Irrespective of your vantage point, whether it be from a tender, helicopter or the quayside, the first thing you see when you look at a superyacht is the paint; and as you only get one chance to create a good first impression, it makes sense to make it the best.
Without doubt, the superyacht design community has applied its considerable creative talent, in cohesion with the technical naval architectural and marine engineering skills of the leading shipyards, to radically advance the scale, shape and complexity of today’s superyachts. The style, comfort, technology and beauty of interiors have increased in line with budgets, but when it comes to paint, can we honestly say that, as an industry, we’ve really pushed the boundaries to fully exploit the technology and colour palette? Have we challenged the auto and aeronautical industries to create the best designs and most highly performing finishes? I don’t think we have. This leads me to wonder what has constrained the progress in paint when other aspects of superyacht design have developed in such impressive fashion.
Looking at the history of superyacht paint design, it has evolved from the 20th century when you were restricted to choosing only variants of white. The development of heavily pigmented, high-gloss topcoats has led to the welcome introduction of contrasting blues, reds and even the odd black hull. The past 10 years have seen significant developments among the leading marine paint manufacturers, all of which are now subsidiaries of global industrial conglomerates, that have leveraged the technologies developed in the auto sector to produce both metallic and pearlescent finishes. Despite it taking some time for these more technical finishes to penetrate the market, partly due to the considerable technical challenges presented to the applicators to deliver consistent results with these products, in comparison to the advances in physical design and both technical and aesthetic advances in engineering and interiors, progress in paintwork has been relatively modest. With paint being such an important feature of a superyacht, this is a shame and needs to be improved.
I think the main reason for the lack of development in paint design is because the subject doesn’t feature early enough in the design phase and there is insufficient dialogue between owner, designer and paint team (both manufacturer and applicator). Given that it’s the combination of fairing and finishing that creates the overall appearance of the yacht, as well as representing an important percentage of the new-build budget, it is odd that it is rarely discussed early in the design process. Normally, paint decisions are addressed after architectural and engineering designs are completed and project budgets set. The decision forum seldom includes representatives from either manufacturer or applicator; the range of options and designs is by then limited and generally the whole process can be described as functional rather than creative.
A radical shape for a vessel may create a dramatic expression of the owner’s personality, but with early input and minor changes this can still be achieved without compromising the ability of painters to deliver the quality of finish required. Similarly, a dramatic colour scheme can be implemented without concern if thought is given to how it may be toned down at time of sale.
I recently had the pleasure of spending time with some of the world’s leading superyacht designers and broached the idea of taking a fresh look at paint in the context of the overall design process. I have to say the response was extremely encouraging and I sensed a genuine excitement for the opportunity to unleash their creative talent with a fresh palette. I believe we can facilitate a powerful collaboration between designer, product manufacturer and applicator to give the customer a much broader and exciting range of finishes to maximise the beauty of their yacht.
The benefits of bringing the right team of people to the table at the right time extend beyond the aesthetic, as we are able to inform the owner, yacht manager and captain on the technical performance, maintenance and cost of ownership of different paint systems. This will enable them not only to select the right colour and finish to suit the style of the yacht but also to choose a paint system that is appropriate for the design of the vessel, its intended oceanic cruising zones, type of use and economic performance.
Having championed the development of both quality standards and application technologies in superyacht painting, I now feel inspired and encouraged, following my engagement with the designers, to introduce a new approach to superyacht paint design. Watch this space…