but can perhaps visualise in three dimensions too. Yes, many designers use 3-D modelling to present the exterior view, but it requires a higher level of knowledge and experience to create a stunning profile that can accommodate in the correct proportions the planned interior configuration without creating the yard or project team construction and engineering headaches.

 

We were invited to fly to Bremen with the Principal of AWD, Andrew Winch, and later to the studio in London, in order to understand the workings of his latest design project, the M.Y. Phoenix. On the short flight from London’s City Airport, the only current scheduled direct flight from the UK, we discussed the industry and shared thoughts on the market and its direction. Within that initial conversation it soon became apparent that his company was enjoying the fruits of his long-term investment in product and people. Following this project’s delivery are a whole host of significant projects, including a few gargantuan gigayachts of some 100 m plus, all of which will bear the AWD marque. On that subject, it is interesting to note, and we both agreed on this, that in many cases a yacht is delivered and the principal brand identity is that of the yard; the designer is secondary. A case in point is that many of the design awards presented in the industry are handed to the principals of the manufacturer and not to the artist who penned the project. Just a mutual observation! Perhaps our industry needs both a set of design awards and a raft of awards recognising the standards in manufacturing quality; in the latter case one would expect the same finalists each year, but there again strange things happen in yachting awards. This 200-foot Lürssen is the first AWD project to leave the yard and everyone involved agreed that this is one of the yard’s finest achievements to date. It is wholly accepted across the market that technically the yard provides an unrivalled resource and knowledge pool, the value of which has been witnessed across their fleet, including the recent Octopus project, the ground-breaking Limitless and the highly secretive and soon to be delivered LE120. With Winch’s project manager, Matthew Chatt Collins, on site for a large percentage of the
build programme the attention to detail seen throughout the original sketches was controlled carefully to ensure that the da Vinci-style outlines would be accurately interpreted. After all, what’s the point of investing in a high priced design house if the delivered project fails to resemble the contracted design?

 

During the visit, we spent a couple of hours discussing the project with Nick Ruiz, the owner’s build representative and captain. The candid exchange made it abundantly clear that as well as being hugely proud of the project, he also emphasised some of the history behind the project and why it had ended up with Lürssen and Winch. The boss had very specific requirements, which is obviously nothing unusual; however, it became apparent that each time the project was put forward to a yard, the management would present an alternative hull form, or an example of what had gone before. This client was adamant that he knew what he wanted and would not take someone else’s perspective of the project. He had chartered a whole raft of vessels in order to appreciate the nuances of the floating home that he was going to invest in. Having a clear appreciation of the manoeuvring and handling of yachts was important to him; he wanted to feel stable and not endure the soft pitch and roll from some of the hulls on the market. At one stage in this quest for perfection, he had walked on to an existing yacht, ready to sign a cheque, as it seemed to meet his criteria; however, within minutes, the sensation of motion created a sense of emotion and he walked off. At this stage the project died a death, Nick clarified that the boss felt that he couldn’t get what he wanted. When the project re-emerged and the flame of inspiration was rekindled by his broker Robert Moran, the team of Winch, Oeino and Lürssen collaborated to develop the Phoenix. What else could he call the project? During the conversation, the three parties present at the table, Ruiz, Winch and Michael Breman, the yard’s Sales Director, sang a chorus of approval for Moran’s involvement. They added that he fulfilled the role of the ideal new-build broker, acting as the gobetween in any item that needed clarifying or approving. In fact the recorded conversation stated that, “Everything he (Moran) has said he will do, he has done. Go ask the owner; he will say the same!” Captain Nick spent a good deal of the time considering what was new and interesting in Phoenix. He was not afraid to say that the project was very straightforward, everything worked and met the boss’s requirements. He even went on to state that Phoenix is in essence “a floating hotel” – not the most flattering description for a highly sophisticated piece of Lürssen engineering, Oeino hull architecture and Winch design, but when it comes down to it, Nick clearly has a no-nonsense approach. The design approach to Phoenix was dictated by the hotel requirements for the boss and his guests. The external design was a combination of masculine proportion and functional deck arrangement. Take the sun deck, for example: this, when coupled with the bridge and wing stations one deck below, would ensure that the guests achieved maximum vantage point when coming into small harbours, located out of the way above Nick’s area of operation, but still able to see the action. No need for polite cursing, as a guest peers over your shoulder while mooring stern to in St Tropez.

The internal arrangement of the project had some intelligent use of space, light and handpicked art, to ensure that the Winch brand maintained its position in the market. The layout reflected the service culture required for the boss and his guests. This was a yacht that required invisible, discreet service, crew stairs and guest stairs, unique access forward and aft, to overcome the required full beam owner’s area, that was arranged forward over two decks. (Editor’s note – Unfortunately, as is often the case, a project that is scheduled to leave the yard the day after my visit is rarely in photographic mode, so certain aspects of the project have not been recorded or reported.) However, as you can see from the images and drawing presented, it gives a sense of clarity to this Lürssen project. The team behind this project had something to prove. Some Lürssen projects have either been criticised for their lack of attention to aesthetic detail when compared to their European cousins, or been too extreme in design terms for the general market appeal. However, from my whirlwind tour of the project, I could gauge that this was an exceptional piece of project engineering. Nick confirmed this with a direct statement, “What’s new about this yacht is that every aspect meets Class requirements, 100%, by the book, total application of the rules.” It is possible that this could make Phoenix unique. I look forward to comments on this. From the design perspective, the tank testing and hull design ensured that the yacht would perform exactly as required and projected. Espen Oeino and the Lürssen brain trust ensured success and Andrew and Matthew from AWD were clearly proud of their achievement. Their task was to interpret what the client wanted onto paper and then ensure that the yard and the project team translated those images into a threedimensional yacht that resembled the original concept. In fact three weeks before the project was ready to leave, both Moran and the yard’s management exclaimed to the AWD design team, “I didn’t know she was going to look this good.” I still find it amazing that people don’t expect yachts to look like the original design that was agreed in the contract, but then again I am not a lawyer or a designer. (We plan to visit the yacht later this year, when she is presented to the market at this year’s Monaco Yacht Show, to bring some further technical and design details.)

Published: 3rd Mar 2004