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Design and Technology

Shape Shifters: Yachting Heritage and Innovation

Is the rich heritage of the yachting industry threatened by innovation, or can the two exist side by side – and even benefit from one another?

Craftsmanship lies at the heart of the yachting industry. By preserving techniques handed down through generations, the shipbuilding world has kept its authentic edge. But while there’s a romance to protecting age-old methods of working; brands and businesses would wither without progress. The superyachting industry is no different, and with such powerful clients, who have the resources to push boundaries, there has been a consistent push to innovate – to discover new techniques, new operating systems and new materials – and to embrace technology and all the progress it enables.

Take something as simple as a sail. The traditional technique – bolting cloth, shaping panels and sewing them together – is a far cry from the processes now involved. Today, there are computer-generated models of a yacht to work from, resulting in multiple variations of a sail, each with a varying performance outcome. Fully customised carbon fibre sails are the result – and we witness their power out on the high seas, helping boats to win races and regattas. The future will inevitably see these sorts of innovations being refined and further automated. And the same could be applied to almost all aspects of shipbuilding, yacht design and beyond. 

So does this all mean we’ll soon be waving goodbye to decades-old techniques in favour or robots and automation? Thankfully not. A quick scan of the wider industry demonstrates how both old and new can complement each other. Watchmaking is a prime example. The practice is firmly rooted in tradition, and indeed, it is that very tradition that gives many watchmakers their esteemed pedigree. But that doesn’t make timepieces immune to innovation. Far from it. Every brand from Ulysse Nardin to Audemars Piguet allocate a significant proportion of their budgets to research and technology – recognising that it is entirely possible to cherish innovation, whilst preserving precious tradition.  

The same is true of the yachting industry. There will always be a significant hands-on element to boat building  – and our appreciation for bespoke craftsmanship will likely persist. Innovation merely lends a helping hand – enabling progress – without erasing heritage and history. 


The full edition of PURSUIT – FUTURE OPTIMISTS can be found as a digital flipbook here.

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