New yacht design has taken a giant leap in average length. Toby Hodges reports on the boom in big boats
Looking along the row of new yachts berthed stern-to at Cannes Boat Show in September, it seems impossible that just a few years ago a yard might hold up its 55-footer as the flagship of its fleet. In 2016, it’s the new yachts between 55ft and 80ft from the production yards that really stand out. So what has changed? Why the sudden surge in new large yachts and is it really possible to sail them without professional crew?
The 60ft plus market represents only around 120 yachts worldwide per year, but according to Oyster CEO David Tydeman, there is a need for variety. “Where Beneteau likes the fact that we series-build €5m boats, we like the fact that Beneteau does €1m series builds,” he says. “It brings people into the industry.”
Customers range from those wanting short-term sailing holidays and second home use, to those exercising long held dreams to sail offshore in the utmost comfort. It’s a wide range of people being targeted by a wide range of brands and from the list of boats yet to be launched, it’s evident that the majority of builders have bet against this size segment being a passing fad.
Who is building new yachts over 60ft?
The volume production yards have been growing their flagship models, mostly launched in the last year or two, to fulfil demand in the 55-65ft sector. This is perhaps indicative of an increasing number of impulsive buyers on today’s new yacht market; those who don’t want to wait for a couple of years for their yacht are going to be more attracted to the volume-built boats.
Models over 65ft are typically still the domain of luxury bluewater cruising brands, such as Oyster and Contest; prestige brands, such as CNB and Euphoria; or performance semi-custom designs from the likes of Swan, Solaris, Mylius and Advanced Yachts. Highlights include X-Yachts’s 65ft X6 (see X6 on test), the Grand Soleil 58 Performance; Mylius’ striking new 76; the Turkish Euphoria 68 (see Euphoria 68 on test) and the luxurious new Contest 67CS (see video review here), not to mention the new Oysters 675 and 745.
At the 60ft plus size range, yards have to be flexible to be competitive. Prospective buyers expect their yachts to be semi-customised; rather than simply ticking options boxes, they want the yard to listen to their individual choices, styles and needs.
Volume producers will offer a lengthy list of layouts, fabrics and finishes, while the high-end builders will typically offer major hull variations, including different transom designs, rig options, and appendage types, with interior layouts only really constrained by watertight bulkheads. Those braving the first of a new model line may get extra privileges in this respect.
High volume production
Of the volume yards, Hanse arguably led the way with its 630e back in 2006, 70 of which were built. Equally impressive is that the German yard then went on to sell 175 of its 575 in the last four years. This year Hanse launched the 675, its largest volume production yacht to date.
Groupe Beneteau brands all now have yachts in the 60ft plus size range. The Bordeaux 60 caused a stir when it launched in 2008 – hull number 46 is in build – bringing trappings of superyacht glamour to the production market. The follow-up CNB 76 made a striking debut at Cannes in 2013. This contemporary Briand design uses an innovative construction method to reduce build time and cost. Seventeen of the €2m 76s have now sold, leading CNB to commission designs for a new smaller sister, the 66 (see page 33). To give some indication as to the demand at this size, CNB has already sold eight of the smaller yachts despite only releasing initial designs in September, and has also just announced it will take on 100 more workers to meet demand.
Unlike CNB, which is originally a builder of large custom yachts, the other volume production yards and Groupe Beneteau brands are upsizing. Superyacht designers Philippe Briand and Andrew Winch collaborated to produce one of the most successful of these – the Jeanneau 64 launched in 2014. It marries the worlds of big boat design, luxury and comfort with production boat pricing – its base price was kept below €1m – offering 10ft more yacht than an equivalent-priced semi-custom model.
Sister brand Beneteau has now followed suit with its Oceanis Yachts 62 this year. This is the first of a new luxury range from 53-73ft for which Beneteau went to a motorboat designer to find new styling solutions. The result is a bold look and a host of new comfort solutions throughout. Also, the goal with the pricing was even more ambitious than Jeanneau – its €650,000 base price shows how competitive pricing has become, even at this size level.
Dufour will have a new 63ft flagship as of January, which, like the Oceanis Yachts, is the first of a new premium-end ‘Exclusive’ range.
All of which leaves Bavaria as the last big volume yard without a 60-footer. This is mainly down to its in-line production method, which has, to date, limited the maximum length of yacht it can build. However this summer Bavaria changed the set-up of one of its production lines to address this limitation, so we can presume that it’s only a question of time before the largest sailing Bavaria model yet is announced.
Large yachts are getting ever easier to handle. Push-button electrics and hydraulics that allow loads to be managed reliably have created new possibilities for managing sizable yachts short-handed. Thrusters – both bow and stern – are the norm at this size and can alleviate concerns with mooring, while advances in deck-gear technology have made sail-handling much easier.
As in the car industry, space has become king. Added length in yachts can bring increased comfort, elegance and speed, but there are downsides. With extra volume and weight comes a linear increase in the size and cost of each bit of deck gear and rigging needed to bear the extra loads.
Sailing a push-button power-assisted yacht might be a one-person affair, but managing and maintaining it is a different prospect altogether. Large yachts increase the crew’s dependence on powered systems and machinery, from gensets, watermakers, air con and thrusters to the hydraulics needed to operate winches, sail systems, garage doors etc. Keeping such a yacht shipshape is likely to involve a great deal of time afloat servicing machinery, or regular shore periods and pit stops. The less mechanically minded owners will probably need to employ a skipper or paid hand for this purpose.
Need for crew?
Up until 2011, when Hallberg-Rassy brought out its HR64, a yacht that was designed specifically for two people to sail and manage, I would have said that 57ft was the transition point from owner-operated yacht to crewed yacht. But yachts have continued to grow since then.
Skip Novak, who runs two expedition yachts – one 54ft and the other 74ft – says: “We can do things with [the 54ft] Pelagic that we wouldn’t dare do with Pelagic Australis. Pelagic is ‘man-handleable’, while the big boat at 74ft and 55 tonnes displacement is not. The systems on the smaller boat are by nature simpler, and the cruises usually are more trouble-free technically.”
Most new yachts over the 55ft mark have the option for a crew cabin of some sort. The big question is, are you happy sharing your yacht with paid hands? For temporary quarters, during a short charter for example, the forepeak-style box that is self-contained away from the rest of the accommodation may be all that is required in terms of accommodation. But for any owners seeking a longer-term crew – and wishing to retain reliable crew for any period of time – a more comfortable arrangement within the interior, like the use of a Pullman cabin, is necessary.
The current Oyster range spans the crossover between owner-operated yachts and crewed yachts, which helps to illustrate where the actual dividing line between the two might lie. For example, none of the 20 Oyster 625 owners uses a skipper full-time, although three of the 20 use skippers for when the boat is in charter mode. The new 675, which has been developed as a larger version of the 625, is also designed to be a yacht that can be owner-run. The new 745 on the other hand, which also launched this September, is designed to be run with two professional crew.
I sailed with Tim and Sybilla Beebe six years ago on a passage test of an Oyster 575 from Palma to Spain. They have since run an Oyster 68, a 72 and Tim is currently skippering Eddie Jordan’s Oyster 885, Lush. We discussed at what size level an owner should be thinking about employing a full-time crew.
“Firstly it’s dependent on experience,” says Beebe. “Can the owner sail the boat safely and do they want the responsibility? I agree that after 60ft, the time spent on upkeep starts to outweigh the enjoyment of it… unless you are living on it full-time.
“There are companies that will look after a 60ft boat and have it ready for owners when they arrive,” Beebe continued. “The amount of time needs to flexible. You can allot time for cleaning – inside and out – but maintenance must be flexible. There are always surprises.”
So where might a potential new owner be caught out? “The basic maintenance to keep the boat running is not too bad on a 60-footer but it’s the little bits that might get overlooked, which can quickly add up. You have to stay on top of everything. Winch maintenance, for example, might surprise the average new owner: to properly service all the winches takes a good deal of time – and is a once-a-season job.”
What advice would Beebe give owners of 60-70-footers looking to employ and keep a good crew? “Maintaining good relations is key. You all have to get on in a small space. From my experience, forward planning is nice to have, plus adequate time with guests off the boat for maintenance. Of course the occasional day off doesn’t go amiss either.”
Case study: Oyster 745 for bluewater cruising with family and friends
Henrik Nyman has sailed all his life on a variety of different sized boats, including owning and chartering various yachts and is now upgrading from an Oyster 625 to a 745 for bluewater cruising with friends and family. Why move to a yacht that needs crew? “Size alone is not a factor. For me, quality, engineering and function were my drivers… I thought 60ft was the maximum I could handle without crew, but in fact I feel that the 745 should be no trouble mainly due to very well thought-out functions and engineering. Handling is one part, but also you want crew for comfort, to go to the supermarket, some meals, formalities etc… I can sail basically alone but I want a good deckhand, mainly for safety purposes and for maintenance as well. “My biggest concern is that the equipment installed does not meet the same quality as the yacht itself. My experience from the 625 is that the majority if not all warranty issues are caused by third party installations.”
Case study: Discovery 67 – trading up for extra space
Simon Phillips is a highly experienced cruising and racing sailor, who has gradually scaled up in size from a Sonata, a Sadler 29, a Hanse 47e and a Discovery 55. He bought his 67ft Sapphire 2 of London this June and his main reason for trading up was to gain space. “Sapphire is 40 per cent larger inside which makes a big difference if you’re planning to spend 18 to 24 months on board. My wife and I are actively planning for the World ARC.” Phillips hasn’t used a professional crew before, but has employed delivery companies to do short deliveries due to time pressures. He normally sails with friends and contacts. “Sapphire is much more technical than the Discovery 55. Her size requires more planning and thought on where you can go etc. While it is possible to sail the yacht single-handed you really need one crew on the helm and three on lines to come alongside in any sort of windy and tidal conditions.”
Showcase boats: Recent and upcoming launches in the 60ft plus category
Amel 64: This is one of the first 60+ footers truly designed for a couple only for bluewater cruising.
Find out more here – or in the videos below.
Below is the video of our two day liveaboard test aboard the smaller sister Amel 55, a model which launched at a similar time to the 64 and shares her updated design features.