Image copyright: Lürssen
Article by The Superyacht Life Foundation
Written by Charlotte Thomas - 15 February 2023
A superyacht may be near the pinnacle of experiences, but there is more to superyachting than just luxury and glamour. From philanthropy to humanitarian endeavour, people remain central, as the inaugural Honours seeks to highlight.
“From technology to science to music to art,” said the late, great Paul Allen, “I’m inspired by those who’ve blurred the boundaries, who’ve looked at the possibilities and said, ‘What if?’” There’s no question that the Microsoft co-founder fell under his own definition of inspirational figures, and not just for his work in building the software titan.
Allen was a confirmed and enthusiastic superyacht nut – he owned three at one point – but to him they were more than just symbols of status or a means to indulge. He looked at the possibilities, asked what if, and used his iconic yacht Octopus both for scientific research and for search-and-rescue missions.
Allen is typical of the ‘other side’ of superyachting, where intrepid owners, crews and industry professionals seek to push boundaries, forge new technologies, and make real difference to people in the real world. There are the owners like Bill Joy, who invested heavily in developing fuel cell technology in the early 2000s when he was building his sailing yacht Ethereal, arguably the first of the new breed of hybrid yachts.
And there are the crews who step up and step in to help with local community projects and with disaster relief – for example Captain Mark Drewelow, founder of YachtAid Global (YAG), says that to date more than 200 yachts and their owners, guests and crews have been involved in YAG’s various humanitarian efforts.
Superyachting itself has its origins in the mid- to late 19th century, when the magnates and industrialists of the day began to enjoy the pleasures that large sailing and racing yachts could bring.
At the turn of the 20th century, however, the development of the diesel engine brought a new type of vessel to the fore – the motor yacht was born. Their classic lines, canoe sterns and bowsprits – typical of the time – heralded a new era of the ‘gentleman’s yacht’. The early, 1908-built 34-metre Jemima F was typical of the type, and she would be joined in the coming four decades by everything from the 136 metre Savarona to yachts for Onassis, JP Morgan, and many, many more.
By the 1950s and 1960s, historic shipyards were turning their hands to creating steel luxury yachts in the 18-30 metre range, with models helping to spark a surge of interest in the ‘moto panfilo’ lifestyle, which opened the doors for more people to access superyachting.
In the 1970s and 1980s, a new breed of owner combined with a new breed of designer – typified by the late, legendary Jon Bannenberg, whose avant garde yachts initiated the transformation of superyachts into what we know them today.
The superyacht industry gathered pace in the 1990s and hasn’t looked back since – it now employs an estimated 250,000 people directly or indirectly all over the world. That’s not all that has changed. With superyacht owners has come an interest in pushing the boundaries of technology, both because many modern superyacht owners themselves hail from technology-based industries and also because owners like to be at the cutting edge of tech and have the resources to invest in its development.
On top of that, there is a growing awareness among superyacht owners and charterers, as well as with the new generations of crew and of industry people, that the coasts, seas and oceans that are central to the superyacht lifestyle are in danger by the impact of a global commercial maritime industry, from bulk carriers to oil tankers to container ships.
It has led to a profound change in mindset, not only in developing more sustainable build methods and operational technologies – which can have far-reaching effects and implementations far beyond superyachting – but also in engagement with ocean conservation and community outreach, from monitoring and protecting marine mammals to helping clear beaches of plastic jetsam.
The history and evolution of the superyacht industry as a whole is a fascinating story, but history is only as relevant as the people who make it. It is why The Superyacht Life Foundation and the Monaco Yacht Show have teamed up to introduce The Honours, sponsored by BWA Yachting, Feadship, Preciosa and RINA, whose sole purpose is to recognise the inspirational people of superyachting and to celebrate the extraordinary things they have done.
Each year, three exceptional people – drawn from a list of potential honourees nominated by their peers across the industry – will receive a Bowsprit award, designed to represent their roles at the leading edge of superyachting. The Honours will be presented during an exclusive, experiential evening on the eve of the Monaco Yacht Show, where the stories of the Honourees will be explored through mini-documentaries, interactive chats, and so much more between the courses of a fine-dining dinner at a unique location.
If you know of someone who you think deserving of a Bowsprit award – an owner, and industry professional or a crew member who has gone above and beyond or who has inspired – to borrow from Allen – by blurring the boundaries, the Honours team would love to hear from you.
Nominations for this year’s Bowsprits are open from now until 18 April 2022.
To make nomination, click here