Although yachting is still a little-known industry, it is well established in Monaco thanks to the Norwegian naval architect Espen Oeino who has contributed a great deal to making Monaco the yachting capital. In 2006, he set up his company, Espen Oeino International, and became the vice-president of the Monaco Yachting Cluster. We meet the naval artist who, despite travelling the world, remains very much attached to the Bay of Monaco.
Is Monaco a unique anchor point for yachting companies?
Espen Oeino: When I founded the Monaco Yachting Cluster with Bernard d'Alessandri and Édouard Mousny, one of our first objectives was to try to understand how many of us were working in professional yachting in Monaco. We wanted to carry out an inventory, and we discovered that there were 150 companies active in this sector, full-time or part-time. This allowed us to demonstrate that yachting was an important activity that Monaco needed to develop further. We wanted to try to work together and create synergy. When people talk about Monaco abroad, it is the most logical place to come with your yacht.
What makes a yacht unique and iconic?
E.O: We make custom yachts. We work closely with the customer to establish specifications and develop a project that reflects them as a person. A unique yacht that subsequently becomes iconic is often the result of this collaboration. I love it when there are mixed reactions to my boats – this provides opportunities for discussion.
You designed the yacht of computer scientist Charles Simonyi…
E.O: That was an amazing experience, as he’s a remarkable man with a very strong personality, and he knew exactly what he didn't want. I was working at the time on another boat that had also become iconic, the Octopus, designed for the co-founder of Microsoft, Paul Allen. That was how I came to meet Charles Simonyi, at his home in Seattle. I started drawing on the flight home. We met again four weeks later in Monaco and he loved my sketches. We made the boat in three years and it looks a lot like those first sketches.
What are the current trends in the world of superyacht design?
E.O: Bigger and bigger yachts continue to be made, with more and more features, such as helicopters, outdoor kitchens, large swimming pools, etc. But I don't think it's a race to the finish – people just want to become more and more independent, and to live in their boats in complete autonomy. I think the role of the yacht is currently changing. Whereas 30 years ago it was a holiday facility, today for some it is a place to live, with them spending 6 to 7 months on board. The average age of potential yacht customers has also dropped significantly, with younger people more open to new ideas and taking more risks. My goal is also to make my boats more environmentally friendly.
Is there a legendary boat you would have liked to board?
E.O: There are several! The Normandie and the France in particular, those liners of the last century that crossed the Atlantic and were the pinnacle of design and technology at the time. A bygone era. There was a comprehensive perspective that has now been lost. But you know, what is important is to be on the water, and the relationship between man and the sea, not the boat.
You've travelled all over the world. What does the Bay of Monaco mean to you?
E.O: It is unique for its beautiful landscapes, its concentration of yachts, the Yacht Club de Monaco and its incomparable building, right on the sea. But I also like the diversity of Monaco's population, and am constantly surprised by the number of interesting people I meet, from different backgrounds. Monaco has everything!
Monaco, a place of business for you, but also of relaxation sometimes?
E.O: I don't relax much; I'm hyperactive. I go to the Yacht Club de Monaco, and enjoy the view in the morning, when all is calm. Otherwise, I go for walks with my wife, and I go to La Vigie, which is a bit like being on a boat, actually. And then in winter, I often go to the mountains. I need the mountains and the sea and Monaco has these!
You said you wanted to create a 15-meter boat for yourself one day. What will it look like?
E.O: I've been working on this project for years. The basic idea is to make a boat with which I will rediscover my country. I would like to go all the way along the Norwegian coast, i.e. 2,700 km around, or 20,000 km if you go into all the fjords. I need a boat that I can sail in both summer and winter. And it will have to be fast, as the distances are huge and I don’t have a lot of patience!