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Sue Grant
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Bruno Kairet
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(Henån, Sweden)

Magnus Kullberg
0046 304 694 000

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Simon Turner
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(Rhode Island, USA)

Jennifer Stewart
001 401 846 8404

International Super Yacht Design and Espen Oeino – An Interview

by Ben Toogood, Berthon UK, Photography by © Guillaume Plisson,



Whilst growing up in Norway, you must have enjoyed a lot of boating and spent a lot of time on the water. Is this what led you to take up a career in Naval Architecture?

I have always wanted to be a Naval Architect and must have drawn my first yacht, when I was 4 or 5 years old. I grew up in Oslo and enjoyed to ski (still do) and was a member of the local sailing club.

My world was very much production motor boats and sailing yachts, however my Mother was from the West Coast of Norway and my Grandfather owned a shipyard, where they maintained and re engined ships. I first visited the South of France during my schooling in Normandy, which is when I first became aware of larger yachts. I went on to study Naval Architecture in Glasgow.



Before starting your own firm, you worked with Martin Francis, a legendary sailing yacht designer. How was this, and what projects were you involved with when working for him?

I worked with Martin on a number of sailing yacht projects, and later on the design of the team’s first motor yacht. With the team only having designed sailing yachts to date, I found myself in charge of this important project, despite my young age. The design subsequently won a competition and the motor yacht is now owned by a close friend. I completed another yacht with Martin and then started on my own in 1994.

How does the relationship that you build with your yacht owners inform the eventual design and build?

The key is to be a good listener and remember that you’re helping clients to design their yacht and to understand what they have in mind. Not everyone is good at expressing themselves, they know what they “don’t like”, but not necessarily what they want. You must try to guide them.

You always start with the layout, which is really the heart of the yacht, keeping in mind and respecting certainly volume distributions, which can change depending on her purpose. We see clients will often refer back to what they know, and we bring experience of what works from past projects.

What do you think is the most important development in yacht design and build in the last 10 years?

Finally, in the last 2 years we have really seen clients concerned and pre-occupied with environmental issues, where before it was mainly journalists. There has been a real change in attitude and people are really concerned – this will inspire a whole new generation of yachts.

Fuel consumption is an issue and we see that clients are now willing to optimise hull form to burn less fuel and are willing to cruise slower.

Few people realise how fuel intensive it can be to cruise at high speed with a displacement type boat. If you are pushing the limit of hull speed, for example a 90m to 100m yacht increasing the speed by 20% from 14 to16 knots uses 2 and half times more fuel.

At the end of the day, a lot of yachts spend most of their time at anchor or in port. The environmental considerations are then really about emissions, such as black water, garbage and power generation.

People are finally coming to terms with the fact that you spend more time outside rather than inside. There are trends to use or implement much larger windows and for example on BOLD there is a huge winter garden, which can be opened up and used as a multi-purpose area.

People who go boating, whether its yachting or motor boating, should be the people most concerned about the environment. We are all becoming more conscious.



We are all trying to be kinder to the planet. How do you explore this with your yacht designs – in particular project REV is already receiving a lot of attention both for her size, as well as for her green credentials?

The owner of REV is also owner of the first Windy SR52 Blackbird. He is very hands on and this project is close to his heart and very ambitious. The project started off much smaller, but by the time we worked through the stakeholder requirements, particularly with regard to the scientific side and exploration, she grew in size and we ended up at 180m. I think this is going to be the most sophisticated research vessel out there – the most important project of my career.

Her specification includes laboratories, two helicopter pads, moon pools for submarines and trawling equipment, class rooms and lecture halls.

We have tried to make her as green as possible, but one challenge is that she will spend a lot of time in the Antarctic and range is an important feature. She can offer up to 100 days of autonomy in terms of provisions, catering and range of approx 20,000 nautical miles. This yacht needs to be able to go anywhere and has been designed to be “as green as possible”.



We would be fascinated to learn about your vision for the 37 Shamal and how your relationship with Windy came about?

We started a few years ago designing the tenders for the bigger boats, and it was through the tenders that we started working with Windy.

When I grew up in Norway, Windy was already very well established and were certainly at the top of their game and still are today. They were always at the forefront of design, particularly in the 70’s which was an incredible era for Scandinavian design and boat building. What we have tried to do with the Shamal, was to look back – allowing us to better look forward for the future.

We have now built between 9 and 10 tenders with Windy – these projects are hard to publicise as they are so confidential. The quality from Sweden is amazing and there have been some very cool designs.

We started off discussing what the project should be and what was important to retain in terms of continuity and DNA, but we also wanted to start a new chapter.

The big difference is that when we design a custom yacht we sit down and discuss requirements and it’s a relatively straight forward process. With a production boat you try to define what the project “should be”, whilst working to satisfy various requirements from numerous dealers.

What is your favourite yacht/design project?

REV is a very special project to my heart, and feels like she has a noble purpose. She is such a visible and high profile project. The Silver series are really a departure as a high aspect ratio and light weight yacht – we are looking back to the past to inspire for the future.

OLIVIA O is also very special as she is inspired from the commercial world. A completely unusual yacht, she will be one of the best sea keeping yachts out there… if not the best by far, due to her bow shape. A very inspiring owner, who loves his boats.

We made our name with a yacht called SKAT – her owner is a mathematician, very logical and wanted to respect the materials. Today she is considered one of the top 10 most iconic yachts.

What do you have on the drawing board at the moment?

I can’t talk about this! – REV is really one of the only projects which was public from day one.

I can say we have been involved in two smaller cruise vessels for a Norwegian Company called Hurtigruten. These were the first hybrid diesel electric cruise ships, designed for operation in Antarctic waters and built at Kleven Yards in Norway.

What do you love most about what you do?

You start discussing, make some sketches and then the projects evolve, start their build and then are launched and come to life. You then meet them around the world… I have always been attracted to international business. You see it move from a piece of paper to this big moving object with a relatively small team. You meet a lot of interesting people with lots of high profile clients. They are all unique with very interesting life stories.



How do you feel the COVID-19 pandemic will impact the super yacht industry and client aspirations for the future?

We expect clients will want yachts designed and built to take on longer voyages and offering more controlled environments. There will be a desire for increased facilities, class rooms; and we have all seen that we can work remotely and don’t need to sit in the same room to get things done.

One of the biggest things from this pandemic… we are all looking first hand at how the planet has been healing, allowing for the lack of air traffic and car traffic.

We have to adapt in this new situation and re-invent ourselves.





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