When we set up an interview with Henrik Fisker, we figured we'd be talking cars ... lots and lots of cars. And we did, looking back at his experiences with Fisker Automotive and forward at his plans for Fisker Inc. and VLF Automotive. What we weren't counting on was the conversation drifting off shore and out to sea. But in addition to his famous automotive design work, Mr. Fisker's resume now includes an impressive hunk of nautical design. The 164-foot (50-m) Benetti Fisker 50 brings stylish, Fisker-manipulated curves, a movie theater-turned-gym, multiple "oceanfront" bars and plenty of other luxuries to the high seas.
After working on the project throughout 2015, Italian yacht builder Benetti and Fisker revealed pictures of the Fisker 50 last April, and when the topic came up during our interview, we had to find out more about this US$37 million vessel and Fisker's involvement.
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"I was at an event where I bumped into a gentleman from Benetti and we were discussing yachts and yacht design," Fisker recalls. "I had a lot of questions, after some time on some yachts, [about] why were they designed the way they were. He said, 'we're really looking for somebody who can think out of the box, and somebody coming in with a recognized name and maybe really changing the ways we design yachts.' After another glass of wine, we agreed, made a handshake and the deal was done."
As you can see in the photos, the Fisker 50 is more "superyacht," less waterborne sports sedan, the way one might expect a Fisker-penned boat to look. In fact, we've seen more sports car-inspired looks on other boat projects, like the Revolver 44GT and more recent Lexus Sport Yacht.
There are some constraints on yacht design that a car designer might not be entirely familiar with, at least for a vessel that is designed with actual seaworthiness in mind. While car designers have a lot of leeway in sculpting an entire body around a powertrain and four wheels, a yacht designer has to work within the confines of hydrodynamics. Simply put, the thing needs to stay afloat and move efficiently through water much more than it needs to look sexy and original.
"We wanted to make this yacht, so it had to be fully engineered," says Fisker. "Obviously, I'm not a nautical engineer, so I was not to design the hull. We were using a new hull [Benetti] had just developed."
"It was extremely exciting and very different to designing a car because doing car development, you build a full-size clay model, then you build a show car and a prototype, so you get to see how it looks, and feels, and everything else. But with a yacht, the first time you build the yacht full-size, that is the actual yacht, not a test. So you have to go through a lot of controls in virtual reality, and that's a whole different way of doing it."
From the looks of it, Fisker didn't need to leave all traces of his auto design resume on the sidelines, calling upon his experience to give his yacht design some identity of its own. Reshaping the familiar front crease of the hull to create a face like a sports car might have been out of the question, but Fisker dropped a series of three stainless steel bars on the front, creating a sort of "yacht grille" and a face distinct from other vessels of the sea.
Other elements that bridge the worlds of automotive and nautical design include the flowing, wave-like character lines of each of the three decks, reminiscent of the character lines that flow along the sides of a car; the wraparound glasshouses; and the use of carbon fiber components.
"I feel, when they're over 45 meters (148 ft), the big yachts start to become very square," Fisker opines. "They almost look like apartment buildings on the ocean. I really wanted to create something much more dynamic and flowing. When you look at the yacht, specifically in side view, you can kind of see the flowing line running down through the side of the yacht and sort of sweeping up in a hip at the rear, which kind of is echoed on the other decks."
Fisker's work on the exterior is attractive and "sporty" enough, but it doesn't quite seduce our eyes like the unique curves of a proper sports car. It's still a huge, yacht-shaped yacht.
As with any good superyacht, though, the exterior is but an introductory paragraph to a much greater story. The real seduction is found on board, where luxurious and innovative features abound.
All that black glass you see outside gets put to use giving every interior room on the yacht a crystal-clear view of the ocean. The yacht can accommodate 12 guests and includes a master suite, guest cabins and staff quarters for up to 11 crew members.
The master suite is a particularly elegant place to spend the night, comprising a master bedroom, office/library and bathroom, all of which maintain a clear sightline out to sea. The master bedroom is appropriately well-appointed, offering a fold-down terrace, fireplace, starlight ceiling, mini-bar, his/hers walk-in closets and a large, curved TV.
The master suite is located on the main deck, where guests will also find a spacious reception area with a bar and seating group for 12. The floor-to-ceiling glass windows can be opened to let the salt air in or left closed, offering unimpeded views of the sea either way. The long bar looks straight out to sea through the side glass, but missing is the typical dining table that you'd expect to find on a vessel like this. Where to eat?
"Every single yacht of this size and above always has a big dining table at the rear of the living room," Fisker explains. "I removed that, and that was kind of something that was very hard to digest for Benetti. I created this long bar on the right side with a great ocean view, and when you press a button, the bar electrically lowers itself and folds up to become a dining table."
This "dining bar" isn't the only piece of transformative trickery on board the Fisker. The upper deck houses a 12-person movie theater, providing guests a place to wind down in the evening with a new or classic film. With its huge widescreen and reclining beds, this cozy cinema balances entertainment and comfort ... but it also mixes in a bit of physical fitness.
Even the most movie-obsessed passengers won't be spending all their time binging on flicks aboard such a beautiful, amenity-filled yacht, so to give the upper deck more use, the theater furniture shuffles around to open up about half of the space for use as a gym. So guests can work out in the morning, head downstairs to enjoy sun, water, ocean views and libations throughout the day, and then climb back upstairs to enjoy some digital entertainment in the evening.
The top-level sun deck includes another bar, a dining table and a dual-purpose fire pit/ice chest centered inside a circular sofa. Other amenities around the Fisker 50 include an open-air hot tub raised for better ocean views, a spa, a beach club, and storage for personal watercraft and a 21-ft (6.5-m) yacht tender. Owners and guests on this superyacht are unlikely to complain that Benetti and Fisker have left them without creature comforts and activities.
Plans call for the Fisker 50 build to include carbon fiber, reclaimed wood, solar panels and a hybrid powertrain option. The solar power will be stored on board and used to power ambient lighting at night. When we spoke to him in December, Fisker told us construction had not begun.
As for whether Fisker enjoyed the yacht-design experience enough to do another, he said he'd definitely team up with Benetti again but, with all the other projects on his plate, it probably won't be this year. Instead, 2017 will see him get back to his bread and butter with the introduction of the Fisker EMotion.
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