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Tony Castro on Future-Proof Superyacht Design

The future-proof and world-ready explorer Arcadia, drawn by Tony Castro
The future-proof and world-ready explorer Arcadia, drawn by Tony Castro

With more intricately styled superyachts emerging than ever before, the designers of the yachting industry are facing an interesting challenge; turning ambitious demand into future-proof products. With this in mind, Tony Castro talks to us about the changing landscape of timeless design.

The idea of timeless design is a subjective one, but nonetheless built on a solid foundation of function over form. Tony Castro, a designer with tenure in the field of both design and engineering, offers his thoughts on the next ten years of design.

What does it take to draw future-proof designs in the 70 - 100-metre plus market?

To be future proof the designs cannot be too “fashionable” as fashion goes out of fashion. More importantly, they have to be designed in order to work well, to be maintained easily, to be operated safely and again easily. Rarely do we get to read the opinions of captain and crews about their yachts. They fear to lose their jobs so the truth about many of the yachts designed in recent years does not get out to the public. I hear privately many of their stories, some of which I am not surprised are kept quiet, but the media and the Industry as a whole continuously push wild designs as the thing to have and the clients believe them.

Your concepts take a futuristic approach to the modern motor yacht, what do you see in terms of stylistic evolution for yachts emerging in ten to twenty years’ time?

The trends most often appear as a result of a need by the Brokers, Shipyards and Designers to offer something different, they are not always better or even more efficient or economic and are driven by the need to generate a sale. Of course, sometimes there are genuine advances in systems and how the designs are conceived, but the styling has a major effect on the success of a design.

The need to create new designs and satisfy the demand from future owners will keep the style moving onwards. I am not sure where we will be in 20 years time. There will certainly be some examples of 100% electric propulsion for sure as we see in the commercial boats already and other mechanical systems.

Style wise the sensible designs will continue to make the users more and more in contact with the sea, so an emphasis on styling features that assist in the enjoyment of spending time in your yacht. Enjoy the sea, enjoy the surroundings. I do fear we are on for more “floating architecture” influences however and the appetite for “ Spectacularism”, fueled by the media, is unfortunately bound to continue.

Is ‘Spectacularism’ powerful enough to overtake the established, or traditional approach to design as generations of owners change?

I think that basically, the “professional” approach will remain similar because in many respects a yacht has to conform to certain rules and principles. Unless the lifestyles or customs of our clients will change. Either way, the designers will try to respond to any changes in the nature of the way owners want to use their yachts.

What projects are you working on, or you’ve seen, that might prove that rule?

Although I see many yacht designs in the magazines and Boat Shows you need to know the yacht intimately to make a proper judgment and voice your opinion. I admit I am often critical of what I see in magazines these days. Clearly many designers don’t have enough experience to be designing. Market-wise going forwards, currently we see yachts from 55m to 65m as an area where demand will increase, but that is a personal opinion.

The market is already full of 40 to 50-metre designs of every shape and form and the competition is fierce. Many boats are built on spec and sold for possibly their build cost so the shipyards are not making enough money and there are many. I would guess 60% of the yachts being built are on spec, most likely. Generally speaking, there are too many players after a fairly small market.

What’s next for Castro design moving into 2018 and beyond?

We are reluctant to join in with “Spectacularism”. That may be because we are also Naval Architects, sailors and engineers so we have experience, we have been there and done that, and understand things that pure, often young, designers or stylists cannot possibly understand enough of. We now even have Car designers mixing in. We would like to be allowed to design sensible yachts, elegant, timeless, future proof, yachts that retain as much of their value as possible and don’t disappoint their owners or drive their captains and crew crazy.

This is a tall order as the choice is so often made purely on whether an owner likes the styling or not. We have a 70/73m under study that follows those principles I outlined, and hope someone will see how much better off he will be with one of our designs, beautifully elegant and yet functional.

I do fear we are on for more “floating architecture” influences however and the appetite for “Spectacularism”, fueled by the media, is unfortunately bound to continue
Tony Castro - Superyacht Designer & Naval Architect