Voyages of discovery


All aboard iYacht, the boat-building and design company that’s setting sail for success

When Udo Hafner is asked what he most enjoys about boats, the particular pleasures that first attracted him to the water when he was a boy sailing on the lakes of his native Austria, he has to pause for thought, just for one moment. “I’ve never thought about this before, but it’s the freedom,” says the founder of Hamburg-based designer iYacht. “It’s that opportunity for freedom that everybody has on water. There aren’t many things that you can do on this planet that provide that level of freedom, where you can go almost wherever you like for as long as you like. Even as a young boy on a small sailboat, I was able to go further away for longer and faster than I was normally allowed, so I learnt to challenge myself. You can then scale up that experience almost without limit.”

At iYacht, Udo has built a team that shares his passion for providing freedom, and relish the challenge that comes from being a leader in the yachting industry. This is a world where clients and designers are in constant friendly competition with their peers to create the latest and greatest vessel, pushing new boundaries in terms of luxury, technology and design. The “i” in iYacht stands for “innovation”, and iYacht’s team of engineers, naval architects and designers can offer innovative design, luxury interiors and project management for almost anything that floats, from superyacht to sailing boat.

Finding a niche in such a competitive industry is a challenge in itself, but Udo has found two areas on which he can focus. The first is helping to develop a new generation of boats that run on hybrid or electric engines; and the second is creating passenger boats for luxury resorts that match the high standards of the final destination. These two enthusiasms came together in a recent project in the Maldives, where iYacht’s team designed a fully electric 16-passenger tour boat modelled on the traditional Arabic sailing vessels. This boat can ferry passengers between the islands at no carbon cost. Similar commissions have followed. “We are developing these five-star superior shuttles that offer the incredible levels of luxury and service you expect from these high-end resorts,” Udo explains. “We are now doing shuttles for one of the royal houses of Abu Dhabi, 50-metre catamarans that can be used to shuttle between superyachts and islands. I think there will be a growing demand for this sort of vehicle as people increase their expectation of the level of service they experience when they travel to their destination resort.”

In terms of green energy, Udo does not believe full electrification of larger vessels is yet viable, due to the complexities and demands of the ocean – but he says that all iYacht’s designs now have a hybrid component. Smaller boats, however, are ripe for electrification, and iYacht has developed an all-electric catamaran for the Icelandic fjords and an electric-powered underwater scooter. “On most projects we need to deliver individual solutions by design and by engineering,” says Udo. “This is the great challenge, but also the enjoyable thing, as every day we are developing new solutions and facing new challenges. This is what drives all of us in the yachting industry. It’s a small community and you learn from everybody around you. These are things you cannot find anywhere else.”