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June 2003

Article selected from our quarterly magazine dedicated to the largest and most luxurious boats with information, interviews, technical articles, images and yachting news



Yachting catalogue

Navigation tests

Used boats


Video Nautica

Article by
Angelo Colombo


A new yacht or a restored vintage or work boat?

Once upon a time designing a luxury yacht or restoring an old one entailed the help of professionals with well-defined roles. The first professional figure to be involved was the naval architect, who would design everything, from the waterline to the arrangement of the interior. Then an interior decorator would be involved, using professional skill to choose the colours and materials for the decor and furnishing arrangements. Things have changed with the passing of time and now the roles are less well-defined. In fact to build or restore large boats you start with the designer, or rather a stylist responsible for a range of tasks from exterior design to the uniforms of the crew. The naval architect has the role of taking the designer's work and adapting the hull, which must also meet the customer's performance requirements as well as international safety standards. Alternatively, the design may begin with the naval architect whose work in this case is limited to the planning of the water lines. Then in comes the designer who develops the exterior layout and afterwards everything is passed on to an interior decorator.

Each has their own special role in meeting the customer's requests, which are often to do with the arrangement of the interior and the overall look. In recent years there has been a very interesting trend: vintage, as applied to yachting, i.e. the conversion, renovation, transformation and recovery of vintage boats. We often hear the word vintage used in the furnishing sector, in fashion and for ornaments but now it has also entered the word of large yachts. If you want to find a parallel with the Italian proverb "an old barrel makes good wine", we could claim that "old hulls make good yachts". Of course it's stretching things a bit but maybe it's from this basic idea that yacht-owners get the desire to adapt these old tugs, fishing boats, military boats and others once involved in working activities. The result is that the yachting world is now full of prestigious boats which elude the logic of design innovation and the search for original, up-to-date forms which have never been seen before. On the contrary, classical lines - unusual lines for this way of going to sea - are becoming popular and the result is a luxury yacht which is extremely personal. It's no coincidence that some shipyards produce boats with avant-garde content but in a typically retro style, to combine the desire of many yacht-owners for the antique with the resources offered by modern technology. There are two chief reasons why some enthusiasts prefer old working boats to new designs.

The first is the recognised reliability that these hulls can guarantee, given the vocation they were designed for. The second lies, on the other hand, with the time necessary for transforming for example, a tug into a yacht, compared with the time needed to build a new luxury yacht. In the first case the waiting time to become owner of the boat is on average six months while in the second it may exceed two years. In any case, some considerations should be made: not everyone is capable of entering the market of tugs or other working boats; finding the right boat or ship to transform or restore requires skill.

Furthermore, the costs of transformation are often the same as those of making a boat of the same size from scratch. Thus, the enthusiast's choice is not an easy one. 'New' is appealing and shipyards allow the owner the faculty of adapting everything to personal tastes. Old boats have a unique allure and can sometimes be adapted to measure but it is not always easy to find ones that are in a decent condition. What is it that influences a yacht-owner in one direction or the other? The word should go to two yacht-owners who have made different choices. Probably from their observations we would discover that the difference is not in the choice but is further up the line, or rather, in their approach to the sea.

The choice of a new yacht or else a tug adapted to yachting in some way expresses the owner's relationship with the sea. No choice is better, but each is just a different way of experiencing the natural element. As professionals in the sector we are attracted in the same way to both alternatives. One for its technological appeal and for stylistic innovations, the other for the skill of some shipyards to transform an old ship made for work into a very attractive luxury yacht. To sail a yacht that first crossed the seas decades ago is certainly a fascinating idea. But it is just as fascinating to set sail aboard a modern, luxury yacht, the result of modern engineering and technology. There are certainly considerable differences between the two that go beyond the aesthetic aspect, in particular as regards the water lines but also the spaces inside. In the case of working boats adapted to yachting, the interior is conceived from scratch but always to fit within the original house. In a new yacht as wève seen, the point of departure is often space requirements to then go on to the right water lines, weights and volumes. To try to reveal the secret of the right choice would be a tough undertaking but as wève already said, perhaps it doesn't exist; they are simply different preferences, like those which push a yacht-owner to choose a sloop rather than a motoryacht.