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How a luxury superyacht is built

They are the most glorious vessels on the seven seas, but how is a luxury superyacht made? What goes into making the finest vessels in the world?

Posted: Sep 20, 2018 4:14 AM
Updated: Sep 20, 2018 4:44 AM

Shhhhh ...

When millionaires go on vacations on their superyachts, there's one thing some crave more than anything: uninterrupted silence.

"For some people the greatest luxury you can have is that you don't hear the boat, so anti-vibrations and making sure you feel comfortable," Heesen Yachts CEO, Arthur Brouwer tells CNN Sport of one of the growing trends in superyacht design.

When you have enough money to buy a superyacht, luxury and attention to the smallest detail knows no bounds -- even if that means buying silence.

That also means gone are the days of opulent offices where owners can carry out business meetings on their yacht, now it's all about peace and quiet -- a place where they can switch off entirely.

For Winch Design, creating an award winning superyacht entails much more than just a beautiful aesthetic; It should be bespoke, a nod to the owner's lifestyle and individuality.

"We don't set out explicitly to produce designs which are 'radical,'" Jim Dixon from Winch Design tells CNN Sport.

"We're always trying to be as creative as possible and go beyond what our clients expect.

"Ultimately it's delivering the perfect project for them. At this level all our clients want to have individual projects as a demonstration of themselves as individuals.

"They don't want to buy something that's standard, something that others have got -- something that's off the shelf. That would be the easy option."

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Dixon adds that everything you see and touch on board their superyachts -- both the interior and exterior -- is entirely custom-made.

"We deliver the yacht from the shipyard with everything on board -- down to the last piece of tableware and flower arrangement," he says.

With over 90 designers, naval architects and 3D visualizers Winch Design also designs aircrafts, villas, retreats and homes. Among their portfolio, they've designed the largest private residence in London and the largest volume yacht in the world, Dilbar.

'These people are quite brave'

Building a superyacht is no easy task. For a shipbuilding yard like Heesen Yachts, a fully customized mega yacht can take three years to build. The company works with studios like Winch Design to construct the ultimate pleasure boat for clients.

"The most difficult one is the full custom because so far there's nothing on paper yet -- it's a blank paper approach," Brouwer tells CNN.

He explains the client will come to the shipyard with a designer already in mind and that Heesen will support them through that process.

"It's always a renowned designer," he adds. "Don't take risks. We always go for very good quality and very well known designers to make our selling plans much higher. If I did it it would be very risky!"

After a few months, when the client is happy with a design Heesen Yachts will begin construction.

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Dixon from Winch Design says those choosing to go ahead with a massive project like a custom superyacht are bold.

"These people are quite brave," he says. "They don't have to do them but they actually enjoy designing them and it's the process of completing the project as much as actually the manifestation of the end object which is the driver for them."

No offices onboard and plenty of glass

Those coming to Winch Design are businessmen and women from places like the Middle East, Russia, the US and the Far East. And increasingly their clients are looking for something their family can enjoy.

"A superyacht isn't a toy, but it's the ultimate place to go and be away from it all," says Andreas Iseli, head of Winch Design yacht exteriors.

"We have clients who literally go two weeks a year on their yacht and switch off."

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Increasingly Winch Design says it's now getting requests not to build any offices onboard anymore.

"It used to be satellite domes and offices so they could keep working and now we get the request more and more 'I don't want to work on my boat, I'm off for two weeks' so that's probably the ultimate luxury for these people."

Along with office-free yachts, both Winch Design and Heesen Yachts say they're also noticing clients are asking for more and more glass to be installed onboard.

"At the moment I would say we're seeing a lot of openness, indoor/outdoor living and a lot of use of glass," Iseli says.

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"We're doing projects now where glass is the main driver in designing the outside and the inside, so it's connectivity to the ocean.

"You don't want to be sitting in a dark hole with a small window -- so big windows, big decks, lots of entertainment areas, different areas you can disperse over -- from cozy areas, group areas and lots of dining options. We have lots of spas and relaxation zones too."

In 2016 Heesen Yachts built the 70-meter Galactica Super Nova with an infinity pool that included a waterfall and a glass-paneled bottom. The boat was also built to be fast.

"It has a special engine package, it carries two normal engines and a jet-propelled engine in order to create 30 knots per hour," Brouwer says.

"That's a technical challenge to make it go as fast as it can with keeping the comfort -- the sound levels and the vibration levels low -- and making it as luxurious as we can.

"There are not many boats that can beat us at 70m with that speed, so that was quite a technical achievement for us."

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Brouwer says currently Heesen Yachts has a 50m boat for sale at €33.5 million ($39 million) but have sold boats for over €100 million ($117 million).

Designs driven by lifestyle

Winch Design prides itself on focusing on minute details and creating totally bespoke exteriors and interiors. The team tailor all of their designs to the client's individual lifestyle -- their hopes, their dreams, their likes and dislikes.

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After many meetings with the clients the designers learn all this, source materials and turn small ideas into luxurious, clean and timeless designs.

"It's driven by the lifestyle of the client -- driven by what he or she wants for his or her family" Iseli says.

"Sometimes you dream about an idea. Sometimes you do just wake up in the morning and think 'that could work.'

"Sometimes you see a shape on a car or from nature or you get inspiration from the client. We've had a client in a meeting who just got up and went to his library and grabbed a magazine, ripped out a page and said 'this is what I really like' so that was the inspiration for a part of his boat."

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What's most important, Dixon says, is to make people feel like they're at home. The studio has one client who lives on their yacht all year round.

"We make sure our interiors in our projects are easy to like and easy to live with," he says.

"We take our inspiration from everywhere, all different aspects of life -- particularly from our clients and their own lifestyle and what makes them tick."

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However, given the amount of time it can take to sign off designs, begin building and completely finish a yacht, a lot can happen over several years and clients minds -- and tastes -- can change.

"Some of the customers can change what they like or they delay decisions sometimes in a way that can't help them be timely," Brouwer says.

"Like adding an elevator will impact the central weight of the ship, so we have to do all the calculations and it might impact the performance of the ship."

Taking clients from superyachts to private jets

While Dixon is head of the aviation department at Winch Design, he often takes care of yacht projects because of their "distinct crossover."

"Our clients come to us hopefully not just for one project but multiple projects so we sometimes take them from an aircraft to a yacht or a house," he says, adding that providing those services help continue and keep relationships.

"It's a big melting pot of talent and skill and one of the things we play on as a studio which sets us apart from some of our competition."

When asked if anything is ever impossible, Brouwer from Heesen Yachts laughs.

"No flying boats! The question is off the table, but for the rest -- if it's technically and legally possible then we can build it," he says.

Visit CNN.com/sailing to read more news and features

"There are parameters to everything," he adds. "Technically, financially and time-wise."

"Every project has to have a parameter but we try to deal with all the aspirations of our clients and they all want to push the envelope and do something which is more and more unique and we try and facilitate that as much as we can."

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