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By Ed Fry
FRY Associates, Inc. (FRYCO)


Custom designed yachts are created for specific purposes such as day yachting or worldwide cruising. Under ideal circumstances, the naval architect is given a "fixed set of requirements and limitations" along with a reasonable budget and is allowed the necessary time to generate a design ideally suited for the purpose. Ideal circumstances only exist in movies and fairy tales. Most often the client wants to know the program cost before preliminary requirements are established and expects the design process to take only a few days.

The creation of a MegaYacht is more complicated than most other types of boats. A MegaYacht is a working sculpture, a thing of beauty, a public statement, a home away from home, a pleasure to cruise, a place to entertain and, more often than not, a Charter Yacht. With these constraints, the naval architect must be totally involved in the design process. He must understand the priority of the owner's requirements and have the freedom to integrate them in an original custom design keeping within the state of the art. The challenge of the naval architect is to understand the environment and to be innovative without violating the scientific boundaries.

Undertaking the interface of all the needs, wants and desires of the owner and his family/friends with the practical considerations of crew requirements and the principles of design requires strict discipline from all involved. The owner must clearly state his requirements and if in doubt say so, and ask for options.

The naval architect creates the molded shape of the exterior, giving the yacht a dynamic visual image appropriate for her owner, size and arena of operation. He determines the hull design, speed/powering, comfort and stability, as well as the interior arrangement of machinery and compartments and the designs for mechanical and electrical systems.

Depending on the size of the yacht, the owner may commission an interior designer to detail the quarters, plan furnishings, develop lighting, choose colors, fabrics and decoration, or all these chores may be carried out by the naval architect, or the owner. Usually projects over 30m (100’) will have an interior designer (hopefully one with yacht experience).

We have had clients who required two dozen or more preliminary designs and have spent over two years deciding exactly what they want, while others were quite pleased to proceed, with minor modifications, to the first preliminary design. This has nothing to do with experience, nor does it indicate lack of ability or interest. Every client is different and each has unique requirements, some prefer to leave most decisions to the naval architect and be involved only in the basic space planning, while others want to be involved in every detail. With good communication, either way is okay, providing that the naval architect is allowed the necessary time to detail the design and the client takes the time to study and approve the design before construction is started.

It is not important how long it takes the owner to be satisfied with the design. It is paramount to the rest of the process that he be committed to his decision so all possible changes are made on the drawing board and not in the shipyard. Starting construction without complete design reduces the options for working out details, increases the probability of mistakes, increases the construction time and will inevitably blow the budget or force unnecessary compromises to maintain the budget.

To make the creation of your dream a pleasant experience instead of a nightmare, there are several simple rules to follow. In fact, they are so simple that they are often thought unnecessary and ignored. The justifiably proud owner of the 160' MegaYacht "Eviva", standing on the bow at her christening, declared: "Discipline is worth the investment." That phrase sums up the attitude that must be applied to MegaYacht design and construction, if one expects the best return for the investment of time and money.

The following applies to the design and construction of a contemporary MegaYacht whether built of steel, aluminum or composite. If you are considering pushing the state of the art then add to the below as required to properly plan, engineer (and test if necessary) that part of the program that is not proven. Unless cost is no object, one should not undertake to design and build a MegaYacht on a tight schedule. If the owner wants a boat quickly he has two good options, buy an existing vessel or accept refit of an existing vessel.

Rule 1. Choose your naval architect carefully.

You will be working together for more than two years. Be sure he listens and understands what you want; after all he is designing the yacht for you, not for himself. At the same time the naval architect must consider all the latest MSA and USCG rules that will affect construction, future use and/or resale of the yacht.

Rule 2. Commit to discipline in planning and execution.

Always be sure someone on your team is planning the work and scheduling the execution. Otherwise, the work will be late or not completed to first-class standards. Remember to be sure that everyone has input to the planning and schedule; that way they share the commitment to accomplish the goals.

Rule 3. Require at least three preliminary designs and multiple choices for other decisions.

By giving yourself alternatives you are forced to compare the attributes of each. More often than not, you will find that by combining several ideas the result will be the best plan for you.

Rule 4. Specify every detail that is important to you and/or your designer.

If everything is specified, there are no surprises and all the interface requirements and supporting systems can be considered well in advance. The contract specifications can be drafted to include everything and thereby avoid delays and unexpected expense during construction.

Rule 5. Hire an Interior Designer before you contract with a Builder.

If your project is one where you feel you want an interior designer or the naval architect suggests you need an interior designer, then the interior designer should be retained before the building contract is priced signed. The interior designer needs time to study your requirements, make suggestions/changes and to give input to the contract specifications. The time is well spent and will save you changes, cost and delay, not to mention the fact that the interior designer will have the freedom to give you choices without a production force waiting for the answer before they can proceed with the job.

Rule 6. Choose your MegaYacht Builder with care.

This is one case where "cheapest is seldom the best". A large percentage of the world's shipyards are well run, properly financed and staffed with experienced personnel; the fact is, there is no shortage of well qualified, competitive yards. Beware of the deal that is too good to be true; many a bargain hunting buyer has ended up owning the shipyard or suffering substantial loss.

Rule 7. Have your Designer(s) evaluate the building proposals.

If a naval architect and interior designer are both involved, they should meet, compare notes and make joint or parallel reports to the owner. It is too easy for the owner to get caught up in the excitement of the moment and sign a contract that is loaded with potential extras.

Rule 8. Do not accept the Builder's construction contract and do not let your corporate or family attorney kill a good deal.

When you sign a MegaYacht construction contract, you must consider all the good things you want and all the bad things that can happen to you for the next two or three years and then add one year for warranty beyond delivery. This adds up to a four year plus commitment and lots can happen in three years. The contract must protect all parties: with the international nature of yacht building, the construction contract is an important document and demands full consideration. Start with the builder's proposed contract and let a practical attorney re-draft only those parts that need changes to protect you. An experienced naval architect has exposure to contracts all around the world and can be a good source of information for your attorney when he is preparing the construction contract for you.

Rule 9. Trust, but verify your progress payments.

Require photos and documentation of work to be properly completed. If you have any doubts, demand proof of vendor payments on those items for which you have paid the builder. The naval architect or the classification society should certify the builder's invoice for payment. Requiring copies of paid invoices is not unusual.

Rule 10. Inspect work under construction on a regular basis.

Depending on your expertise, physical location of the building yard, experience and reputation of the builder and the complexity of the MegaYacht, the degree of inspection required will vary substantially. The owner, if he has the time and experience, is the best inspector. He knows what he wants and what he is willing to give up in a compromise. Unfortunately, most owners lack the time to carry out such routine matters and they delegate inspection to others. The options are numerous and careful consideration is needed to select the right combination for each project. I suggest you discuss this in detail with your chosen naval architect before delegating your authority.

Rule 11. Do not depend on a Classification Society for all inspection.

Do not fall into the trap of thinking that the classification surveyor is looking after all of your interests. His role of inspection is very narrowly defined by the society rules. The societies are concerned with structure and vital systems, the yacht fit and finish is not their concern. This is a whole other subject, and if requested the author has an article about classification; "What it is and what it is not". Above all else remember the yard is paying the classifications invoices and most inspectors know who is signing their pay check.

Rule 12. Let your NA/ID conduct sea trials and accept the yacht when they are satisfied.

Most builders and often owners are too interested in getting the yacht out of the yard and not interested in correcting details before she is put into service. Please save yourself a lot of grief and time messing with warranty by letting your professionals sea trial your MegaYacht and, when they are satisfied, it is time to sail.

If you and your team will keep these tips in mind when setting up your
design and building program, you should have a lot more fun.
Good Luck.

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3050 Scarlet Oak Pl.

North Fort Myers, FL  

33903-7149, USA 

Ed Fry 


Ed Fry
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FRYCO Turkey
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Mehmet Yurdakul
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