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Powered by passion: a closer look at Claydon Reeves

Written by
Gemma Fottles

Claydon Reeves is probably run by the most down to earth guys in the business. Founded by James Claydon and Mike Reeves in 2010 after a largely automotive design education followed by positions in some of Britain’s most prestigious yacht design firms, they are the first to admit that as the (relative) new kids on the block, the world of superyacht design has been an intensely competitive one to enter. With true passion for intelligent, innovative design, however, combined with a tangible faith in the quality of their own work, they’re making their mark. With three superyachts currently in the water bearing their credentials, and another on the way for delivery later this year, it seems inevitable that the nice guys will not, indeed, finish last. We caught up with Reeves in Monaco this year on board Delta One, who shone some light on the passion that powers the duo that is Claydon Reeves.  

Mike and James at SuperYacht Gallery
Mike and James at SuperYacht Gallery 2017


With the studio established seven years ago, tell us about the journey to Claydon Reeves. 

James and I met when we were both working at RWD, where James was largely heading up the exterior design department. Now, 2010 was probably about the worst time to start a yacht design company… but that’s when we had the great idea to start a yacht design company! We started a rather tumultuous few years where we pumped out concept work. It was this itch we had to scratch; we didn’t have a boat, we wanted to get a job, and it gave us a truly unique portfolio. 


After concentrating on establishing your name and creating your back-catalogue, what was the outcome? 

Well, we signed our first project  - an interior on board a big sailing yacht - but I can’t tell you anything about it at all, sadly. The first real eureka moment for us was Solis built at Mulder. It was a new client coming into the new build custom yacht world, a shipyard who was stepping up massively from what they had previously done, and then us, stepping up from relative obscurity. It was the perfect storm and we won the World Superyacht Awards with her in 2016. That ultimately led to our latest project, the 36-metre Delta One. Solis came in at about 315 tonnes at 34-metres, and Delta One comes in at just under 300 tonnes. Another is also under construction for delivery in 2018.Delta One cruising
The Mulder built Delta One


Do you prefer to work on the smaller side of the spectrum?

Interestingly in our careers we’ve been involved with a lot of large boats, but this size of boat is becoming more and more relevant. They are still boats; they’re not an apartment block. The connection to the sea is really evident when you’re on board. Now, you have to be really clever to set that apart from what has come before, and you have to search those little tricks to deliver something really different. On this one we have a transverse tender dock, so you get a six metre tender and a couple of jet skis in there, you get a beach club, full beam master forward, four cabins below deck, just six crew… it’s a tightly wrapped package! We like the big boats, don’t get me wrong, but there’s a real challenge with the smaller boats and we love that. 


Do you see yourself doing more of those larger projects?

I hope so! We did a proposal for a 110-metre with Nobiskrug called Radiance, and it had a lot of the DNA we put into our boats. This one line sheer creating a graceful connection between bow and stern, interesting surfacing… a lot of boats now ultimately all look the same. There’s not a lot of snap to them. You need something that is intriguing, so for us, it’s this one line sheer with the concave surface above, and you get this pooling of light when it hits the hull. Our obsession with light is something that has come from our automotive background.


Another sizable concept is the 90m Linea with Fincantieri. Tell us about that project. 

This came about from a meeting with Fincantieri a few years ago. Linea has the beauty of Italian design, the connectivity of the lines, but then a surprising sun deck sculpture on the top. It sort of straddles it like a spider, and it’s much more architectural than a usual mast - we turned it into something that crowns the boat. We also included a lot of folding balconies which we see often, but these are of an unprecedented scale. There is even one on the sundeck - I mean, why not? It’s totally feasible. There’s a little twist of playful joy in Italian design which we incorporated into the concept. Linea exterior designSYT:

How difficult is it to really create something unique in terms of design?

You can innovate in design terms by literally drawing something different, which is pretty simple… you just unhook yourself from the common thinking about yacht design. I think people are waking up to the idea that boats do not have to look the same as every other boat. If you get a client and a designer who click, these are the great moments where people redefine what is possible. Maltese Falcon, Venus… they’re game changers. 


How exactly do they change the game?

I think these designs show people that it doesn’t have to be a certain way all the time. They open people’s eyes and let people know they can have their own little snowflake. This is why design innovation is important. Until people see it built and realised - like Jubilee or A - they just don’t want to do it. 


Should the superyacht industry invest more in R&D? 

I think that as much as it’s necessary, people do invest in R&D in this industry. The automotive industry has to invest in technological innovation because products and safety are constantly changing. Within yachts, they get a bit more efficient, a bit more effective: relatively small, incremental changes. Yachts are usually a one-off, so there isn’t as strong a need for that real boundary-pushing Tesla moment, where someone upsets the whole thing by introducing something so transformative to the industry. We can make smaller changes, and you can really innovate through design. 


Which Claydon Reeves projects are particularly unique in their design?

Well, one of our main projects is the Aeroboat S6 powered by Rolls-Royce, which we created for our new brand Aeroboat. This is perhaps all of the things we’ve talked about in terms of innovation. It’s the ultimate 65’ day boat for the 21st century. People who own even the largest yachts also quite like day boats. They can be owner operated and if you just want to go out with your friends for a day, you don’t necessarily need your big yacht. The idea we’re pursuing is so far above the current standard.Aeroboat S6 exterior design
Aeroboat S6's Aerostairs platform fully deployed


How so?

Firstly, we’ve managed to incorporate Rolls-Royce engines, transmissions and waterjets, into this boat. So we can officially market the boat as powered by Rolls-Royce, with the iconic double Rs on the boat itself, which is pretty special. We’ve raised the bar and hopefully, it will move the design language on and demonstrate that boats can be shapely, they can have sculptural spaces rather than just big spaces. Boats at 65’ are not usually made with this level of functionality or this degree of quality. 

A big part of the Aeroboat S6 has centred in the thinking that it’s lovely to come into a harbour on a beautiful boat, but when that tiny passerelle unfolds and everyone’s hanging on for dear life, it looks terrifying. On the Aeroboat S6, we have an incredibly intricate, very solid passerelle that unfolds, links up with a folding staircase, and gives you a very elegant transition off the boat. 


When will we see one hit the water?

Summer 2019. It will form part of a bigger range, always with Rolls-Royce products in them. Currently, we have two V10 engines producing around 3,000 hp which equates to 48 knots which is faster than anything in its class, and we go up in size from that, offering something unique every time. We’re very excited about this project and can’t wait to see it become a reality! 

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This article was published in the Innovation Issue of the SuperYacht Times newspaper. Subscribe now to receive your copy straight to your door and never miss another issue.                      

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