Wheelhouses on most superyachts have tended to be utilitarian setups, no-frill areas designed to give the captain navigational control and clear oversight for the engines and other systems. The tech revolution was also replaced yards of cables with digital switches, so once-mechanical navigation functions are now electronic, often integrated into single consoles. The beauty of the modern superyachts helm is that the design, while functional, is much more in sync with the rest of the yacht. They’re only limited by the imagination of the designer. Here are six fresh interpretations of the classic helm:
Perini Navi Sybaris
There’s a sleek, futuristic feel about the wheelhouse of the Sybaris, the magnificent sailing superyacht from Perini Navi. The 230-footer was a breakthrough yacht for the Italian builder when it launched in 2016. It had a sleek, beautiful exterior by Philippe Briand, with significant breakthroughs in its sailing technologies. Coordinated with the rest of the interior, the helm area is minimalistic, with several touchscreen monitors above the console and others encased in glass below the main console.
Joysticks, rather than wheels, control steering, and other navigation features. The light-colored wood gives the yacht a very even-keeled atmosphere. This is clearly one of the coolest helms ever designed on a superyacht.
Team Italia I-Bridge Air Wings
Team Italia has one of the most impressive client lists for its superyacht helm stations. Last year, Team Italia I-Bridge systems appeared on Benetti’s 220-foot Seasense, Rossinavi’s 161-foot Aurora, Perini Navi’s 197-foot Seven, and Sanlorenzo’s 197-foot Seven Sins, among others. Team Italia has also done wheelhouse integrations for Perini Navi Sybaris, Isa Forever One, and Rossi Navi Taransay—yachts featured in this story. Perhaps with more long-term significance, the company displayed a new I-Bridge Air Wings system that could be a game-changer for wheelhouses. The system controls onboard systems using 3-D display technology, multi-touch controls and jogging switches on table displays that are starship material.
Team Italia realized that modern tech will change the wheelhouse from a clunky, dark, man cave where a single huge console dominates the front to a multi-table configuration that leaves the front windows free, from floor to ceiling, for ocean views. “The design has become an increasingly more important feature of the wheelhouse that creates pleasant social areas for the owners and guests,” says Massimo Minnella, Team Italia CEO. The company displayed a prototype at last Monaco show that included side modules with navigation systems, touch displays with multi-controls and trackballs, a central module with a 4K touch display, and a separate I-Chart table. It looked more like futuristic furniture than a traditional helm.
The 128-foot Taransay came from the yard of custom builder Rossinavi. The mega-yacht looks like a classic 1930s steamer but was actually launched in 2015. The owner wanted to travel the world aboard a classic-style yacht, but with all the modern conveniences. It made more sense to build a high-tech replica than find a rusting 90-year-old hull and rebuild it from scratch. There is nothing fake about Taransay’s elegant, mahogany-covered pilothouse, which reflects the brass handles and gleaming mahogany paneling found across the rest of the yacht.
The wheelhouse’s centerpiece is a classic wood-and-glass binnacle connected to the equally impressive wood-and-brass steering wheel. The rest of the helm contains modern electronics, with large monitors to control all onboard systems. This helm is the perfect marriage of classic and contemporary in a very elegant yacht.
ISA Forever One
The bright red helm seats and joinery of the 179-foot ISA yacht Forever One matches the red trim and transom of the bespoke yacht’s exterior. Despite the bright colors, Axis Group Yacht Design kept the helm configuration relatively tame, with several monitors on either side of the helm station for the captain, and a simple bolster in the center near the mini-steering wheel. The area is more spacious than most wheelhouses, doubling as an unofficial saloon, with a lounger behind the helm. The owners like to come down and look through the 180-degree banks of windows when the yacht is at anchor or underway. The windows and high ceilings make this design the antithesis of the cramped, functional helm areas of most yachts.
This 65-foot yacht from Adler was one of last year’s standouts in its class, combining a smart, unconventional layout by Venice designers Nuvolari-Lenard with advanced aviation and automotive features. Its helm is a fresh take on yacht wheelhouses, with a private jet’s “glass-cockpit” look that includes six large Boening touchscreens that control most onboard systems by a fingertip. The controls range from adjusting the air-conditioning to monitoring engines and closing curtains in the saloon. The system can also be monitored remotely with an iPad. The Suprema’s hybrid electric-diesel power can also be controlled from the helm.
The system’s visual schematics show a range of possible engine configurations for when the boat is running. “Twin Diesel” mode, for instance, displays when both types of diesel are pushing the yacht up to 30 knots. In “Generator” mode, power is coming only from the batteries and electric generators. The intuitive, hands-on design of the system allows for easy navigation and monitoring. Adler didn’t skimp on luxuries, either. The steering wheel has a stitched leather cover, and the stylized throttles and joystick control are elegant enough for any superyacht. For both features and design, the Supreme has the best wheelhouse for any yacht its size.
New Zealand helm specialist IMED has made its name creating custom superyachts helms, often exterior helms for sailing yachts. The company has focused on ensuring its helms are waterproof and appropriately backlit for use in the harshest conditions, while aesthetically suited to each yacht. It is not surprising that these rugged but efficient helms come from a Kiwi builder; New Zealand has many of the world’s finest sailors who compete in offshore, around-the-world races like the Volvo Ocean Race to inshore events like America’s Cup. The engineers behind IMED have designed their helm stations to perform complex functions, but the packages are simple so spare parts are minimal. One noteworthy feature: The luxury boats have dimmers to control lights in different conditions, and an RGB controller allows the user to choose any light color for both functionality and fashion.
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