Dutch design studio Cor D. Rover was thrown into the spotlight of the superyacht world last year with the completion of one of their largest custom projects to date: Benetti’s 67-metre Seasense. A vessel that made waves at her official debut in Monaco (with that magnificent, enormous pool that dominates the main deck aft a particular talking point), we immediately wanted to know more about the design team’s first collaboration with Benetti. Getting to know Cor D. Rover, however, offered a lot more than just one fantastic exterior, and we soon discovered that Cor and his team were some of the most passionate producers of true innovation in superyacht design, boasting scores of unique patented inventions. Establishing the studio 20 years ago after working with Frank Mulder for a number of years on projects including the super-fast boats Octopussy and Moonraker, the past two decades have seen a number of Cor D. Rover designed yachts; seven Mondomarines, a 39 and a 45-metre Hakvoort, a 43 and a 47-metre at Dutch yacht builders, and a successful series with Azimut and Horizon - to name but a few. But what’s really interesting about Cor D. Rover is this heavy focus on innovation and technology: a seemingly tireless pursuit which Cor himself attributes to a technical education and a voracious enthusiasm for discovering the undiscovered. The difficulty, of course, is actually seeing these innovations come to fruition and becoming more than just a feasible concept on a piece of paper.
The barriers to implementing something new and different are clear and comprehensible: “Change takes time. It has to be step by step,” Cor agrees. But regardless of the challenge, Cor and his team are still just as excited about the possibility of seeing these inventions come to life, and steadfastly confident that - someday soon - it will happen. Sitting in Cor D. Rover’s very cold but very beautifully Dutch office in December, the enthusiasm for cutting-edge solutions and technology was contagious, and it wasn’t long before the conversation turned away from the slow progress of change within yachting and towards the exponential growth of technology in our day to day lives. “The incredible thing about technology is that before you know it exists, you wouldn’t think about needing it,” Cor says. “Then you get, say, a smartphone as an example, and it soon becomes such an ingrained part of your life that you almost can’t remember what it was like before. When we first started we were drawing everything by hand, and I remember when we first got an Apple computer, it was so different. But now it’s an essential part of the way we work. Technology changes everything.”
As a designer with a big focus on developing new technology and solutions, what in your opinion is the single most important innovation over the past few years?
I think the real innovation of the past few years is in the use of glass, especially the improvement of the strength of glass. Venus is an impressive example, and our Crystal Beach concept is also a great example of new possibilities with innovative glass solutions. The Crystal Beach features a tinted glass cover and glass side panels to create a light-filled, temperature-controlled space untouchable by the elements. The surfaces retract into the superstructure when you do not need them, very quickly and seamlessly. We developed the concept with Fincantieri and, as it stands, it’s of course not the cheapest feature in the world, but we’re working on a few tweaks to overcome that!Your Sky Terrace also involves a pretty unique incorporation of glass. Can you tell us more?
Well, the Sky Terrace is an integrated mast with a glass section, designed with mid-sized yachts of around 40-metres in mind. You push a button and - as simple as that - the whole mast folds down and becomes a 13 square metre panoramic terrace, with the top of the mast transformed into the sun awning. The glass panels offer this incredible view of the ocean below. It’s a big wow-effect. This was created 8 years ago. People have seen it and think it’s fantastic, but it’s very hard to get it integrated into a new design.
Have you found that challenge with any other of your inventions?
Yes definitely - one of the most recent is probably on board Seasense. We invented the patented swimming pool of ours around the same time that we were working on the concept of Seasense, so I guess the newness of the invention was one of the reasons the owner didn’t go for it, ultimately. But basically, the pool appears like a normal pool, with a normal up/down floor. Normally, you have the free surface effect with pools on yachts - the water sloshes around once the pool is sealed off and has effectively changed into a tank. Our pool is filled up to 100% with fresh water from the tanks. Then the movement stops, the water is locked in, and it’s now a solid block of ballast weight which is great for seakeeping.
With this pool, the pool itself turns into the dump tank, which means you can make a swimming pool even on a much smaller yacht because a dump tank is usually about 30 cubic metres of volume that you have to put somewhere in the bilge. A lot of small yachts do not have that space, so it typically works very well on those smaller vessels. But regardless of size, the biggest advantage is that if you come into a bay, you move down the floor and the owner can swim within five minutes. Normally it’s 45 minutes. That’s something for owners - time is valuable and precious. I really think the swimming pool deserves to be built. We’re hoping it will be on the next one - a few next ones!
The Sky Terrace, the swimming pool and the Crystal Beach concept are all patented. Why do you patent your inventions?
Honestly, there is so much copying and stealing in this industry. Sometimes we want to protect our ideas, so we patent them. Now with the Sky Terrace, there is nothing new about a platform that comes down, but what is new is that we do it on the very top of the boat. The mast is a lot of lateral area, and we have patented this not as a fun platform to watch the Grand Prix - which it certainly is as well - but as a stability device. You bring a lot of windage area down, and you bring the weight of the mast down, so stability is improved. That is how we were able to patent it - you have to have a technical innovation, not just a cosmetic one.
Of course, change is slow for a multitude of reasons, but what do you see as the future of yachting?
It’s very difficult to make huge steps - it takes a long time for change to take place. Look at Tesla, they’re disrupting the whole car industry but it’s taking tens of years. The superyacht industry is even slower. When technology like 3D printing really kicks off, you’re going to see a whole different way of producing things across all industries. It’s phenomenal technology. It’s going to happen in the next 10 or 20 years in our business - especially with parts that are not so stressed in terms of strength, in the superstructure for example, or of course the interior.
Sooner than that though: hybrid propulsion. We started offering hybrid propulsion on the Azimut Magellano 10 years ago, and only one client went for the hybrid propulsion solution because it was a slightly more expensive option. So clients have to get used to it first, but it will happen one day that we stop burning fossil fuels and we will live green. Everyone in the industry should look at what they can do to contribute in that respect.
What advice would you give to young designers looking to do something completely different?
Firstly, it’s never wasted time figuring out how things work. You see mind-blowing designs in the industry, but a lot of them are completely unfeasible. Young designers should think outside the box and come up with crazy new ideas because that sparks other ideas. The only thing is: don’t sell it to the owner before someone sensible has looked at it. You deserve to have someone next to you guiding you… maybe it will not be as wild as you started out, but it will be feasible. Every idea deserves an open mind, but do your homework first.
What stands out for you as one of your most innovative designs?
The one we’re bidding on now - a 50-metre plus - has some very cool features, and combines a few of our patents on board, but obviously, it is confidential for now. The other interesting innovation we have is for the Van der Valk BeachClub line, the first of which is scheduled for delivery later this year. We have no engine room in the boat itself; that’s unique for a smaller boat. We’re currently building the 600 and 600 Fly, and we’re talking with a client for the 30-metre version.
The innovation on this one is the fact that there is no engine room inside the vessel itself. We still take our combustion air from above the main deck but have the engine room completely outside the vessel under the swim platform. It means that the noise is not within the boat. It’s quite technical, but we went on this technical journey to give the owner an open feeling. When you’re on the lower deck and you are standing on the bow, you can see straight through the boat- there’s not even a collision bulkhead. You can just see the island or the open ocean ahead of you with completely uninterrupted views.
Finally, can you tell us anything else on your drawing boards right now?
Well, sadly one of our biggest projects right now is obviously confidential… but I can tell you that it’s big and it’s slender! We take pride in doing small boats and big boats. We are part of a big 140-metre refit project which is unfortunately on hold right now, and the small boats are just as exciting to us as well. Everything on our drawing boards right now has a lot of outside space. Seasense is the first really big one with that vision - I mean, why sit inside? You get out to sea and you want to sit inside? Of course not, you want to smell the ocean, feel the sunshine on your skin. For us, we’re passionate about boats, we’re passionate about what we do, and we’re passionate about discovering things that are yet to exist. That’s what really excites us all here at Cor D. Rover.
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