As a company, Compass Tenders is efficient, creative, and remarkably self-sufficient. With a sizable, specialist team and state-of-the-art resources, Compass is able to take on pretty much any project - whether in collaboration with an external designer or designed in-house. But it was not always this way.
‘We started out building, repairing and modifying racing yachts based here in the same building - now buildings,’ Richard tells us. ‘Then we got involved with building a tender for the 73m Lurssen yacht Coral Island. Patrick Banfield was the designer and a good friend of mine… he asked me to be involved as the original builders couldn’t deliver the project.’
Richard enjoyed the change of lane, and was keen to secure another contract - which he soon did. But it wasn’t until the delivery of a custom tender for 77m Feadship Tango, which won a series of design awards and gained international publicity for Compass Tenders, that the team was awarded its ‘big break’.
From Tango in 2011 and Madame Gu in 2013, Compass Tenders’ notable custom builds have gone on to include tenders for 110m Feadship Anna, an 87m Lurssen and 90m Oceanco DreAMBoat. And as the projects snowballed, Richard tells us, so did the company.
‘As we expanded, we started to look to bring more and more in-house. That gives us much more flexibility when it comes to building custom,’ Richard says. ‘We now have a well-equipped fabrication shop, run by a great team, making our custom metalwork. We also have someone here who just specialises in roofs, doors and moving parts.’
Apart from upholstery, Compass Tenders is able to carry out every aspect of the tender build process in-house. Not that they always do, Richard hastens to add, but the flexibility this gives them is a huge benefit.
This is because there are various ways Compass Tenders may be involved in a project.
‘It’s a sliding scale,’ Richard says. ‘At one end, we’re working on a project with RWD who are heavily involved with the styling and all aspects of the design. At the other end of the scale are projects where we do all the design in-house, as with the tenders recently built for a new 158m Lurssen and the 90m DreAMboat – the only external input on these were material choices supplied by the motherships’ interior designers.’
When Compass is tasked with designing the custom tender itself, however, Richard and the team have their workflow down to a tee.
The first thing Richard and the team look at is the available stowage on the mothership, including drawings of the tender garage if they are available. This is followed by any renderings or styling information they can gather from the mothership.
Next, the technical details. After developing a suitable hull design, Richard will look at length, beam, lifting weights - all of the necessary considerations for tender building must be established first.
Technicalities confirmed, the team can then get creative.
‘In the case of a limousine tender, we will then look at a coachroof superstructure that takes styling accents from the mothership. We’ll also introduce that style in the hull details, topside windows and to the engine air intake grills.’
For Richard, there is such a thing as being too creative when it comes to custom tender-building, though.
‘We try to avoid the whacky, and steer the process into something that’s ultimately useful. We want to build safe, seaworthy boats that fulfil requirements and operational needs.’
So what has been the ‘whackiest’ request the team has come across? From bulletproofing to digital camouflage, Richard has just about seen it all.
‘We’re always open to new ideas; we have just built a catamaran tender that has massive pop-up stereo speakers - the owner likes to have beach parties, and wanted a mobile DJ deck he could put just off the beach and play music from.’
Similar requests to these, heralding the use of tenders as more than just A to B passenger boats, are signaled by increasingly higher degrees of customisation. The ways in which owners are looking to customise and use their tenders are evolving - and Richard and the team have a front row seat.
‘They’re becoming little adventure boats,’ he says. ‘We’ve definitely seen the effect of COVID on this, with owners looking to stay on the water for much longer and using their tenders as sort of satellite beaches.’
Looking into the crystal ball, Richard shares his predictions for the future of custom tenders.
‘I think limousine tenders will go electric. Their usage is a little more predictable than with open boats, so you should be able to charge them in between trips. We have lots of enquiries about that, and one client at the moment who is very keen so we’re hoping to get that to order this year.
And with the open boats… catamaran tenders are becoming very popular, and we always propose those even if they’re not on the owner’s radar, as they’re just so versatile. They have big platforms for watersports and other activities, and are ideal for owners looking to push the boundaries of custom.’
His final prediction is a more - well, predictable one. With more and more superyachts being ordered, this shipbuilding boom is likely to filter down to Compass with the tenders, who can surely look forward to a busy order book ahead.
What this means for the feats of truly bespoke and intelligent design to emerge from the Compass Tenders shed in the years to come, we look forward to finding out.