Dario Schiavo in conversation with the design studio evolving into a marine brand in its own right… For the first time in yachting history, a design studio is assuming full...


Dario Schiavo in conversation with the design studio evolving into a marine brand in its own right…

For the first time in yachting history, a design studio is assuming full control of the construction process for a series of yachts, branding them with their own logo.

Nuvolari Lenard expands its role to oversee every aspect of the NL Plus series, from engineering to construction methods and management, culminating in their logo adorning the yachts. The Turkish shipyard Mengi Yay plays a purely executive role, while Van Oossanen Naval Architects handle the yachts’ naval architecture. Sales are exclusively managed by Camper & Nicholsons.

While news of a new series of yachts bearing the signature of Nuvolari Lenard had been circulating for months, the true revelation, only unveiled during the interview, is that the studio founded by Carlo Nuvolari and Dan Lenard is set to evolve into a genuine nautical brand. This development positions them among the ranks of established brands in the maritime industry.

We discussed this concept with Lenard, co-founder and senior partner of Nuvolari Lenard Design Studio.

The idea stems from observations within the 50- to 65-metre yacht market, which Lenard describes as increasingly shifting towards semi-custom production. “Full-custom designs are dwindling in this size range due to their high development costs and lengthy build times,” says Lenard. “Customers are becoming less inclined to invest the money and time required for a full-custom design. As a result, we recognised early on that the customer base for this segment is diminishing and gradually disappearing.”

Needless to say, Nuvolari Lenard Design Studio is one of the world’s most recognised yacht design studios, known for creating some of the largest and most stunning yachts globally. Their portfolio includes the Lürssen 86-metre Quattroelle, the 115-metre Ahpo, and the 141-metre Nord, their largest project to date. Notably, they’ve also contributed to Oceanco’s 106-metre sailing yacht Black Pearl. Undoubtedly, they are a formidable force in crafting significant yachts, boasting extensive experience in highly customised, very large exteriors and interior yacht design.

The Nuvolari Lenard studio sought to overturn a longstanding tradition in the maritime industry, where shipyards typically begin by constructing smaller vessels before gradually moving on to larger ones, often in the range of 60 to 65 metres.

While some shipyards have recently begun downsizing, it remains a rarity.

“We are reversing the process, attempting to transfer what we typically do with large yachts to smaller ones,” says Lenard. He uses the automotive industry as an analogy: “It’s akin to Mercedes producing a C-Class model based on an S-Class platform. Conversely, if Volkswagen were to try to create a flagship model from a Passat, it wouldn’t carry the same level of luxury and expertise found in cars of similar categories produced by Mercedes or other brands.”

There is no doubt that starting from the top and working downwards is easier. “Customers now desire extreme objects, compact yet affordable. The 50- to 65-metre semi-custom yachts are typically produced by shipyards, whereas in the mega and gigayacht market, starting from 80 metres and above, yachts are often signed by designers. We have chosen to pursue both paths: the conventional route of designing yachts for shipyards, as we have always done, and the creation of a brand under our own name to ensure the quality and image of the yacht, which are inherent in our DNA.”

History often unfolds through chance encounters. Three years ago, Nuvolari Lenard received a request to design two 47-metre yachts for a European client. This marked the beginning of a collaboration with Mengi Yay Yachts, a shipyard based in Tuzla, which I like to refer to as the ‘Turkish Viareggio’. Nuvolari Lenard not only provided their design expertise for these yachts but also stationed their own team on site, while bringing in engineering support from Van Oossanen Naval Architects.

With these two yachts, the studio seized the opportunity to develop its own engineered platform, serving as the foundation for the new NL 50 Plus series already in construction on speculation. While the two 47-metre vessels being built at the Mengi Yay Yachts shipyard will adhere to the traditional yard-designer-client model, the new NL 50 Plus will mark the firm’s debut under the Nuvolari Lenard own brand.

“We’ve established a partnership with Mengi Yay, through which we oversee the entire production cycle. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement where we ensure adherence to our high standards of quality, construction techniques, and engineering. Mengi Yay is already a proficient shipyard, and I believe that with this new venture, it has the potential for rapid growth over the next decade.”

I asked Lenard if it isn’t somewhat incongruous for a studio like theirs, accustomed to working with the top yards in northern Europe, to embark on this new adventure with a Turkish yard that is relatively unknown to most.

Lenard explained, “One must consider the geo-political background of Turkey, which has developed to German standards, owing to the significant Turkish migration to Germany in the 1970s. What we are witnessing is a cultural competition, not with Italy or France, but specifically with Germany. I can confidently state that certain shipyards in Turkey are already on par with or even surpassing Italian ones in terms of quality.”

Moreover, Turkey has a culture “much closer to the Middle East. Therefore, new millionaires who do not have multinational businesses but rather local ones naturally gravitate towards Turkey rather than Italy, Germany or Holland. Even for Americans, purchasing a yacht in Turkey poses no problem as long as the quality meets their expectations.”

In conclusion, Lenard emphasises that Nuvolari Lenard is not only an established design studio but also a marketing company. He states, “For Palmer Johnson, we conceptualised and proposed the successful sport yacht range. With Oceanco, we introduced the 700 platform, resulting in approximately 20 yachts, seven to eight of which are designed by us. Most recently, we developed the new Simply Custom platform.”

With almost two decades of experience working for top Italian yards, I can endorse their conviction that they are just below those in northern Europe in terms of quality, yet certainly superior in design and customer satisfaction, while Northern European shipyards often compare Italian ones to second-class shipyards, similar to Turkish ones, for example.

Therefore, one of the upcoming stories will focus on uncovering the true value of the yachting sector in Turkey.

By Dario Schiavo
13 Apr 2024
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