Quick five questions – Will Christie – Founder of Christie Yachts10th October 2022
Will has some of the most significant new construction and brokerage deals to his name and is a trusted advisor to clients in a complex but exciting superyacht market so we were excited and intrigued to ask him five industry questions.
What are the most ground-breaking recent deliveries for design and why?
People may claim that I am biased, but for me it 100% has to be the 75m Admiral KENSHŌ delivered earlier this year. I was personally involved with this project from its very first conception. The owner, who is a fantastic multi-repeat client of mine wanted to create something truly different and ground-breaking. We looked at hundreds of yachts at yacht shows together, measuring all sorts of elements with a laser measurer! He wanted to understand what made a yacht comfortable and luxurious. To be honest, he opened my eyes as to how conservative a lot of yacht design is. It started one Christmas holidays when we were both at home with more time on our hands. Hand drawn sketches were exchanged on WhatsApp and we had endless calls about what would make the most incredible yacht.
Things he particularly wanted to achieve were high deck head heights, which he correctly said is the biggest measure of comfortable living, and connection with the ocean with good sight lines from every living space, both interior and exterior. You see this through the extensive use of glass throughout the yacht and in both the design and placement of furniture. I could write an essay about this yacht and the process of designing it. It was totally driven by a client who wanted to push boundaries and question what had come before. It was his pure energy and passion that drove it and I had to form the team to make it all happen. It was an amazing journey.
I don’t think I am biased though as KENSHŌ was at anchor at the recent Monaco Yacht Show and I was able to speak to a number of very experienced and respected industry colleagues who inspected her for the first time and their reaction was always the same – “wow!” They all appreciated that she was unique in so many areas. One experienced yacht owner I showed around the yacht told me – “now I’ve seen hundreds of yachts in my time, but that was by far the most impressive I have ever been on board.”
These kinds of reactions were hugely uplifting and made all the hours, days, months and years that everyone poured into this project truly worthwhile. We hope that the judges for the World Superyacht Awards agree!
Do you think there has been a recent shift in terms of how owners use their yachts?
Absolutely and we have seen a real shift in the average age of owners too. You’d be surprised just how old the average age of owners was prior to Covid. We had lots of younger clients who previously only chartered stating that they were just too busy to own a yacht. They had the financial resources but were “time poor.” They would charter two weeks in the summer, do two weeks skiing in the winter and then the rest of the time they were stuck in their offices or travelling on business. Covid changed all that and the change is permanent. We now live in a world where video conferencing and remote working are the norm. Younger Ultra High Net Worth Individuals are now comfortable running their businesses remotely. Indeed one client I recently sold a yacht to said – “I now see more of my management team than I did before Covid!” They used to have a weekly meeting in the office, but someone was always missing due to travel etc.
Now everyone logs in same time, same day wherever they are in the world. Another client brings his Bloomberg terminals with him when on board. With satellite communications these days this is all possible. So we are seeing clients spending much more time on boats and the design and type of boats will change to reflect that. Very few people now want fast boats. They want comfort, range and the ability to be autonomous for longer periods of time. It’s a great shift for the industry as we are also seeing yachts become much more fuel efficient as a result.
What is the most unusual design request you have ever had from a client looking to build a yacht?
The most amusing, perhaps not so much unusual design request I had from a client was during the construction of a very large yacht I was involved in at a shipyard in Northern Europe. One year into the construction we had a regular design meeting where the owner would meet the interior designers with me to go over the latest section of the yacht’s interior to be approved. Halfway through the meeting he asked to have a quiet word with me outside the studio. I was rather on tenterhooks wondering what it was he needed to discuss with me so privately. In a rather hushed voice he said to me, “William, do I have to have a jacuzzi?” Now given this client was spending well north of EUR 100 million on his own custom yacht I thought it amusing that he felt he needed to ask but he explained why. He said that he truly trusted the design and project team and that he didn’t want to unsettle that by offending anyone as he was thus far very happy with everything he had seen. I told him that we could of course remove it and said there was actually an incorrect perception in our industry that every client wants a jacuzzi on their yacht. We just left in the plumbing and wiring so any future owner might install one more easily to assist with any resale. Funnily enough I find that clients are very much split down the middle about jacuzzis. They either love them or hate them. I’m in the later camp, as I think they can take up a lot of space and if you want to get wet then you’re hopefully surrounded by a warm azure sea, but I won’t judge anyone who wants one. In the last two years I’ve had three clients remove jacuzzis from yachts that I have sold to them. Who knew that jacuzzis could be such a talking point!?
What has been your favourite yacht sale of all time and why?
It would probably have to be the 91 metre NAHLIN, originally built in 1930 at John Brown & Sons on the Clyde, the yard that also built notable ships such as HMS Hood, RMS Queen Mary and the QE II. She has quite an incredible history. She was originally built for a wealthy widow, Lady Yule, who owned her until 1936. During this time she chartered the yacht to King Edward VIII who had Wallis Simpson on board which attracted huge media attention. NAHLIN then caught the eye of King Carol II of Romania who purchased her in 1937. The onset of World War II and the Cold War that followed resulted in NAHLIN being left unloved on the Danube for decades, slowly rotting away, but as in fresh water at a much slower rate than may have been.
In the 1990s she was acquired by a client who planned to fully rebuild the yacht. She was shipped back to Liverpool in the UK and some initial work was done to clear out asbestos and make hull repairs to stabilise the yacht, but she remained an empty shell with a fair bit of corrosion! That owner then decided against proceeding with the project as in the meantime he had purchased a very comfortable, large Feadship as an interim yacht which his family were very happy with. NAHLIN was once again for sale.
Fast forward a few years and I found a client who had the vision and resources to take on the project and bring NAHLIN back to her former glory. After we sold the boat to him, NAHLIN was once again moved on a heavy lift ship to Germany where she was fully rebuilt. Many of the original pieces of equipment were refurbished and recommissioned.
The boat is intensely private with no photos of the interior in the public domain but what was achieved was truly breath-taking. To see her back on the water today with those beautiful classic lines is truly uplifting. I am proud to have played a small part in this yacht’s incredible 92 year history and see her enjoyed so much by her current owners.