Abeking & Rasmussen CEO Hans Schaedla: Yacht Style ‘Leader’ Interview
HANS SCHAEDLA, CEO of Abeking & Rasmussen, is proud of the “truly iconic” 80m Excellence at this year’s Monaco Yacht Show, but a 118m build is ongoing.
Mr Schaedla, can you talk about what visitors to the Monaco Yacht Show can expect to see if they’re lucky enough to get on board the new 80m Excellence?
The owner of Excellence asked Abeking & Rasmussen to build him an iconic yacht and his first reaction when seeing it finished was: “You have exceeded my expectations.” So, whoever visits Excellence in Monaco will see a truly iconic yacht in all aspects, inside and out.
The exterior styling by Andrew Winch and Winch Design is second to none, with a silhouette comparable to a spaceship. The striking, angular bow was inspired by the American eagle and cuts through the ocean waters. There are also unbelievable views from inside.
What were the difficulties in building such an unconventional hull?
Excellence’s hull form is quite different from other yachts. We performed extensive tank testing in flat water and in waves to guarantee the best performance in terms of low resistance and safety in bad weather conditions. This was time consuming, but very successful.
How about the challenges of the enormous glass panels in the superstructure?
The installation of glass panels to this extent required very careful engineering from both the shipyard and the glass supplier, GL Yachtverglasung, and we worked hand in hand to achieve a key feature of the yacht’s stunning appearance.
The designer pushed for the most beautiful look and the shipyard had to convert this artistic language into proper engineering solutions that fulfilled the technical requirements and catered for all conditions, including sunlight. The insides of the windows are covered with various films and foils, and filled with air in order to keep the sun’s heat outside and the coolness inside.
Can you outline some of the interior highlights?
There’s a master suite, six double suites, three lounges, a cinema, an owner’s study, a sauna and gym, all connected by an incredible spiral glass staircase and a central circular glass elevator that accesses four floors. It’s illuminated naturally by a vast window stretching up the length of the statement staircase.
The client is an experienced yacht owner and an avid supercar fan, and wanted details and inspirations from his extensive car collection to be referred to throughout the interior. With a shared appreciation for attention to detail, the owner and Winch Design worked together to bring his dream to life.
Silver carbon-fibre and curved leather panels give a nod towards the dashboards of the most luxurious sports cars in his collection, while the vanity units in the statement dayheads are inspired by the sleek details of supercars, including the curves of the seats in the Ferrari Daytona.
In addition to automotive references, mid-century inspirations from [Ludwig] Mies Van der Rohe and Le Corbusier are found in the bespoke furniture penned by Winch Design, like the iconic Barcelona Chair in the main-deck staircase lobby. Elsewhere, curved edges and statement veneers are reminiscent of classic mid-century design and create a relaxed, sophisticated atmosphere.
What are the next major yachts to emerge from the Abeking & Rasmussen yard?
I first want to say that shortly before we delivered Excellence to her owner, we completed another extremely challenging project – the complex lengthening of one of our 78m yachts by 7m to include a pool – within six months. We pre-produced a new aft section and then added this to the yacht in a record timeframe. The reason for the rush was that the owner didn’t want to miss a yachting season!
Early next year we’ll be delivering a new 68m yacht with a very stylish exterior design. Look out for that one. This will be followed by the biggest yacht built by Abeking & Rasmussen: a 118m new build that will be very secretive until her delivery. Confidentiality is one of our main assets and much valued by our clients.
What are your thoughts on the megayacht market in Asia?
We can see that the megayacht market in Asia is still in the development stage. Yachting is still growing in Asia and we should encourage potential owners to discover the joys of it. Exploring the seas and different shores aboard your own yacht, indulging yourself in all sorts of watersports and then sharing this experience together with your family and friends, truly gives you a lifetime experience.
However, many of our yachts can be spotted in Asian waters. Earlier this year our 98m Aviva (launched in 2017) visited the beautiful bays of Vietnam and was moored in Singapore for a couple of weeks.
Our yachts are cruising all around the world, whether it’s well-known hot spots like the Mediterranean or remote areas. The 72m Cloudbreak (launched in 2016) did a round-the-world expedition visiting adventurous superyacht destinations such as Greenland, Alaska, Cape Town and Chile. Her owner has a passion for the great outdoors and uses the yacht for his own pleasure as well as for charter.
Many of our clients have found their way to us after enjoying time on board an Abeking & Rasmussen yacht as a charter client or guest, so I think someone interested in the joys of yachting should go for a charter as a first step.
My feeling is that the wealthy younger generation of entrepreneurs or family inheritors is very enthusiastic about exploring new places and broadening their horizons. An Abeking & Rasmussen yacht is just the right vehicle to choose and I am pretty sure there are more and more potential Asian owners with a strong interest in a custom-made megayacht from Germany. I do very much hope to welcome our first Asian owner here at our yard.
Earlier this year, it was announced that the 41m Silver Cloud had completed over 220,000nm since 2009. Considering the growing appetite for explorer yachts, can you talk about what led to the development of this first [email protected]&R yacht and how relevant the ‘Small Waterplane Area Twin Hull’ design is?
The impetus came from Alex Dreyfoos, a yacht owner since the 1960s who’s also an Oscar winner, photographer, inventor and an art patron. Mr Dreyfoos was looking for a unique ship that would remain stable even in rough seas, in order to accommodate his wife who suffers from seasickness. He found just that in [email protected]&R technology and nothing stood in their way to a voyage around the world.
It’s an unusual 41m yacht, which offers 60 per cent more space compared to vessels of a similar length, and her enormous efficiency and seaworthiness is really impressive. In her first endurance test, her maiden voyage around the world took 19 months to complete and covered 48,000 miles, including rough seas around North Alaska, Papua New Guinea and the Galapagos Islands, yet Silver Cloud scored top marks across the board. And not only with her owners. In 2009, she won the Technology Award in the World Superyacht Awards. The yacht has since hosted many memorable trips, captured in stunning pictures by the owner, a passionate photographer.
The 74m Elandess appeared at last year’s Monaco Yacht Show, having earlier passed your 98m flagship Aviva on the River Thames. Can you tell us what led to this remarkable megayacht meeting in London?
From time to time, you can spot superyachts close to the Tower Bridge in London. It was at the beginning of July 2018, just after the delivery of Elandess, when she cruised along the River Thames during her maiden voyage. The owner was on board with his friends, and our Project Manager accompanied them as well. At the same time, Aviva had just returned from across the Atlantic Ocean and they did a stopover in London to pick up her owner, so that really was a wonderful coincidence.
I’d also like to talk a little about the individual highlights of these two magnificent yachts. Elandess features the Neptune Lounge, where you can sit as if in an underwater theatre and watch life above and below the waterline through a huge 3m-tall, 10cm-thick glass window. It’s a real masterpiece designed by Harrison Eidsgaard.
A totally different layout was designed for Aviva. Inside, stretching over two decks, we installed a padel tennis court measuring 20m by 10m, and 6m in height. The yacht was basically built around it, so it was an exciting challenge for us, together with the designers at Reymond & Langton.
Germany, the Netherlands and Italy appear to be the leading nations for building the largest megayachts. Why is northern Germany so prolific, led by the likes of Abeking in Lemwerder, Lurssen, with its headquarters across the Weser River in Bremen-Vegesack, Blohm & Voss in Hamburg and Nobiskrug in Rendsburg?
Shipyards in Northern Germany have a very long tradition due to their location close to the Baltic Sea. Lemwerder and Vegesack, especially, have always been very well known for their expertise in a variety of shipbuilding disciplines.
In 1907, my grandfather Henry Rasmussen together with his partner Georg Abeking set up Abeking & Rasmussen and over the decades we have become known for some landmark achievements.
Having started with a series of successful elegant regatta sailing yachts, like the Starboat class or Concordia yawls, we then also specialised in vessels for navies worldwide. We also build special ships, like coastguard patrol ships or our very own SWATH ships. These are twin-hull ships whose increased seaworthiness makes them suitable for an extremely wide range of uses.
Our engineers and naval architects all put their expertise into the construction and/or refit of the world’s finest superyachts, which regularly achieve recognition at the major award ceremonies. During the last few years, nearly all of our yachts have been honoured.
Thanks to our long-term experience, Abeking & Rasmussen has become one of the top-class addresses for custom-made superyachts. And as a matter of course, we follow the highest ‘Made in Germany’ shipbuilding standards in order to fulfil, or even exceed, the requirements of our sophisticated worldwide clients.
Can you talk about any technologies and facilities at your shipyard that readers should be aware of?
Our yard offers five heated sheds for new builds and refits up to 125m in length, plus a 77m by 17m synchrolift with a capacity of about 2,000 tonnes. Altogether, 475 craftsmen and engineers can be seen here every day with a true passion for what they do. During the creation of each and every superyacht, we cooperate with a number of sub-suppliers, the majority locally based.
A few years ago, we restructured our overall company processes to follow a ‘lean management’ approach, partly based on the kanban system from Japan. We adopted this well-proven method pretty efficiently and are very grateful to have implemented this structure with some inspiration from engineers at Toyota.
Here at Abeking & Rasmussen, it’s in our genes to only be satisfied once the optimum has been improved. It is a journey of constant exploration and of pushing one’s limits. Envision, design and then construct are all parts of a continuous process in our shipbuilding approach, constantly in loop until the best has become even better.
Numerous examples that have caused an international sensation include the engineering of the world’s fastest diesel-powered yacht with 46 knots back in 1972, the development of non-magnetic steel or, more recently, the [email protected]&R technology.
What absolutely ensures Abeking & Rasmussen’s worldwide reputation is the ability to turn the most challenging requirements into customer satisfaction, in all domains of shipbuilding, whether it’s superyachts, naval ships, special vessels or cruise ships. We constantly transfer our knowledge in each discipline across our entire fleet of vessels.
Our former Head of Production, who was here for about 40 years, once stated that our most important task is to overcome resistance to new ideas. And if we continue to succeed in doing that, we will also continue to build the best yachts in the world.
I would also like to highlight the key role played by the design studios. We enjoy very strong and trustful relationships with many of them, such as Winch Design, Harrison Eidsgaard, Espen Oeino, Christian Liaigre, Terence Disdale, Bannenberg & Rowell or Reymond & Langton, to name just a few. We are always amazed at what they dream up for our clients.
For me personally, our most outstanding characteristic is that wherever you spot an Abeking & Rasmussen yacht, there will be emotions. Whether it is one of our historical handmade wooden sailing boats or one of our groundbreaking superyachts, an Abeking & Rasmussen yacht regularly causes amazement and enjoys a high level of recognition worldwide.
Finally, what is Abeking & Rasmussen most focused on in terms of technology?
We are constantly on the move when it comes to research and development (R&D) projects. Currently, our engineers focus on laser welding and ‘greener’ technologies to minimise environmental impact, such as LNG (liquefied natural gas) propulsion, fuel-cell technology, hydrogen or hybrid systems.
I should mention that Abeking & Rasmussen already has experience of hybrid-driven vessels. Back in the early 2000s, we started to design our first fleet of offshore patrol vessels for Germany’s Federal Border Guard with a diesel-electric drive. Aviva is among our recent superyachts that’s exploring the oceans efficiently with its hybrid propulsion system.
From a design point of view, we notice that owners increasingly want a seamless connection to the outdoors in order to connect with nature, so we envision an increase in glazing as a design feature, as can be seen on Excellence. This demands above-average engineering expertise and high-grade sub-suppliers.
Furthermore, we continuously invest our knowledge and professional expertise into new ways of thinking. Based on the positive owner feedback we received from our SWATH yacht Silver Cloud, we know multihull platforms are the best when the client’s brief is for a calm, efficient expedition.
In general, the enthusiasm for boats has a long tradition and clients will always continue to reach for top build quality, high-end technological solutions and the ability to explore beautiful places off the beaten path. And a superyacht built by Abeking & Rasmussen is a solid base for this.
Note: Excellence also features in ‘Monaco Yacht Show’s World Premieres: Superyacht Showdown’:
The original article appears in Yacht Style Issue 49. Email [email protected] for print subscription enquiries or subscribe to the Magzter version at: www.magzter.com/SG/Lux-Inc-Media/Yacht-Style/Fashion/