The emergence of explorer yachts, or expedition yachts, has been one of the key trends over the past 10 years, offering ultra-high-net-worth individuals the chance to break with the Mediterranean superyacht set and pursue their own adventures in the wild. It is this clientele that UK-based yacht design studio Liebowitz & Partners (LP Design) had in mind when developing its 63m x 12.2m Explorer Yacht EXO vessel – a four-deck, full-displacement steel yacht with a potential range of 5,000nm.
When designing an explorer yacht, the first challenge is how best to balance the vessel’s ability to tough it out in choppy, ice-strewn waters with the stylish, aesthetic considerations one expects of a multi-million-dollar asset; after all, it’s important to remember that the owner is purchasing a superyacht, not a polar research vessel. Striking the right balance between seaworthiness and style largely determines the vessel’s commercial appeal.
So, while the philosophy behind the Explorer Yacht EXO stipulated that there would be “no elements just for show”, this was not to be achieved at the expense of elegance. Richard Liebowitz, design director at LP Design, terms this approach “the power of pure purpose”, in which every single design detail is analysed and justified along the lines described above. Additionally, LP Design deemed “timeless proportions, and strong attitude” as key requirements for the motor yacht, as well as an insistence that the exterior should flow seamlessly into the interior, design-wise. Advanced direct-bond glazing would be applied throughout the yacht, for ease of maintenance and cleaning, and to enhance the vessel’s avant-garde appearance.
Another crucial consideration was how best to manage the onboard circulation of guests and crew. Liebowitz likens the Explorer Yacht EXO to a “small hotel operation – a very compact and complex one, compared to a luxury resort”, adding: “The service should not be something that guests are particularly aware of. This includes taking on provisions and removing rubbish as well as managing the laundry, cooking and engineering maintenance, and cleaning the interior and exterior.” As a result, separate circulation paths for crew and guests were factored into the design.
The vessel’s starboard and port sides appear symmetrical, though it’s a bit of an illusion: they actually differ, to accommodate the circulation path planning. Liebowitz says: “For instance, the Portuguese bridge is accessed from the starboard side main deck, but not from the port side. Instead, crew can traverse the trunk cabin to the foredeck, and come round to the port side entry. Similar things happen aft: it’s about efficient movement and capturing maximum space.”
The Explorer Yacht EXO would feature an aluminium superstructure and a mild steel hull. The latter, Liebowitz says, is a “time-tested material for northern European yards” and one that’s “quite efficient, with minimal waste, using CNC cutting of frames and plating”. Comfort, for both guests and crew, was also fundamental to the design brief, reflected in the steps taken to shield persons on board from the elements, “by providing an array of places to gather on deck”, he explains. “On the sun deck alone, there are forward and aft seating groups, some behind windscreens. The pool deck has a retractable shade awning, and high-tensile/high-wind-resistant fixed canopies are sited at the foredeck and outdoor drinks bar.”
To protect the guests from spray – something they definitely won’t want to experience in bitterly cold climes – a high, 1.2m bulwark would be positioned forward. “It’s arguably going to impede some views from a seated position,” says Liebowitz. “Still, we felt the trade-off worthy.”
For optimal crew and guest comfort, the Explorer Yacht EXO would feature a wavebreaking bow chine and a canoe stern, to handle swell and heavy waves respectively. The vessel would also be fitted with a four-fin, ‘zero-speed’ stabiliser system – and, at the time of writing, Quantum Zero’s brand has attracted LP Design’s attention. “Many trendy designs seen elsewhere exhibit plumb bows, or even reverse bows,” says Liebowitz. “Unlike these, the EXO aims to push green water away – not invite it aboard.”
(For the full article and technical particulars, see Ship & Boat International March/April 2022)