A salute to yacht designers

The Abu Dhabi Yacht Show comes to Yas Island from February 25 - 27.

Having had the great good fortune to spend some time on friends' yachts in the Mediterranean, I can vouch for two things: no other way of spending your leisure time comes anywhere close to the sense of freedom, comfort and relaxation; and once you have spent a week on a large yacht you will never again dismiss them as mere show-off status symbols. The Abu Dhabi Yacht Show later this week, and Dubai International Boat Show next month, will each host at least 20 large yachts - giving us the perfect opportunity in this edition to explore what goes into their design and the making of their interiors.

Described by one leading designer as "the 21st-century equivalent of a stately home, for their owners", large yachts are unlike houses in many respects. In this rarefied world, no two yachts are the same; every one is designed from scratch, with every component - from the stair rails to the bed linens - made to order. And because there is no precedent to look at, the level of trust between designers and their clients is unimaginable.

While all design is about more than just aesthetics, yacht design has the "form follows function" mantra at its core - and contemporary yacht design is embracing it more than ever, creating yachts that respond directly to what their owners want to use them for and how they want to live on board. Designed from the inside, out, as it were - with some very exciting and intelligently thought out results.

And, finally, yachts on this scale are tremendously complex animals. All of the systems, all of the spaces and everything the owner may want on board has to be fitted into a three-dimensional space that is completely inflexible. While one designer offers the evocative analogy that fitting all of those things in is like deciding what you want to take on a trip and packing it all into your suitcase, there's a big difference: a yacht's hull cannot stretch even a single millimetre. All that and beautiful, too? I salute the yacht designers.

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