Quay Crew talks to the multi award winning yacht designer – John Munford.

Many crew will walk onto their new yacht and not consider what’s gone into the build let alone the creative conception and design of what can only be described as a masterpiece. Today Super Yachts are pushing the boundaries left, right and centre but some of the most famous and most beautiful are the classically designed yachts that just work perfectly – for owners and crew.




So, what goes into the creation of a Super Yacht? We were very lucky to grab a few moments with the multi award winning and honoured with a lifetime achievement award, John Munford, to find that out…



Firstly John, how did you get into designing yachts?


I actually trained as a furniture designer in the early 60s and was influenced by furniture related to its environment. When I started out there was no such job as a yacht interior designer or stylist. However my first job was with a small boatbuilding company in Chichester where we designed and built the interior ‘pods’ or structural elements for most of the companies on the south coast, which they soon adopted to making themselves. Followed by architectural firms, exhibition design studios and shipyards, developing practical based design. In 1965 a chance viewing of Shemara gave me a glimpse of this extraordinary vessel emerging from a grey Camper & Nicholson shipyard on the Solent that inspired me as a young man and giving a direction for life. Five years later I was working in their studio and later at Fairey Marine, both being a fantastic grounding in yacht design.



What was your first design to be built?


It wasn’t until the late 70s that I started my own design studio which by coincident was in one of the ship’s stores of the old C&N Northam yard renamed Shamrock Quay. Yacht design work had to be supplemented with visualisations, pubs and commercial work to start with. The real break came in 1981 when I was commissioned to design the interior and all the deck structures of gaff rigged schooner Jessica (now Adix) soon to be followed by the staysail schooner Aquarius. The cherry on top was when Elizabeth Meyers commissioned me to design for the resurrection of the J class yacht Endeavour in 1985. I already had the Gerhard Gilgenast trawler yacht, 43m MY Margaux Rose on the board. However the ultimate gentleman’s yacht came in 1989 with the 50m Feadship Aurora being the first of 10 yachts with the Feadship yards culminating with 69m Archimedes that launched in 2008. Of course there are many fantastic yachts, owners and craftsmen that I have enjoyed working with over my long career in the yachting industry but that is how it started.



What challenges do you face laying out the interior of a yacht?


Many and varied is the easy answer. First it is necessary to listen to the client’s requirement, motor or sail, private or charter, leisure or performance, business or pleasure, approximate length, how many guests, classic or modern, cruising waters, toys, tenders, equipment, communications, pools; gyms, cinemas and so no. All relating to how many crew are required to run the vessels efficiently whilst maintaining the owners requirement. Once you have that the naval architect and designer can form the body of the yacht.



Which do you prefer to design? Motor or sailing yachts?


Both as either are like a Rubik’s cube personalised for each project. Of course much depends on one’s relationship with the owners and the other professionals involved.



Which is easier – to design from scratch or to design a refit to an existing yacht?


New build is in most cases the cleaner project but working with true classics like Endeavour, Velsheada or Fair Lady is a wonderful experience as you have to respect the original master designer’s principals.



Which of your designs would you feel was your biggest achievement and why?


Gosh this is a hard one as all the yachts feel like a family to me. Jessica, Endeavour and Aurora as they established my direction in yacht design. However Archimedes because I was able to inject 30 years of my experiences with many of the facilities I have always wanted to see in a motor yacht. She is the modern classic.



Which elements of crew life do you consider when designing the yacht?


The crew is the binding factor onboard they have to run the vessel like well oiled machinery. First they have to be accommodated within the MCA, SOLS and other regulations. There has to be uninterrupted access around the ship to all areas that make the yacht function whether it the helm, engine room, galleys or pantries, tenders but also to be able to discretely service the owners and guest areas. They are there to perform efficiently. Our job as designers is to secure the right space for them to do that. So, it is as important to consider their living and operating spaces as much as any machinery onboard.



Have there been any extreme requests from clients in the past when it comes to the ‘toys’ to be installed?


Pools and Jacuzzis seem common requirements but Margaux Rose was well known for launching a hot air balloon from the foredeck. Amongst its tenders it also had a couple of one-man Messerschmitt super fast jet boats. The 70m Reverie had a central cast bronze fireplace sculpture in the observation lounge plus a stone clad pizzeria with oven. Apart from the usual gym it also had a fully equipped health spa with hairdressing saloon and steam room. One of the fantastic parts of the job is that you are only a phone call away from someone else’s fantasy.


Working fireplaces became one of John’s signatures with his classical interiors.



And lastly, what would be your one piece of advice to someone looking to work as crew in the yachting industry?


We are all there to do a job so take your experience with you but be prepared to absorb new skills with an open mind and anticipate requirements in advance. It is all in the detail and working with the highest standards within other people’s time scale. The camaraderie is fantastic and you are blessed with working with highly skilled people in a wonderful environment.




Huge thanks go to John Munford for giving his time and a fabulous insight to Quay Crew Website’s readers.






From 2006 to 2007 Tim was lucky enough to spend two years as a deckhand on MY Sai Ram and MY Leander, two excellent charter yachts. Quay Crew was formed in 2013 and is proving to be a great success: Tim covers the deck department predominantly working on Captain and Officer roles.

+44 (0) 7760 202610 | +33 7810 12245 | tim@quaycrew.com

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