There is no need to introduce Vripack to our readers and the yachting community. Vripack is renowned all over the world for its extensive design, naval architecture and engineering portfolio of outstanding luxury boats as well as charter yachts, and the ‘No Nonsense – Go Anywhere’ philosophy. The company was founded in 1961 by Dick Boon and has grown into an important design studio offering its clients full service, creating yachts that not only look great, but can travel to any destination in the world. We have caught up with one of Vripack’s Directors, Marnix Hoekstra, to talk about the company’s past, current and future projects.
What are the major changes that occurred since the establishment of the company?
Within the company, the major difference is the fact that we went from hand-drawn technical drawings and sketches, three-dimensional artist’s impressions, all the way to fully automated animations. You can now sit back in your home theatre and look at your superyacht with nothing being ready yet. I think the computer has played a vital role in yacht design. From the outside, looking in, the difference is in the sheer dimension of our products. When Mr. Boon founded the company and he started designing his first ‘boats’, they were about 40 feet long. I mean, you had a yacht! Nobody would have called it a boat. Today a ’40-foot’ is a tender.
Clients’ desires and expectations change over time. What values are important to a client who decides to build a yacht today, as oppose to the last century?
What changed might not even be that different from what your readers would expect, especially in terms of the ‘biggest’ charter clients, who are still the Europeans or the Russians. However, in the ’60s we were all still rather post war and humble, rebuilding our countries, things were slow and houses were small. But we were fine with that. Today, a few generations later, people are used to more luxury, more convenience, and the sheer dimensions of our houses, hotel rooms and naturally yachts, changed because people appreciate space, accommodation and larger living areas. This means, the customers’ expectations have grown tremendously. One aspect that hasn’t changed is the very important question asked by our clients who want a luxury yacht or a charter yacht: “Is it safe? Will I get sick?” These are important facts if you want to fully enjoy your boat. These are the questions that customers had in the’60s, have today and will continue to have.
Is it hard to balance clients’ requirements with those of the shipyard?
For us at Vripack, this is a unique situation as we are an independent engineering and architectural firm, this makes us different compared to other designers. Of course we design, but we also perform the technical side. As we are not related to a shipyard, I think it is a little bit easier for us. I specifically say that, because there are certainly a number of shipyards who absolutely put their client’s interest first, but there are also a big number of yards who put their own money-making first. This could contradict with the needs of the client or the details of some of the executions. It is hard of course, but there are always two sides to the coin.
To flow with CharterWorld’s core focus, let’s talk about Vripack designs and yacht charter. Are there any major differences when it comes to designing a luxury vessel that is also destined for yacht charter and a superyacht that will remain purely for the owner’s private use?
The fact is, that when you are designing a boat for charter, the owner is very, very keen on making sure that it is a working product for people who have to operate it and that are the crew, although, it can be very often forgotten and I always have a hard time with people who overlook this. Charter guests want to have the best charter experience; they want to be serviced better than at any five-star hotel. These clients have most probably visited the world’s top resorts. Meaning, we have to give the yacht’s crew the opportunity to excel, which is not possible in cabins of three square metres for a crew of four. Setting up the yacht’s layout is very important and too often neglected. When we know that the boat will go into a very hectic charter schedule, we make sure that the whole lower deck is purely dedicated to the crew, where they can live, sleep and have their mess. For example, superyachts that have many charterers are the expedition yacht E&E and her sistership Jasmin. Both have a complete crew deck, providing ample space for the crew onboard. In fact, they have not only one crew mess, but two, offering crew members even more personal space.
Charter yacht E&E, unveiled at the 2011 Monaco Yacht Show, features a unique layout, with guests’ accommodation located on the upper deck. What are the benefits of such layout? Does it compromise the outdoor deck space and what effect it has on the overall charter experience?
The reason we did that, as I mentioned before, is the fact that she is very similar to the Owner’s original boat, charter yacht Jasmin. Jasmin gets great reviews from her charter guests and we wanted the same for E&E. When you are chartering a luxury vessel, you want to be able to fully enjoy it. The beauty of life can be admired thought the windows; you don’t want to be below deck! You want to open your curtains and look miles, miles over the ocean, a bay or at a charming port. We have chosen this layout very deliberately, which doesn’t really interfere with the outdoor space. Outdoor space is a very interesting phenomenon. On the Turkish or Asian markets, for example, outdoor areas are not regarded as very important. Whereas, in the Mediterranean or the West Indies the outdoors are vital, and not many guests spend their time indoors. Choosing the right layout can be challenging and it largely depends on the given charter destinations and the needs of the charterers.
What do you believe makes a popular charter yacht from the designer’s point of view?
A boat where you have this famous, happy crew. Even if you don’t have the perfect layout, but you have a great captain managing the crew and making sure everybody gets their free time as well as excels when at work, you will get an exceptional charter yacht. We often receive feedbacks from our clients, mentioning an outstanding chef, who went to their table explaining the dishes or just talking about the overall experience where the crew played an essential part.
From amongst all of the fabulous luxury yachts projected by Vripack, could you name any that could be considered as Vripack’s favourites, and why?
This is an often asked question. [Laughs] I often say it is like picking your favourite child. There are definitely a couple of boats that particularly stand out for our company. One of them is the research yacht Dione Sky, previously called Turmoil. The reason she is so special for us is because of a whole lot of combinations, for example, the use of modern technology when we built her. She was also the first big vessel constructed outside of the Netherlands, in the States. The most important fact, however, is that she cruised 450 000 nautical miles, that is 11 times around the world, making countless beautiful trips with her family. The Owners took great care of her. Dione Sky was extraordinary already at the time we built her, but she became even greater when people started using her and seriously sail her across the globe. I think any designer is the happiest when he sees his clients using their boat and being happy with it. We still keep in touch with all the crew and the captain.
Are there any exciting new superyacht projects that we could reveal to our readers?
CharterWorld already published our recent mega yacht project Liquid, which was received very well. We are currently discussing this project on how to execute it, but we also have a smaller version that has not been released yet. We have designed a 50-metre version of the Liquid, which is based on our LDL (Low Displacement to Length) principle, resulting in a very efficient and therefore greener boat. Thanks to LDL the boat burns less fuel, has less exhaust, meaning less running cost, which is a very popular trend at the moment. We have about 12 projects on our drawing board at this stage and no less than five are LDL boats. For us this is like an explosion of requests for this principle!
Another LDL based vessel is the NED 70 yacht. One of the unique features of NED 70 is also the use of Esthec decking. What are the advantages of using this type of decking on potential charter yachts?
I wish more people would use some form of alternative decking. For many boats it makes absolutely no sense to keep cutting rainforest woods. Eastec decking, as well as other companies, offer exceptional, high quality products leaving no reason, financially or maintenance wise, to not to use it. Unless, of course, you have a classic sailing yacht, where you want to have the traditional teak decking and the rest of the classic features. The trees would have enough time to grow as we are not building that many classic sailing yachts. Vripack is very keen on using alternative decking. Together with the Owner of one of our explorers we have tested the product for nearly five years in the Mediterranean on a 60ft boat. We were exposing it to the sun, rain and other harsh weather conditions, coming to a conclusion that there is nearly no disadvantage to the usage of alternative decking.
Is it easier to maintain this type of decking?
You still need to wash it and take care of it, but it is also perfect for people who are not regulars on boats, like yacht charterers. For example, you can keep your shoes on when you step onboard. I always think, if I were to have a boat I would definitely want to wear my shoes and not walk around bare-foot all the time.
And finally, what is VriThink?
We will be officially launching this project in April or May. We have published the video talking about this project to see if anybody would notice it and you are absolutely the first one to ask questions about this, so I compliment you on that.
We found it very hard within the whole new economy, to find forward thinking information, materials and to know what is next. Coming with these crises, people are looking for a new ‘safe haven’ and new horizons. We are the same at Vripack. After one year we said: “If nobody is doing it than we should do it ourselves!” If we have all the questions about what new materials to use and what are the new techniques, many of our colleagues in the industry would ask the same questions, and the owners will continue searching for the next best yacht. This made us to start this whole new ‘trend-watching’, ‘trend-forecasting’ road-trip, which is amazing and super-fun to do! We are visiting major cities around the world, meeting with different institutes, young people, but also with owners. We talk to them to see what they do, to see what desires they have in terms of the future. However, if you do this with one or two it is not interesting, but if you do it with 100+ you can certainly analyse the common requests they have.
Thanks to this trend-scouting, for instance, we have come across the 3D printing technique. We have found a company that is printing actual 3D houses! Many people would say you can only build a boat from flat plates. Well, I am not so sure that this is really true.
Maybe an 80 m superyacht is big, but we have a whole bunch of tenders, water toys,jet-skis. For instance, we are currently working on a big refit project and have a whole arcade, which we want to put on the back of the vessel. Of course, this is not the whole boat, but still a very dimensionally shaped object, which you could very well create from a composite material.
VriThink is to inspire other people as much as ourselves and hopefully stay ahead of the competition. We are going to put the project out there; we are not going to keep it to ourselves. Vripack is currently working on a website with more material, available for anyone to use. We would like to be regarded as forward thinking, because we started it, but it will be at everyone’s disposal to use. It will benefit the whole industry as we are all in need of more clients.