To celebrate Yachting Monthly's 101st year, we asked a selection of experts for their vision of the future of boating...

 Nigel Irens
Nigel Irens Design

It would be great to think that future generations of boat-owners might enjoy greater choice when looking for a new boat, but sadly that’s unlikely. Most manufacturers’ efforts are aimed at supplying the very middle of the market, as that’s the only way they can be sure of accruing the benefits of high-volume manufacture. Achieving volume sales depends, in turn, on putting products on to the market at the right price.

The search for new concepts has therefore traditionally been left to smaller companies whose products – though they may be attractive – often fail because smaller scale building and distribution costs are just too high.

Relatively limited choice at the moment has lead to a situation in which, for example, cruising yacht buyers have been force-fed a supply what appear to be race boat-derived designs. From a manufacturer’s standpoint light displacement translates into low build cost, but I fear that lack of opportunity to make fundamental comparisons has meant that many buyers are not really aware that the upwind ride of a yacht really does not need to be that unpleasant!

By the same token powerboat buyers who are often drawn by the aggressive looks of something that planes and can claim some vague ancestral connection with ‘race-boats’ subsequently discover why all the brochure-shots of the boat they just bought were all taken in flat calm conditions.

Although the sudden loss of the EU Red Diesel derogation in the UK is an upset for manufacturers, it would be great if the more savvy amongst them could eventually see this as a commercial opportunity and respond by producing boats both more frugal in fuel consumption and also better suited to operation in the sea-conditions around our Northern European shores.

I don’t mean to imply that all light displacement sailing boats or all planing hulled power-boats are undesirable. On the contrary I just think that a few more options in the future would be great.

Our best hope is that the few industrialised manufacturers left in the game can be courageous (and profitable) enough to plough back investment into really imaginative R&D work that allows them to broaden their future product ranges.

The fundamental basis of any market research is, nonetheless, to try to understand what it is the customers want, so yacht buyers will end up being offered what they think they want – or even deserve. My fervent hope is that future buyers do not sell-out to the notion that technology can ensure they are as cosseted when afloat as they are on dry land.

Most of today’s sailors know that when afloat they will experience things that make them feel momentarily much closer to the natural world. In exchange for that privilege they understand – and willingly accept – that some creature comforts may be lacking. If we abuse technology by exchanging that deal for one which leaves us in a marina-bound mini luxury apartment we’d do better to forget the whole idea of boating and stay at home.

For most of us it is the sheer contrast between home life and life aboard that excites. Having been delighted by the sights, sounds and sensations of a weekend afloat how many of us have not been almost equally delighted by the warmth, comfort and uncanny responsiveness of the bog-standard motor-car that speeds back to workaday life!

Luca Bassani
Founder and President, Wally Yachts

What most influences the development of the mega yacht is the lack of land in relation to the growth of the number of ultra rich people in the world.

This growing wealth can’t find any more properties to acquire by the sea and is deciding to invest in large yachts to get comparable comfort and glamour.

Large yachts will have to offer more of the functionalities of a nice property; big areas and spaces, physical logistics, communications, safety, privacy, basic comforts (like stability at sea) as well as ultimate comforts (like tennis courts, vita-parcours, recreational areas for different ages).

These yachts will become ‘floating properties’ where you won’t miss the land because you can still walk your dog or run to get fit.

Getting ashore will be easier with bigger tenders, helicopters or even the new tilt-rotor planes. You will be able to take-off from your bow in the Med and land in London at Battersea two hours later!

Satellite communications will become faster than land connections because of lower traffic – it will be easier to work from your yacht than from your office.

Soon somebody will decide to move their main office onboard their mega yacht, both for comfort and for fiscal reasons, then they’ll take their holidays in the city, spending their freetime in an abandoned office, putting into the ashtray!

Hopefully this will never happen, but I’m sure that UHNWI (ultra high net worth individuals) will spend more and more of their life onboard, finally realising that the sunset remains one of the best joys in life.

Rob Humphreys
Founder and Chief Designer, Humphreys Yacht Design

After working on motor and sailing yacht projects in parallel over the past few years, it was natural that we should consider some of the cross-over possibilities between the two sectors.

Having been working with Sky Sails of Germany at their kite propulsion method we then decided to take it a stage further by setting out to design a motoryacht specifically optimised for maximum efficiency using this technique. At the same time, we needed to create a luxury yacht that would lose nothing in terms of capability and facilities. The result was the Skycht (pronounced ‘skite’).

The idea of using kites to drive seagoing vessels has been around for a very long time. However it is only recently that the technology has become available that enables the mechanical deployment and retrieval of these large, powerful kites easily and safely.

While the Sky Sails team in Hamburg has made rapid progress in developing the concept with regard to commercial applications, we believe we are one of the first to apply it to large pleasure yachts.

The fact that this new technology comes at a time when the consumption of large quantities of hydrocarbon fuels for purely recreational purposes is becoming increasingly an issue further supports our belief that this is a concept whose time has well and truly come.

Joanna Bainbridge
Marketing Manager, B&G

Display technologies 50 years from now may be very different. There are videos on the net of T-shirts that allow TV images to be displayed. Picture helming a boat in a race and having the course displayed on the back of the trimmer in front of you. Or maybe when you put your sunglasses on and instantly see the lay line for the mark superimposed over the water. Or how about the same concept applied to the mainsail trimmer. As he looks up the sail he can see a superimposed image of the sail shape he should be trying to achieve over what he can see.

Computers will play a large part in tuning the instrument systems on your boat. By having a computer on board recording your every action over time you will accrue a wealth of information. This data can then be processed and compared to previous trips. You should then be easily able to see what settings you had for forestay tension, jib car position, steering characteristics etc. when the boat was moving well compared to days when it didn’t.

All this data acquired while racing with a crew can also be sent to the autopilot. It can analyse how a pro helmsperson steers the boat and mimic and perfect itself. Instead of having to tweak values manually, the autopilot will learn how to steer and every sea mile will add to the pilot’s knowledge until even the best helmsperson will be hard-pushed to out-think it.

When we come to setting up the boat for racing, who knows what we will be adjusting in the future? We are just getting use to the idea of canting keels, in the future we might be adjusting its shape. The surface of the keel, maybe even the surface of the yacht itself, might be completely adjustable. This may also continue above deck. Sail material may have disappeared, replaced by material who’s shape can be altered by electrical current to produce perfect aerofoil shapes for whatever condition.

Lasers have been used for a few years to measure nearly everything. The technology is already there to use sensors for wind and speed measurement, sail shape and hull deflection. They may be used to search for potential hazards on the water surface. We may even be using sensors to measure things we haven’t thought about before. Acoustic sensors might listen for anything out of the ordinary and warn of potential failure.

Rachel Dobrijevic

Having watched 60 years of progress already we project that in 2057 there will be a world of change in the marine industry and global sailing scene. Boats that were once deemed out of reach for most will become as accessible as a motor car is to a 17 year old today, as disposable income continues to rise.

It’s difficult to imagine that boats and sails will change too much more than fashions do today, but maybe the winches we supply will be activated by remote control and powered by nuclear cells or hydrogen gas and will be available in a multitude of colours and styles to suit your own boat. Food for thought!

Ted Gartner

Garmin’s latest generation of marine electronics has a streamlined user interface that is much more intuitive. It still has all the robust features (and more) of previous generations, but they’re less intimidating to use. After all, what’s a system worth if you can’t figure out how to use it? Other inventions like touchscreens, voice prompting, and voice activation will also probably become mainstream.

We’ve already developed the Garmin Marine Network, and it’s likely you’ll see more in the future. The system integrates GPS, sonar, radar, weather, video, and other elements into one system. It’s likely boats will be much more integrated in the future — perhaps even wirelessly.

Louise Nicholls
Communications Manager, RYA

In pondering the future it is nice to think that in 50 years time sailing would have firmly entered the nation’s psyche. Our Olympic success would be recognised and the America’s Cup would have made it back to our shores. Union Jacks would fly for the nations sailors and sailing’s heroes would be teenager’s popular pin-ups.

Sailing would be a school sports activity that all kids could choose to do and sailing clubs would play a central role in community life, providing an impressive array of sports facilities for all.

Our boating landscape may well have changed with the development of new energy resources but our rights to navigate would be retained. Boating’s impact on the environment would have decreased with zero emission, carbon neutral production motor and sail boats as standard.

What of the RYA in 2057? Well, we like to think that we would still be here, serving the boating community as a whole; continuing to protect its rights on the water.

Andrew Freemantle MBE
Chief Executive, Royal National Lifeboat Institution

By 2057 the leisure demands of a growing population eager to escape a crowded island will have led to a doubling of recreational sea use and all-year round leisure activity. Despite our prevention and education programmes the demands on our volunteer lifeboat crews and lifeguards will have increased significantly.

At home the RNLI will still be rescuing fishermen and merchant seamen – our services to offshore wave platforms, wind farms and other offshore installations will have increased. Internationally the RNLI will be advising other nations as they develop their own sea rescue services in response to rising sea levels, and of course, responding to the demands of greater EU integration.

Our greatest challenge, though, will be the impact of global warming. Rising sea levels and more violent weather patterns will mean that that we are responding more frequently to coastal flooding than to the occasional rescue in ferocious conditions.

The future is uncertain, but since 1824 we have always adapted our rescue service exploiting new technology to meet changing needs. One thing is certain, thanks to our supporters and volunteer crews, our charity will still be providing, at no cost to HM Government, a 24/7 sea rescue service, from the beach to the open sea – one that is second to none.

Nick Tasker
Head of Corporate PR, UKHO

Change is a constant, so no matter how much technology moves on, we can be sure that navigation and charting will continue to evolve. The fundamental requirement for charting will not go away.

It is obvious to state that the sea is a fluid environment, but this simple fact, constantly alters the seabed and coastline which form its boundaries. The restless reshaping of our oceans means that we will be forever trying to map those changes to support the mariner.

Trends suggest that two things will continue to accelerate, firstly the provision of data measuring these changes will increase, and secondly the reaction time to disseminate all of this new data will reduce. Of course the optimum is “true real time navigation” where data is received, verified, and published as it happens. Whilst this may be good in theory, the more data that exists, the greater the risk of rogue or poorly controlled data finding its way onto the market.

The UK Hydrographic Office will continue to maintain data of the highest quality, no matter how it is derived in the future. Survey ships are being replaced by airborne survey techniques in some situations, making the whole process safer and much quicker. But this brings its own problems, an explosion of massive data sets to process and manipulate into meaningful charts.

It won’t be long before new ways of rendering and storing data will need to be found, to cope with the increase in digital data sets. Today, a single survey can produce 50 million data points. The last thing the mariner needs is a surfeit of information and no way of interpreting it. Hopefully the future will bring new solutions to convey the vital marine changes into the mind of the user in order that they can make the best informed navigational decisions.

John C Hammond
Press Officer, Met Office

Scientists are very confident that the increase in sea level observed over recent decades is due to global warming, and that this will continue throughout the 21st century.

The rise in global sea levels is brought about essentially by two factors: partly through the melting of glaciers and land ice, but the main reason is because warmer water expands (thermodynamically).

Ocean temperatures around the UK have risen by around 0.5ºC since 1900 (most of which has been over the past 25 years) and global average sea levels are expected to rise by between 0.2 m and 0.6 m by the 2090s, relative to the 1980-1999 average.

Closer to home, annual average sea temperatures are could increase by as much as 2.5ºC in the 2050s and as high as 4.0ºC in the 2080s.

For marinas this could mean an increase in the frequency of flooding for dockside infrastructure, and possible inland retreat for some. Locally deeper water in the near-shore zone will lead to greater wave energy being transmitted to the shoreline.

There is some uncertainty with regards to storms and their intensity. Although the number of Atlantic storms may remain largely unchanged, the intensity could increase. This brings the prospect of more gales and high seas as we head through the 21st century.

With the event of a higher number of intense storms and higher sea levels, comes the additional risk of storm surges. Some harbours and marinas would have to bear the brunt of increasingly extreme weather events. This has the effect of accelerating coastal erosion along vulnerable areas.