Before editing The Superyacht Book, Tony Harris spent a decade as publisher and chief executive officer of Boat International magazine – which is to say that he's no stranger to the world of luxury yachts.
But researching and assembling the tome, published this month by TeNeues, was as much a study on nautical design as it was a reflection on the evolution of luxury.
"A few major developments have happened over the last 10 years," Harris said. "Primarily the boats are getting bigger. Much bigger."
They're also getting greener, he said – lightweight materials such as composites and glass make for sleeker designs and more efficient fuel consumption, so yacht-goers get the double-win of feeling sustainable and spending longer amounts of time sailing between refuels. Harris says yachts are the perfect reflection of societal trends at large.
A change in design
"They're no longer just a five-star hotel on the water – they're more an activity centre," he said, referring to the helipads, movie theatres, submarines, and beach clubs now built into the world's most spectacular boats.
"The experience of spending time on a motor yacht has changed significantly," said Harris. "Ten or 15 years ago, you were looking at the water from over a railing on the deck, as you might do on a cruise ship. Now, yachts have beach clubs right at water level and folding balconies on a lot of the cabins so you can take breakfast with the water right below you – you're truly part of the surroundings."
As a lifelong sailor, Harris's favourite ship in the book is the 170-foot (52 metre) Royal Huisman Elfje – it was designed to look timeless and sail from the tropics to the Arctic and beyond. "She's got a fantastic pedigree from both builder and designer, and she'd be perfect for a round-the-world cruise and at some speed, too," he said.
High rollers on high seas
"A yacht is a very public statement of how successful you are and what you've achieved in life – to commission a yacht like this, you need to have a certain amount of liquid assets to fund not only the build but the running costs. It tends to be a pretty exclusive club. But one of the greatest luxuries that yachting of these sorts provides those people is privacy. It's a very public display of wealth, but it affords the owner a huge amount of privacy that they can't get through renting villas or resorts."
Yacht owners are famously secretive about their identities. But Harris says the book represents "successful fashion entrepreneurs who are reasonably well-known, certainly some tech billionaires, and a number of Russian entrepreneurs." He says most are male – but not all. And the youngest, he estimates, is in their late 30s.
The Superyacht Book is available for purchase here.