YachtTalk special 7: XVenture design special with Winch Design
Our seventh episode of Heesen’s YachtTalk Specials circles back to the streets of London, to meet legendary designer Andrew Winch at his studio headquarters in Barnes. Host Charlotte Kan caught up with Winch at his stunning riverside workspace to talk about one of his most intriguing new projects for Heesen: XVenture. They were joined by Mark Cavendish, Executive Commercial Officer of Heesen, to share the fascinating story behind this ultimate go-anywhere, anytime expedition yacht.
Established in 1986 when the studio was called Andrew Winch Designs, Winch Design has grown to become one of the most influential yacht design studios in the world. A former student of Jon Bannenberg, Winch credits the late designer as his mentor and tutor in the world of superyacht design. He has in turn set up an apprenticeship scheme at Winch Design to bring “that talent and education into the superyacht industry”. In terms of the studio’s signature look, Winch describes it as creating “a yacht that loves the ocean”.
“It’s about designing a yacht of individuality with an essence of pure quality,” says Winch. “It’s creativity wrapped up in a sculpture that floats.”
Winch Design’s collaboration with Heesen began in the early ‘90s. Since then, the two brands have worked together on projects that include current new builds 67m Project Avanti and 80m Cosmos, Heesen’s largest yacht to date.
The all-new XVenture concept came about following a conversation between Winch and Mark Cavendish on explorer yachts and is an exciting departure from the Dutch shipyard’s usual offering.
“We wanted to try and create with Mark and the Heesen team a yacht that could achieve things that had never been achieved before, so a new adventure for Heesen,” says Winch. “A yacht that would carry an intrepid tender. We have a number of clients with much bigger yachts than this who still decide to tow or have a tender accompany them. So, we set about designing a yacht that could cross the oceans and go anywhere but could carry a tender of that size, plus a helicopter and Triton submarine.”
“It was also about a first-class quality yacht finish,” adds Winch. “So, XVenture became an articulation of a dream to create a fleet of boats – 45m, 48m, 57m and 65m – so we took that ethos and then drew it in three different platforms. It’s a rugged boat that is hugely comfortable wherever you go in the world.”
The customised options for owners vary from an aluminium lightweight boat to cruise The Bahamas, to a research vessel with multiple cabins to house scientists, to a steel hulled ICE Class yacht for navigating the Northwest Passage. The premise of the idea centres around tailored design.
“It’s this flexibility of the dream that we can develop into a multipurpose offshore hybrid yacht for any owner,” says Winch.
“Explorer yachts tend to end up being around 70m+ and not everyone wants an enormous yacht,” says Cavendish. “Because when you get to that size it’s difficult to access quite a lot of the nice Mediterranean ports and bays. So, we deliberately aimed at keeping XVenture below that size range.”
The first version of XVenture was 57m, which is suitable for both Portofino and St Barths. Winch defines the entire offering as the “Tesla” of yachting – an all-electric go anywhere SUV of the ocean. This means longer range with less fuel. Winch Design’s ecological philosophy has also been applied to the interior, which means plastics are replaced with natural, sustainably sourced materials.
“XVenture should allow owners to enjoy the ocean while caring for the ocean,” says Winch, “which means dynamic positioning, solar panelling, electric propulsion. This all starts with a dream, but we have to make it an adventure of yacht building.”
Cavendish described the wheelhouse as the “nerve centre” – the place from where all adventures are planned. He also points out the large use of glass that gifts natural light to the owner’s suite, and the enormous entertaining areas throughout. On the upper deck, a winter garden area opens on to the sun deck Jacuzzi. And Cavendish’s personal favourite aspect? The atrium from which guests arriving by helicopter will enter the yacht.
“It’s not just a staircase but a lift that runs through all levels of the yacht, so you can arrive, get the lift, come out between the tender garages and exit via the swim platform aft,” he enthuses.
In the previous episode of Yacht Talk, Pascale Reymond of design studio Reymond Langton asked Winch the following question: “What will be the one future trend that will influence yacht design the most?”
Winch responded with the following: “I think it goes back to my roots with sailing yachts. They’re ecological, they do use power but it’s becoming more achievable to have silent nights. One of the first big yachts I built was Cyclos III, a 43m ketch. She had no hydraulic winches for the furlers, no air conditioning and we could sit silently at night because we had a battery bank. Today there is a revolution in batteries, so the future trend will be sailing, which is moving forward with bigger sailing yachts, and innovation in motor yacht engineering technology.”
Next week’s instalment of YachtTalk Specials will be broadcast live from the Monaco Yacht Show. When Charlotte Kan asked Winch who he would like to meet at Monaco and what one pressing question he would ask them, he responded: “I think it would be Elon Musk, he has incredible courage that he focuses on his target for electric. I would love to meet him and ask him what sort of yacht he would like to build?”
Tune in next week to hear the latest news from the world of yachting direct from Monaco’s Port Hercules.