From Concept to Construction: The first Amels 80 superyacht

For 100 years the family-owned Dutch shipyard Amels has been at the forefront of superyacht construction, and for 17 years it has pioneered in the sector of semi-custom with its Limited Editions series. Designed on speculation and engineered in-house, the Amels 80 is the shipyard’s new flagship and breaks new ground  in her size category for a speculation series. We travelled to the facility in Vlissingen to find out how the project evolved from first concept to final design. Amels 80 yacht unveilingFamily owned and operated, Amels, part of Damen Yachting, has held a unique position in the yachting industry for more than 100 years. The Amels Limited Editions concept first took root in 2005 with the aim of creating a series of vessels that not only appealed to a broad scope of owners, but also applied a thoroughly tested platform and an abundance of feedback to create a commercially successful yacht series. 

But when designing a new model, who spearheads the project and acts as the ‘owner’ and how does that party bring an impartial view to the project? 

“When you're designing a Limited Editions it's not like a custom yacht design where you have a very specific and actual client in front of you,” says Rose Damen, Managing Director of the shipyard. “You have to create that client; they are integral to the design. For the Amels 80 we used my sister Annelies, and in fact the whole Damen family. All of them playing the client, asking the critical questions and then actually challenging everyone involved all the time.” Amels 80 yacht exterior designPhoto: Amels The Brief

The 65 and 74-metre Limited Editions yachts were constructed on versions of the same platform, extending the life of the original engineering to nearly 12 years, but clients and brokers were also pushing the shipyard to come up with something new. Initially the team considered employing the same tried-and-tested platform, but the Damen family recognised that the market has changed since the platform was conceived. Today, the impetus for yacht owners is about exterior living and the relationship between interior and exterior spaces, something that the previous platform was not designed to do. Amels 80 yacht exterior designPhoto: Amels“The Amels 80, much like the Amels 60, was born out of a drive and desire to push forward a new generation of Amels Limited Editions,” explains Rose Damen. “The designs evolve as do client needs, and this in turn pushes us to create the platform that we believe will best meet the demands of today and tomorrow.”Amels 80 yacht aft decksPhoto: AmelsWhile the Damen family may play the owner, client and captain feedback was pivotal during the pre-design stage, particularly those of the Amels 242 series. Eight Amels 242s have now been built, and each owner offers unique feedback, which is collected and analysed as part of the research process. 

“The Limited Editions models are designed without one client in mind and when we succeed with a series we have a spread of clients from different walks of life, who use their yachts in different ways,” says Adriaan Roose, Project Manager of the Limited Editions range since its conception. 

Utilising the experience gained over four generations, both as yacht and shipyard owners, the Damen family distilled the feedback and aligned their own expectations with it, refining the brief to 10 key points. Amels 8001 yacht exterior designPhoto: Damen Yachting“The final result is a sum of many wishes, when analysing the feedback interviews you look for those points which correlate between each,” says Rose Damen. “For example, many of the sessions mentioned a long sundeck and that in turn led to a conversation around access, which is where the central elevator and staircase joining the sundeck and beach club originated.”

That central elevator came to define the heart of the yacht and was paramount to the design brief shared in the original pitch, demonstrating how important the initial research is to the final concept. Amels 8001 yacht exterior designPhoto: Damen Yachting “The starting point was that it needed to be an innovative concept but in line with the characteristics of the Amels Brand: long and elongated, elegant and classic,” Rose Damen continues. “Then we focused on the use and distribution of interior and exterior spaces to align with current client expectations received during our feedback sessions. We felt that the connection between the decks and the interior volumes was a key factor, but to make this work as a Limited Editions concept we included a brief for features and possible changes that were adaptable to individual taste within the platform's constraints. Finally another of the key 10 points was resale value, because we recognise that the client base is getting younger and that owners may want to move to a larger vessel in the coming years.”Amels 80 yacht exterior designPhoto: AmelsThree design studios were approached for the initial exterior, but it was the design of Espen Øino that was unanimously chosen. It wasn’t actually until the design was selected that the decision to create an 80-metre series was finalised, with Espen suggesting that for the depth of functionality the ‘owner’s’ team had requested, the yacht needed to be that much larger. And so the Amels 80 was conceived. 

“When we started out with the Limited Editions range I never would have imagined that we would be able to build such large volumes on speculation, but as time progressed we saw that there was a market demand for larger speculation builds,” says Adrinaan Roose. “It wasn’t only the design brief itself that needed to be taken into consideration, however. Yachts over 80 metres now require a pilot to enter many of the most popular bays and Øino explained that this was also a factor in determining the final size of the vessel. Amels 80 yacht exterior designPhoto: Amels

Commercial Viability 

Like resale potential, from the perspective of Amels, commercial viability is a major consideration when designing a Limited Editions, as despite a history of success, large scale speculation vessels are a major gamble for any shipyard. This was also one of the reasons that Espen Øino was chosen as the exterior designer.Amels 80 yacht interiorPhoto: Sinot“He took everything into consideration, including the practical elements and ensured that no part of the design rendered the vessel unsellable,” says Rose Damen. “His ability stems from actual onboard experience, he approached the design not just aesthetically, but from a user and operational perspective.Amels 80 yacht interiorPhoto: Sinot”The design is critical to creating a commercially viable product; it has to be both unique and innovative enough to catch the eye of owners, while not being so extreme that it becomes quickly outdated. It also has to compare favourably to other yards in terms of price point, and it is here that the discussion of materials becomes all the more important, particularly at a time when supply chains are pinched and vital materials are hard to come by.Amels 80 yacht interiorPhoto: SinotEngineering the technical platform in-house majorly reduces cost, because it allows the yard to offer a competitive price, but also provides long-term benefits when it comes to costs of parts and appliances from third parties. Amels 80 yacht interiorPhoto: Sinot“We thoroughly engineer the platform of our Limited Editions right up to the nuts and bolts, but we are able to distribute the substantial cost of this across a number of yachts, meaning the work is a long-term investment,” explains Adriaan Roose.Amels 80 yacht interiorPhoto: SinotIn terms of cost-benefit, Roose actually believes that whether or not more than one hull is sold, the project will have been commercially successful due to the process of design and construction. Retaining these skills in-house and having the entire workforce trained in each platform has financial advantages for the future of the yard.Amels 80 yacht interiorPhoto: Sinot“A costly design will actually work against you in the long term and spending money wisely is vital,” adds Espen Øino, “but that has to be balanced by not cutting corners and creating a yacht that is thoroughly future-proofed.”Amels 8001 yacht metal cuttingPhoto: Damen YachtingThe Design 

The Amels 80 exterior plays with themes from some of the earlier Limited Editions with her contemporary styling, expansive decks and minimalist lines. These elements that make her a distinctly Amels yacht are what Espen calls ‘design languages’. For example, she has the same near vertical bow as the 60, but with more flowing lines from fore to aft and a gentler, more refined geometry. Amels 80 yacht exterior designPhoto: Amels“The idea was to create an optimised layout within an optimised framework that was both contemporary and yet also distinctly Amels,” says Espen Øino. “We weren’t looking to create a complicated design – complexity also drives up costs – but it had to have a universal appeal with the form following the function.” 

That functionality was essential when it came to defining the exteriors and interiors, which are the work of Dutch studio Sinot Yacht Architecture and Design. Annelies Damen had created a fairly refined brief for the interior spaces, noting that there needed to be a large owner’s deck, spacious beach club and that the staterooms would all be located on the main or upper decks. Amels 8001 yacht keel layingMost importantly, the yacht had to be adaptable and the design flexible so that a spectrum of owners could customise it to their needs, without the need to make major changes to the engineering. This gave Øino and his team a foundation to work with, which was then built upon by Paul Costerus and the team from Sinot who focused their interior designs on the adaptability of spaces.

Nature has been a theme of Sinot’s work in recent years and with the intertwining of the relationship between the yacht and her environment being a key element of Damen family’s concept of the yacht, the studio was a clear choice. The team was briefed to create a warm environment with sustainable materials and to let these materials speak for themselves, without embellishment. Amels 8001 yacht keel layingPhoto: Nico Alsemgeest / Amels“The materials needed to be made to last, to be rigid and have a lifespan that will protect the interiors for years to come,” says Paul Costerus. “That all plays into the commercial viability of these yachts as well. Amels wants to protect the investment that its clients make by building vessels which have a future.” 

More than 40 Limited Editions superyachts have been delivered since 2007, a credit to the success of the concept which began with the Amels 171 – a design which evolved into the 55-metre Amels 180 and of which 25 yachts were sold. With the concept of semi-custom becoming increasingly diluted in the industry, and as a result somewhat disregarded, Amels has worked hard to remain true to the term. The in-depth research and transparent approach to its process has resulted in a reputation for the gold standard of semi-custom yacht construction. In the new year the shipyard will begin the second hull of the series, regardless of whether the first has yet found an owner – a further testament to the confidence the shipyard and the management team has in the concept of the Amels Limited Editions.Plvs Vltra yacht by Amels in Yalikavak, TurkeyPhoto: Charl van Rooy / SuperYacht TimesEvolution

The first Amels Limited Editions, the 52.35-metre Amels 171 Deniki – the yacht that sparked the long-term relationship with British designer Tim Heywood – was launched in 2007. After the 180 came the 65.5-metre Amels 212 Ventum Maris (Ex. Imagine),  which then evolved into the 220. In 2016 Plvs Ultra, the first 74-metre Amels 242 was launched, and in 2021 came the 60-metre Amels 200, which evolved from the Amels 188  Volpini 2, the world’s first tier III compliant yacht. The final model in the range by Heywood, the third of which is currently under construction. 

“We have been hugely successful with Tim Heywood, a legendary designer who has a close relationship with us and has designed more than 40 boats,” says Adriaan Roose. “But for the new Limited Editions we were looking for a fresh approach, in both the design and the platform” Amels 80 yacht unveilingMarketing a model

In March, Amels unveiled the Amels 80 in a theatre in Amsterdam, a major diversion from the industry’s traditional approach of announcing new models. Thomas Weiringa, Marketing Director of the shipyard, felt it was important to diversify the approach to marketing the model and to create a sense of momentum around the concept of the Limited Editions. The team coined the phrase ‘Evolution is our Nature’ during the release, which encapsulates the ethos of the company and its yachts. During the event the shipyard held a private Q&A for current yacht owners and potential future clients, some of whom had been involved in the early stages of development.

This article was originally published in September 2022 of Issue 1 of the How to Build It magazine. You can download the entire magazine for free here.

© SuperYacht Times B.V. // All rights reserved.