Luxury yachts and luxury yachting

Luxury yachts and luxury yachting

While the emotional and psychological benefits of yachting are well proven, even the keenest weekend mariner would have to concede that a leisure yacht is, for most people, a non-essential pleasure. In terms of concept, as well as design, construction and application, it is at heart a luxury product – and as you move from the practical expediency of entry-level craft toward the upper echelons of the market, the luxury element of the lifestyle they provide becomes ever more refined. But what exactly do we mean by a ‘luxury yacht’? And what is it that defines ‘luxury yachting’? We spoke to Andy Lawrence, Director of Design at Princess Yachts, and Alan Knight, UK Sales Manager at Princess Motor Yacht Sales, to find out…

Luxury yachting: the detail

It is of course clear that the calibre of the yacht is central to the calibre of the yachting experience. In addition to the sophistication of the spatial arrangements and styling, you can point to the quality of the materials, the build and the finish. You can talk about the extra customisation potential, the more refined ride, extra pride in ownership or stronger residual values. But for Andy Lawrence, it’s the ability to take command of the finer details that really counts. “For me, detail is a key part of what puts a luxury boat a step up from the average vessel. It’s something we’re pushing all the time at Princess because, to make a real difference to the yacht and the yachting experience, it can’t be sporadic or piecemeal. That commitment to detail has to be ingrained throughout the company and in evidence all over the boat. You might see it in a big showpiece above the bedhead or it might be about the way two units join together with a lovely little groove that enables them to marry up perfectly. While some builders might use a chamfer gap to factor in some tolerance, with our boats, there are no gaps. No discrepancies. It’s razor sharp in design and execution – and that’s a key part of what helps us stand out.”

Luxury yachting: the quality

Consistency of standards is also clearly central to luxury yachting. Princess’s quality department comprises 30 staff, all of whom are involved throughout the process, from the start of a build to the point where the yacht reaches market. They go out on boats, they talk to the test engineers and they go to great pains to understand the customer experience. And that full-spectrum approach enables them to implement a practice known as ‘No Fault Forward’ – finding and fixing issues at source to ensure an end product that is as perfect as it can possibly be.

“Our quality control is industry leading because we’re deliberately very hard on ourselves” says Andy. “And that’s not just about the creation of a better boat. It’s about giving the customer deep-rooted confidence in the calibre of our product, because as soon as you start to notice little holes or extra sealant or cover strips, you begin to think, ‘Well if that’s what they’re showing me, what’s beneath the skin?’”

Luxury yachting: the confidence

Alan Knight believes that this commitment to quality is something that, over time, becomes ingrained in the minds of customers and helps drive and condition the luxury yachting experience: “What really distinguishes a luxury yacht is the customer perception that comes from quality. If you take the car analogy, people associate luxury with a certain level of car, like BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Bentley and Range Rover. But a brand has to build up a reputation for that, it’s something that’s earned over time and something that’s learned by the customers. Customers buy into our heritage and our culture here at Princess because they’ve come to understand that they can put their trust in us. When they buy one of our yachts, they know exactly what they’re going to get.”

Andy is in complete agreement: “If you look closely at our new Y72, there’s not a flat surface anywhere. That’s obviously much harder to design and build than flat panels but we’re doing it anyway because it gives the customer a better feeling. And that’s part of what luxury yachting’s all about isn’t it? A secure long-term confidence in the brand and a powerful sense that, when you take ownership of your new yacht, everything is exactly right.”

Production line versus custom build

At the top end of the market, superyachts and megayachts are often one-off commissions, designed and built from scratch to the specific requirements of the owner. It’s quite natural to imagine then that the pinnacle of luxury involves the creation of something entirely unique. But Alan takes a slightly different view: “We’re very lucky that our factory has the ability to design and manufacture things from scratch. They’ve been doing it for a long time and they know what works, so that’s certainly an advantage for the customer. But because of our highly refined in-house production lines, ‘luxury’ at Princess is also about dependability. Our customers get a certain comfort from knowing that we’re able to build a boat for them that is all but indistinguishable from the boat they might have seen and loved at a boat show.”

According to Andy, that rigorous in-house control over design and production processes also enables Princess to combine manufacturing consistency with a tangible sense that each and every yacht is better crafted, better tailored and more exclusive: “Even on our smaller boats, there are still enough options that you feel like you’re enjoying a semi-custom experience. And the fact that we design and build our own equipment to our own spec, right here at our Plymouth premises, means that it continues to feel very authentic and bespoke. Every boat we build continues to have that crafted feel to it – and not just because of quality and detail but because it uses parts you couldn’t go out and purchase. Parts that you really couldn’t replicate.”

Perfection through sustainability

Designers are continually looking to optimise the luxury yachting experience. Key challenges involve remodelling  a boat’s stern to help bring people closer to the water and flexing the proportions between internal saloon and external cockpit to perfect a yacht’s usability. But while designers strive to upgrade the joy of yachting by attending to the recreational practicalities, sustainability is arguably the most critical issue of all. Andy explains: “There’s no doubt that the future of luxury yachting needs to dovetail with people’s developing ethical and ecological sensibilities, because the risk is that we get to a point where yachting is deemed socially unacceptable – and a critical part of luxury done well is that it feels completely right in every regard. So we have to look at the materials, the weight of the product, the efficiency of the hull, the propulsion techniques and the manufacturing facilities. And we need to make sure that when we do replace a product, it doesn’t feel ‘recycled’. Like anything in this exacting sector, it needs to feel like a true and uncompromising luxury item that succeeds on the basis of merit.”

View our new Princess yachts, available for the 2021 summer season