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TECHNOLOGY and the YACHT MARKET

16-technology-and-the-yacht-market

Technology is found in all parts of our lives and is moving at an exciting rate. This is informing the way that yachts are produced, how they look and also how we are able to use them.

Carbon as a construction material was exotic a few years ago and now its application is widespread for both power and sailing yachts. As we learn more about its properties, the depth of application becomes more widespread. It allows for a perfect finish, with light and stable structures which give yachts of all types the ability to move more easily with less power.

Solar array is another up and coming technology and the yacht industry, outside innovative designers like Steve Dashew, have hardly scratched the surface of the possible. Wind and water is following on behind and gives the ability to use less fossil fuel, it is totally clean, good for the planet and of course, gives yachtsmen the freedom to go further and to do more. As Lithium Ion technology improves so will our ability to store energy for use later, in all areas of life including yachting.

Look at foiling. This has gone from the stuff of Star Trek and the Americas Cup to something that Beneteau are rolling out on a line of production yachts. Amazing.

Wherever you gaze in yachting, the boffins are thinking, plotting and coming up with extraordinary ideas to change the face of the sport as we know it. Of course some of the technology is not quite that but more gimmicky and will look out of date very quickly. Gimmicky ideas on aging second hand yachts will make them difficult to sell. Therefore as an early adopter of new technology you need to be careful not to accept compromises that will mean that the yacht does not work for you, and which will make the yacht difficult to sell going forward. Because some of the new technology is so radical, updating your yacht at a later date will not be like changing your electronics, it may be a case of a major rebuild or worse.

Against all these wonderful possibilities, the key is to spot the market disrupters and those new technologies that will stand the test of time and aren’t just an update of what came before, but a seriously new idea which has been properly researched and which will continue to work down the years. In turn the design should have the ability to inform the changing usage that we are going to see. New ideas that work are more interesting than a clever riff of what has gone before.

Here at Berthon we believe that we have discovered one such product. It is the IGUANA range of amphibious boats which offer a totally new take on the concept of a yacht that can perform at sea and also on land. As the UK is an island we were naturally drawn to the idea and see huge scope for this product not just in the UK but internationally as it has the potential for a multitude of applications.

Steve Huppert is the brand’s sales director and here he is stepping through some of the questions that we asked about IGUANA when we first met him.

Do you think that IGUANA is a market disrupter and the concept is game changing?

The concept is a game changer as it provides the freedom of easily using a big boat (31 feet) without the need for any structure (like a dock or berth). It doesn’t require any special skills to drive into a dock – everyone who boats knows how it can be challenging to berth a 31 footer, especially in big tides or if it’s windy. You also have the stress of mooring her – are the fenders well positioned? Is the boat protected if her neighbour comes back in and will they damage our beautiful boat? Will I look like a fool if I get the docking wrong in front of my friends? The pitfalls are legion! The need to schedule a boat trip, take the car, find a parking place because everyone is of course out and about on a beautiful day, and to make sure nothing is forgotten before leaving the house. All these little details are a real barrier for less experienced yachtsmen.

The IGUANA takes all these barriers away; landing is easy and with no obstacles, even if the driver is 10 feet away from what he had planned, he still lands safely and once on land he can easily steer with no drifting or current. Fenders and lines are part of the past, the IGUANA will simply sleep on the landing gear safely and away from any risk. Taking off is as easy as taking the car, just hop in, turn the key and drive away – pure freedom. However, this is not just bringing the boat home; imagine the plethora of new destinations now available with neither the need for a pontoon, mooring nor anchor!

All this being the case what do IGUANAS actually do?

IGUANA Yachts create amphibious boats for people that have direct access to the water or for those who wish to embark or disembark safely virtually anywhere. The IGUANA Yachts is the first truly amphibious boat.

Of course amphibious vehicles have been around for over a 100 years but they have always been either land vehicles capable of crossing a stretch of water with no real ability at sea, or boats with retractable or even deployed wheels beneath that can handicap the boat and that cannot cope with anything except hard sand and very even terrain when they land. This means that obstacles like soft sand, mud or shingle can be a real barrier.

The IGUANA Yachts patented IMS (Iguana Mobility System) with a rubber track has created a really simple and integrated arrangement that allows the yacht to perform with no compromises and with a land capability 6 times better than the best all terrain 4×4. This means that she is able to cope competently with any type of landscape. Those of us fortunate enough to own a waterside property, particularly in the UK, will appreciate the ability to cross a muddy foreshore or rocky outcrop in order to get home at the end of the day on the water without worrying about surge, tides and the like.

How did the technology become developed?

In order to get us to the first IGUANA, there were 3 years of research and development. Our CEO owns a house in Normandy and the impossibility of getting to the water at low tide was a serious problem when he was at home. This is how IGUANA was born. All the elements were developed in CAD with the needed strength calculations. Next came 3 prototypes, over 30 pairs of rubber tracks and hundreds of wheels! After that 3 patents were filed followed by thousands of hours of testing. Once this laborious process was complete, Iguana was ready to start to deliver amphibious boats.

You mention a lot of testing. What did you do?

The first boats were constructed of aluminium which gave us the flexibility to test the integration of the landing gear and to make the needed changes easily. The wheels that run as the cogs for the 2 rubber longitudinal caterpillar tracks were bench tested for literally thousands of hours. We were able to replicate the punishment that they would have to cope with landing on a beach with rocks, we also drove them over train tracks and in mud. We even dropped them from a crane to make sure our calculations were correct. For the yachts themselves we created the moulds and constructed the hulls using infused Carbon fibre and epoxy finishes to create extremely strong and truly performance yachts, that by the way, also look very cool without being so fashionable that they will date.

The problem with new technology is that it can be fragile and early yachts can have structural problems and a short life span. This is something that has to be carefully considered when buying and considering residual value. How are the early Iguanas holding up?

We delivered the first IGUANAS over 10 years ago including one which has been kept in Bahrain which is an extreme environment with massive heat and she operates in the saltiest seas on the planet. She is doing amazingly well. All her sisters are also in perfect operational condition and they are being regularly used and enjoyed by their owners.

Now that IGUANA is established, what other applications do you see for the technology apart from as the perfect way to get from your waterside house to the (seaside/island/local bay) restaurant at low tide?

We are 10 years on and the main application is still for waterfront home owners. We have some Iguana owners who use their yachts to transfer from land to the sea or vice versa – particularly in the Superyacht sector. This is especially useful for owners and guests who are not as young as they once where and where balance and agility is an issue. None of this should mean that you should not enjoy the freedom of being out on the water later in life. It also gives larger yachts, super yachts and mega yachts the ability to transport guests in total security and it means that they can transfer onshore more or less anywhere. They also have access to almost any beach even when there is a sea running, as the Iguana will cope with waves of up to 4 feet (over a metre) in height when landing. Resorts and restaurants also use them to transfer guests and to provide them with a safe and very comfortable experience.

As the technology is stable, are there other applications that you are looking at for IMS in the future?

The IMS is now fitted on many types and size of IGUANA Yachts, from the most luxurious cabin boats, to a rugged RIB. There is even a potential military application. There is an IGUANA in the Middle East on testing for military use. The value of the technology as a tool for the military is that she is very portable. From launching, with twin 300hp outboards, an IGUANA can achieve 55 knots from a standing start in 1 minute and 10 seconds. She can be easily moved on land or at sea, and so for investigative work she is nimble and very difficult to pinpoint giving the users the opportunity to gain a large element of surprise.

Today, being kinder to the planet is something that we are all concerned about. How does the IGUANA score here?

The biggest impact that yachts have on the environment are the infrastructures built to dock them when not in use. Pontoons and mooring places create shade which destroys marine life and creates mud. Antifouling is of course much more environmentally friendly that it once was, but it still impacts on the wellbeing of marine life and this is another big issue. The IGUANA doesn’t need a dock and neither does she need to be antifouled. She has a foot print equivalent to an 80kg man which is negligible. IGUANA owners who wish to extend this low environmental impact can even take the option of electric drive which is something that 8 out of 10 of our owners elect to do.

So, gimmick or game changer? We tend to think that IGUANA is the latter and the full order book and new models in development would tend to indicate that this is the case. Ownership of an IGUANA is not a cheap experience and for this reason, when they do start to come to the second hand market, we predict that residual values will also be high because the technology continues to work over time, and the product offers a genuinely new way to enjoy time out on the water and very easy landing.

As the boffins continues to plot and plan, we will see more of these market disrupters come into yachting and hooray for that. All that said, when investing in marine modern technology do consider residual value and reliability but whilst doing so, also think about how much fun a new idea might be and consider also that you might buy it just for that…

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