From the masthead
Will cool rule with Gen Tech?
It’s been a long time since I’ve walked a Monaco Yacht Show and heard more positive buzz. In the fall of 2008, dark clouds gathered over the place and pitched camp. Skies began to clear a bit in 2013, but the 2014 edition saw a mood as bubbly as the crowd’s liquid refreshment of choice. With world economies showing lazy but tangible recoveries, yachting has become cool again.
One thing I observed cruising around the main harbor during the show was the variety of shapes and sizes of yachts on display. There were, of course, dozens of white trideck motoryachts, but there also were a number of mold-breakers with interesting and innovative hull shapes, deck layouts and propulsion systems. It made me wonder what’s driving this shift and what that harbor will look like in a decade or two when today’s young tech prodigies take to the waves.
I served on a panel at the 2013 Monaco show where the discussion focused on the future of yachting. A central point of discussion was how the 20- and 30-year-old wunderkinds banking 10 figures on tech and information acquisitions and IPOs might affect the sport. The takeaway was that this group of young folks likely will drive yachts and yacht design in directions that will diverge from the paths their tech mogul antecedents like Larry Ellison and Paul Allen have taken. How might their values and preferences affect yacht design and use?
For these billion-dollar babies, particularly the American-bred versions, social responsibility is not only a value; it’s a badge. Giving to environmental, social, scientific and public health causes is something their peers expect of them. They also appear less inclined to advertise their success with material goods. They likely won’t engage in the mine’s-bigger arms race. I’ll wager their yachts probably won’t be white, and they certainly won’t be white-bread. Cool will rule.
Given their fondness for the outdoors (most do come out of their basements and garages eventually), the current rise in popularity of beach clubs and other outdoor-oriented guest spaces on yachts likely will increase pace. They might be more attracted to some of the concepts that have emerged during the economic downturn that favor deeper connections with the sea and sun. Tricked-out tenders for side trips, wildlife viewing and shore-side recreation will be in greater demand.
Interiors naturally will be contemporary. Mahogany and teak are politically and environmentally dubious— and way too old school. Their sensitivity to the environment might drive engine builders and hull designers toward greater gains in efficiency.
I imagine the group will be reaching farther afield to “cooler” destinations than the Caribbean and Mediterranean venues. Cue the penguins. Given the demographic’s manic lifestyles, charter may have greater appeal.
These folks are products of, and enthusiastic proponents of, technology. It defines them in business, in personal relationships and in their vision of the future. Their yachts will necessarily need to be tricked to the hilt with the latest and most sophisticated communications and entertainment equipment.
If nothing else, I expect when I’m puttering around in Monaco’s Port Hercules in 20 years—assuming I’m not in assisted living or on the boat to Valhalla—I’ll see some really cool yachts tied up stern-to. I can’t wait.