Louis Hunter: designing the Princess R35by Web Editor on 29th September 2019
A quiet word with the man who pulled together Princess’s revolutionary R35
Reproduced from Watermark, Issue 24
Louis Hunter, Princess Yachts lead designer
We have a large studio here at Newport Street. The design side has recently expanded by about 50 per cent – there are a lot more desks than when I started five years ago. We share it with engineers, naval architects, the CAD teams who prepare the designs for production, and the info hub which creates the fit-out drawings. It's always buzzing – the interaction is constant. To be able to just grab a team-mate for a quick consultation saves so much time.
A lot of the designers at Princess came through the same university course as me. The Automotive and Transport Design BA at Coventry has been incredibly important for the British design industry. Students often start thinking they want to do cars, but many gravitate towards yachts. Essentially, transport design is about functionality, ergonomics and systems integration.
Hand sketching and 3D modelling are fundamental skills for any designer. You also need to know how things are made: not just fibreglass but teak, stainless steel and upholstery, for example, and with the R35 I have learned a lot about carbon fibre too.
I have worked across the portfolio at Princess, on Motor Yachts and S Class projects, on flybridge models, V Class sports boats and M Class superyachts, but being asked to take on the lead designer role for the R35 was still a challenge. I became the mid-point between Pininfarina and Ben Ainslie Racing Technology, although the design process was begun in-house. BAR took our concept and layout and married it to their revolutionary underwater shape. Pininfarina's stylists worked up my exterior sketches for how it should look.
The R35 is a perfect balance between luxury and performance, and my previous speciality as a helm designer proved useful in creating elegant and practical solutions for the customer experience in this incredibly technological boat.
The R35 was an intense two-year project. In design terms it is the most refined boat that Princess – and probably any other production boatyard – has ever built. For example, there are no skin fittings on the topsides. Everything is hidden. Pump outlets, shower vent, tank breathers – they're there, but you'll never find them. Even the chain locker drain is camouflaged. It's moulded in carbon and painted to match the hull.
The intention was always to indicate a new direction with the R35 while at the same time retaining the shipyard's acknowledged design cues. The brief was to create an image-defining boat that would help to evolve a new identity for Princess, and move the brand forward. And now that the dust has settled, I think we can safely say we succeeded.