Part 1: Women in Build

By Anna Solomon

Although today’s yachting climate is still largely male-dominated, leading names in brokerage, design and build are increasingly female. We are running a series about influential and inspiring women across these sectors, who, despite being outnumbered, have risen to the top of their field.

This week, we are thinking about women in yacht building. We have been fortunate enough to speak with Angela Pernsteiner, Managing Partner at Dominator Yachts, and Marcela de Kern Royer, Business Development Consultant at Icon Yachts, who provide us with fantastic insight about the life of a female tycoon in a predominantly male industry.

For Angela, the allure of yacht building is “being able to work with such a diverse range of individuals, from the owners to the skilled craftsmen in the shipyard”. The superyacht industry is utterly unique in the nature of its clientele, and Angela considers working in proximity to such diversity both a joy and a privilege. Another draw for the Dominator CEO is the overseeing of a project from nascent concept to “beautiful, complex vessel”. For Angela, the process of taking a yacht from conceptualisation to creation is worth the blood, sweat and tears: “Every time one of our Dominators touches the water, it is testament to what our team has achieved after days and nights of energy-consuming negotiations.”

As a Managing Partner, Angela makes it her business to be acquainted with every boat that crosses the Dominator threshold. “Each project is unique, but there are some very special ones,” she says, “The Ilumen range revolutionized not only our brand, but the entire industry.” The Ilumen series, which is in many ways Angela’s brainchild, did so by establishing Dominator as a builder of bespoke yachts able to accommodate the most intricate of owner requests. This made to measure approach is something on which Ilumen prides itself: “Every project will involve a variety of tastes, features and preferences. Nothing is standardized” Angela explains.

As Business Development Consultant at Icon Yachts, Marcela de Kern Royer joins Angela in the ranks of powerful women in build. Coming from a finance background, where a lot of the work is ‘abstract’, Marcela cites the “evolution of a project” as one of things that most attracted her to the sector: “Being a yacht builder is exciting because you live through the progression of the yacht, you can actually see it and feel it." Marcela also expresses her enjoyment in meeting and working with the eclectic group of individuals that must come together to create a superyacht: “There are so many people involved in a build,” she says, “It is amazing to hear their different and unique perspectives.”

Marcela dispenses with diplomacy when quizzed on her professional highlights, naming Project Ragnar as her favourite yacht. The 68m icebreaker conversion is a project representing something distinctly different, and a watershed moment for a number of reasons. “Firstly, I am passionate about conversions because there are some existing hulls out there, it makes sense to ‘recycle’ them. It has a better story, plus you save a substantial amount of time and money,” Marcela explains. As well as the excitement of breathing new life into an old vessel, Ragnar has an intriguing composition: “The client wanted a hardy exterior and a super luxury interior, I think the contrast is impressive.”

Finally, the demand for projects such as Ragnar signifies an interesting shift within the industry towards “experiences that money can’t buy.” The era of champagne parties in St Barts and St Tropez is arguably dwindling, with an adventurous new demographic of owners looking to try something new. “People are favouring more extreme places,” Marcela elaborates, “Gaining life experiences such as whale watching safari, heli-skiing or having lunch on an iceberg is way more rewarding!”

In Part 2, discussion turns to Angela and Marcela’s respective experiences of being a woman in their field, and how this has impacted them professionally.

"Being a yacht builder is exciting because you live through the progression of the yacht, you can actually see it and feel it."

Marcela de Kern Royer, Business Development Consultant at Icon Yachts

"Being a yacht builder is exciting because you live through the progression of the yacht, you can actually see it and feel it."

Marcela de Kern Royer, Business Development Consultant at Icon Yachts
By Anna Solomon
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