What Does the Future Hold for Motor & Sailing Yacht Design?

By Jenna Mehdi

Motor and sailing yachts have traditionally been seen as two polarised halves of the yachting industry. However, with designers seeing more motor clients enquiring on sailing projects, builders launching ever-larger sailing superyachts, and the introduction of measures such as a dedicated sailing yacht section at the Monaco Yacht Show, that divide may be beginning to close. Malcolm McKeon’s latest concept, drawn in collaboration with Mark Whiteley Design and developed by Feadship, is an interesting example of this crossover.

Best known for his work on performance sailing yachts such as RIBELLE and LIARA, 77m / 252ft motor yacht MM770 is something of a deviation from Malcom McKeon’s stellar sailing portfolio. He explains in a recent conversation with Superyachts.com how he was approached with the brief by an American client, in the months before the pandemic hit. 

“We were able to drive the design, so the sailing yacht-inspired elements of it come from us.”

MM770’s exterior profile - featuring cascading wooden runs folding over each of the five decks fore and aft - is a clear nod to McKeon’s sailing heritage. And this is not the only area in which the designer’s sailing expertise impacted the design. 

“One of the challenges when designing sailing yachts, and something we hear a lot from our sail boat clients, is that you don’t get a lot of privacy from crew,” explains McKeon, “The idea with this design was to put the owner of the boat on the upper two decks. We put the bridge on the main deck so the owner could have full use of that upper deck, then he has direct access to the flybridge too.

There is no doubt, the designer goes on to tell us, that motor yacht designs enjoy much more space and flexibility of volume - something McKeon and Whiteley have both clearly taken full advantage of on MM770. Equipped with a spacious beach club, storage for two tenders, glass-bottomed swimming pool, helipad, 14-seat cinema and even a wine cellar, MM770’s endless amenities are a distinct advantage of motor yacht design.

“It was definitely refreshing, being able to play more with the space,” says McKeon. “Unlike a sail boat where there are tighter spaces, which are required to maintain a low centre of gravity plus space considerations for sailing systems, a motor yacht provides more design freedom.”

One of MM770’s defining features is her main deck aft, which forms an expanded beach club terrace at anchor and folds up to secure the transom underway. This emphasis on indoor-outdoor living is one unifying factor held in common by both motor and sailing yacht owners. And, as McKeon goes on to explain, previously held differences between the two are increasingly beginning to fade, as large superyacht builders continue to push boundaries.

“I think as sailing yachts are getting bigger and bigger we are able to provide that level of luxury, space for toys, water sports equipment, amenities as seen on motor yachts. We’ll definitely be seeing more and more large sailing yachts being built in years to come.”

As for the designer himself? From unveiling the world’s largest sloop at 85m just last year, to MM770’s ‘best of both’ style, Malcolm McKeon continues to consolidate his status as a truly versatile architect and stylist with each new project unveiled. 

As for where changing industry trends and client demographics will take him next, we look forward to finding out. 

"We were able to drive the design, so the sailing yacht-inspired elements of it come from us."

Malcolm McKeon, Designer


"We were able to drive the design, so the sailing yacht-inspired elements of it come from us."

Malcolm McKeon, Designer
By Jenna Mehdi
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