How Innovation Changed the Superyacht Garage Experience

By George Bains

The superyacht industry is one in which innovation thrives, where creative problem-solving sets new precedents and facilitates evolution in design. This is evident in the intriguing story behind the development of hydraulic systems in bespoke tenders, involving design legend Jon Bannenberg, Lurssen, and Vikal International.

With the proliferation of large yachts from the late nineties, designers began to expand the ‘beach club’ concept to create more outdoor space for owners enjoy their surroundings. This presented one practical challenge for yachts and their crew. The tender garage was and still often is seamlessly joined to the beach club, which can be problematic when storing large tenders in tight spaces, requiring the use of cradles built into the decks.

Not only can deploying and retracting tenders be a time-consuming process in such conditions, but there can also be risks involved for operational and crew safety, with crew in some cases needing to crawl on all fours to tie or untie the load from cradles.

In 2002, Australian custom tender manufacturer Vikal International, working with the ‘Godfather of Modern Yacht Design’, Jon Bannenberg, devised a simple, effective and cheap solution to the issue.

The idea was conceived during the build of 138m Lurssen superyacht Rising Sun, which Bannenberg had designed. While the yacht was in construction, Vikal developed a tender with an inbuilt hydraulic chock system to allow for better and more convenient use of the tender garage space.

Using hydraulic rams made in 316 stainless steel driven by an onboard DC hydraulic power pack, the legs could be deployed and retrieved in a matter of minutes. This would ensure that the garage space could be clear when the tender is out, and would reduce the operational complexity and risk for crew members.

Jon Bannenberg presented Vikal’s mock-up of the docking leg receptable to Larry Ellison, the owner of Rising Sun, who agreed to have the feature installed. Vikal and Bannenberg then began to work on the critical deck fitting mock-up.

Not long after, Jon was found to have a brain tumour and his decline thereafter was rapid. In the aftermath of Jon’s passing, the Lurssen order for the Vikal Limousine was cancelled. It would have been the first Vikal Limo to be fitted with the hydraulic system. 

The innovation of the hydraulic docking legs has since become a sought-after feature of Vikal’s larger bespoke tenders, and had been delivered for 14 superyachts including Anastasia, Nirvana, Barbara, Mayan Queen, Pelorus, and Ecstasea.

The application and efficacy of the hydraulic docking system remains very relevant to today. It is an easy choice to install for large tenders on superyachts, allowing the garage space to be utilised when the tenders are out and embracing crew safety.

The solution is a simpler and cheaper option than collapsible hydraulic cradles, which are built into the decks of some yachts. Removing the need for cradles, there is nothing to store away when the tender is out, and the deck space can be clear.

This even extends beyond its use in the garage, as thanks to the inbuilt cradling system, the tender is self-sufficient whether stored on-board or on dry land.

It is examples of innovative approaches to design such as this which ensure the experience on water is seamless both for owners and for crew. For over 25 years now, Vikal International has led the way in delivering bespoke, full-custom tenders for the largest superyachts in the world. This approach and attentiveness to enhancing the experience of owners has been at the heart of every project. You can read more about Vikal’s unique designs here.  

By George Bains