THE ISSUES Peter Lürssen

But things improved, clearly. I must say I’ve really been fortunate. We had an amazing client, who’s been really good for us, for whom we did Coral Island – an amazing boat, really beautiful. And then there was an American who really liked Carinthia VI and he commissioned Jon Bannen- berg to redo it. Jon was trying to change the design. But the client said, ‘No, no. I want it like Carinthia.’ That was Limitless. Commercially it was not really a success. But after that we sold

a very large yacht to a client who cancelled. That yacht [was taken on by another client] and is now called Dubai. It’s 162 metres with an amazing design by Andrew Winch. Since then we’ve been very fortunate that we did a few things right. And we managed to weather all the tough times in yacht- building and the dotcom crisis and everything. We managed to get through that intact.

How did you build Lürssen’s reputation? We did really bespoke, unusual yachts. And clients like the idea of bespoke. In those days, it was very popular to recycle your own engineering. But we managed to keep the question of bespoke very much at the forefront. And I think that was something that was always helping us.

Today, how is the business divided up? I would say about 50 per cent yachts and 50 per cent defence, in terms of revenue. We build a lot of 60-metre yachts. We actually build more yachts under 90 metres than over 90 metres, which people don’t realise. But, obviously, the big boats gather lots of publicity.

What do your clients want? Clients who talk to us and our colleagues from northern Europe, they want top quality – no compromise. They want bespoke.

You’ve mentioned the popularity of things like aft swimming decks and glass bottoms in the past. What features are popular now? It started with a gym. Now the trend is for a full spa, a sauna, cryosauna, hammam, massage, beauty treatments... And so you see guests really want to enjoy things on the boat. In the old days it was quite normal that the yacht crew would book a spa day in a hotel. They don’t do that anymore. Now clients want to have things on the yacht.

And it makes sense at the moment, in particular. I can see, especially with Corona, people are spending more time on their yacht. It’s very safe. This really offers you ‘bubble protection’, so to speak, by being able to live in a very controlled environment.

For you, what’s the definition of ‘good design’? I think the secret to a good design is a very good understanding of what it is the client wants. Designers shouldn’t design for themselves. They should design for the client.

How do you make sure your clients get that? What’s the process like for someone who comes to you? A shipbuilder is really only, at best, a facilitator. We have people who come to us with a readymade design and we have people who come to us and say: ‘I want a boat, I need you to help me.’ And

everything in between. Generally, we regard it as our obligation to make sure that what the designer designs can be built; you need space for air conditioning, the engine and all that stuff. Sometimes you organise a beauty contest for the designers. But even that comes down to the question of chemistry. If the owner or their partner doesn’t get along with the designer, it doesn’t work.

* * * I

ncreasingly, one of the things that clients want is for superyachts to become more sustainable. This is something that Lürssen and those he describes as his ‘Dutch colleagues’ – firms such

as Feadship and Heesen – are working on. Earlier this year his own company led the way by announcing that it was working on a new yacht that would incorporate methanol fuel cells. According to the firm, the new technology will provide its owner, ‘who loves technology and new developments,’ with 15 nights of power at anchor, or enable the craft to slow-cruise for more than 1,000 miles – emission free. The yacht is expected to be delivered in 2025. ‘My grandfather built the world’s first motorboat in 1886,’ said Lürssen at the the launch. ‘My dream is to be the first to build a yacht without a combustion engine.’ But he acknowledged to me that the transition would not be easy. ‘You can’t just flick a switch.’ It is far from clear which technologies and fuels will provide the best solutions in the medium-term future. ‘There’s no element of greenwashing with him,’ noted William

Mathieson, editorial director of the Superyacht Group. ‘It’s all about the optimisation of performance, process and efficiency. He can see the contradictions associated with lithium mining, for example. In some respects it could be a step in the right direction, but it might also be damaging.’ As an engineer, Lürssen is also adamant about the need to look at the whole system. ‘I think we face two difficulties with batteries,’ he said. ‘One is the power: energy density. How much energy can be stored in a cubic metre? And the second thing is, how quickly can you charge it? Let’s assume someone invents a fantastic battery and one cubic metre of your battery equals one cubic metre of diesel

My dream is to be the first

to build a yacht without a

combustion engine

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