One of the most visible pieces of equipment carried by a yacht is its tender. It is therefore no surprise that many owners are eschewing production tender models and opting for more custom designs to complement their yacht. So are custom tenders becoming the norm?
Vripack agrees that bespoke tenders are a growing trend. “Our customers are highly influenced by their fast moving environment,” they say. “New techniques result in disruptive innovations which form standards that not only challenge our industry but also the industries around us. The need for personalisation or the increase in custom design demands is just a logical result of these developments.”
Hodgdon Yachts, which built the two 8.5 metre custom tenders for the 62 metre Feadship Sea Owl, believe that the growing numbers of custom tenders is having a snowball effect. “As more custom tenders appear on the scene more owners and their teams are more aware of the benefits of a custom build,” said Ed Roberts, Head of Sales and Marketing for Hodgdon Yachts.
Many tender clients are working with the designer of their yacht to ensure complementary styling between the two vessels. One example is Andrew Winch Yacht Design, which designed both Sea Owl and her accompanying tenders. “In recent years, the market is moving more towards custom made tenders,” says the Andrew Winch yacht design team. “Clients want unique designs to complement their superyacht.”
Gunnar Vikungar, Managing Director of Vikal, is well placed to comment on the custom tender market, with Vikal having delivered 54 custom builds over the last 24 years. Vikungar is cautious about the increasing use of the custom label, believing that there are still very few fully custom tender projects. “I do not think the overall tender market is moving in a custom direction; custom is a loose and much abused term,” he explains. ”My personal view is that a custom tender is a one off built from from original bespoke moulds, although a production builder who modifies his tenders to suit a client may also call his tenders 'custom'.”
How involved clients are in the design of a custom tender can vary. “Our clients are from a broad church and their involvement varies greatly, from the client trusting his advisors to take care of business to intimate involvement in every stage of design,’ says Vikungar. But regardless, “with tenders increasingly being seen as ‘mini yachts’, they [owners] want to ensure the design of the exterior and interior is unique,” says the Andrew Winch yacht design team.
When dealing with custom requests, a key challenge for designers is to marry form and function.“Often it becomes a very involved process to make reality of an idea that looks good in a rendering,” says Roberts. “Tenders have to do more than function; they have to fit into the mothership,” says the Andrew Winch yacht design team. “They are the showpiece of a yacht at dock side: the first point of boarding the mothership and they have to fit into the dock.”
If the functionality of the tender is too neglected the end result may be a tender that is wholly impractical. “An owner may be pleased to have his tastes truthfully represented in the tender but the crew charged with daily operations will quietly resent the builder,” says Vikungar. “They will look for ways to use the tender as little as possible and on large yachts where they will have a number of tenders at their disposal they quietly vote with their feet.”
One positive effect of the increased importance of tenders to the overall look of the yacht is that the tender design is increasingly being addressed much more early on in yacht build programs. “In the old days the tender was often an afterthought,” says Roberts. “Now it is more common that we get called in early to collaborate on the size, capacity and configuration of the tender bay; we wish more programs would recognise the importance of involving us early in the process.”
Perhaps the best way to answer the question of whether the tender market is moving towards customisation is that while truly custom tender projects are still in the minority we are certainly seeing increased customisation of tenders. And with the tender such an important part of the overall yacht, the positive side effects of early design involvement and keener consideration from owners and their build team can only be a good thing.
This article is featured in the fourth issue of the SuperYacht Times newspaper. Subscriptions are available here.