How, when and, possibly, why, did you get involved in boat design?
I have always been creative minded and I completed an Industrial Design degree. After freelancing for some months I was approached by the head of design at Oceanfast and commenced work soon after as a detail designer. This was the year 1987 and Oceanfast was building innovative fast yachts designed by the late great Jon Bannenberg. After some 10 years I had progressed within the company to the role of Chief of Design and had been involved in some 20 yachts over this period.
During the time you’ve been in the business, what do you see as the biggest landmark changes in design and the way you work?
A good question. I guess the biggest change has been the introduction of computers. Gone are the early days where everything was hand drawn and the interior largely could only start once the structure was complete and measurements taken. Visualization has been made easy with 3D modeling and imagery allowing clients and designers to sit side by side and create the client’s dream. Today design can all happen in cyber space well in advance of production, with the translation from design to end product being aided by computers in the manufacturing process, thereby giving the designer more control and alternately more responsibility in the end result.
The advent of computers has dramatically changed the way designers in all fields of life design. Some say that this has reduced the level of skill required in boat design. I would imagine you don’t agree, but what is your comment in regard to a suggestion that the level of individual designers ‘flair’ has been reduced during this period?
That is an interesting point. My simple answer to this is that the creative ability for a designer to create and conceive innovative designs cannot be aided by a mechanical, or technical process. All my designs are created on a drawing board. In this way my ability to think freely and quickly is not impeded by the technical aspects of drawing by computer. For me, to design on a computer inhibits creativity and individuality. Each new design starts with a blank page and a brief from the client, naval architect and other influences combine. The design evolves almost as a living, breathing creation into its own form. What frustrates me is seeing other designers showing off with 101 different designs all looking similar, this is the negative end product of computers where chopping and stretching is the new way of invention. This is something I am extremely annoyed by, clients pay designers handsomely to be creative and it’s a designer’s obligation to be original.
Who are your clients?
As you can imagine this is very private and confidential .The ultimate end users are usually very successful individuals that are looking for excellence in yacht design and a way to express their individuality.
How do you find them, or do they find you?
The big mistake newcomers to this industry make is that they assume that you can just put your sign up, place a few advertisements and go into business as a yacht designer. In the time I have been in business I can only recall one client having come completely out of the blue. Yacht design is so much more than simply drawing lines on paper. Instead it is rather the ability to understand the whole build process and be able to work with a yard as a team. But ultimately it’s all about pleasing a client and being able to deliver the end product that meets the client’s expectation. As this is such a difficult and specialized role it would seem reasonable that a potential shipyard or client will seek advice or recommendation from others. It is for this reason that I believe that opportunities only come from experience and personal achievements.
What projects are you currently working on?
We have just launched a 74m Yacht at Oceanco – the ‘MY Anastasia’ - that has been a very successful project for all involved and we have a new 88m project under construction at Oceanco. Other projects include an innovative 35m Trimaran under construction at Evolution yachts and a 42m under construction at Azzura Marine in Australia.
Of particular interest to your readers, we have recently worked within the UAE with GulfCraft on their 130’ yacht launched a year or so ago and now we are working on a 87m Motor yacht under construction at Platinum Yachts in Dubai. This is an extremely striking vessel that will set new standards for yachts built in the region and will launch Platinum Yachts as a significant Yacht builder with huge capacity both in size and volume. This is an extremely exciting project and one that I am sure will prove to be extremely successful for all involved.
Recently the Middle East has seen a rapid growth in its standing within the yachting world. Do you see the infrastructure is being correctly placed to enable this to continue?
From my experience it would seem that with the rapid development of the region large yachts have not been properly catered for but this is changing. The demand will come from local owners but also from owners and crew that are looking for facilities able to provide refit and servicing. But as the size of yachts in the region increase, the demand will also increase for the correct infrastructure.
Where do you receive inspiration from for your designs?
Inspiration for me comes from the wider life experience. There is no doubt that working at Jon Bannenberg gave me experience in how to balance and create a good design. My personal interests in Art Deco architecture and design, Automobiles, old and new, boats of all types are my main inspiration.
Which design, past or current, do you look at and say “Wow! I wish that were one of mine!”
As a designer in my own right I guess I don’t really look at yachts and think ‘wow that’s something I would do…’. However there are designs that I like for various reasons, which may be their proportions, a particular detail or layout. That said, I recently saw Jon Bannenberg’s first significant motor yacht now called ‘MY The One’ or originally ‘MY Carinthia’ and she is so well proportioned and timeless, a true classic.
What do you foresee as being the next ‘new big thing’ to hit the yachting world?
There are many fads and trends that come and go and today the axe bow is one such fad that appears to be gaining momentum. I here various opinions that seem to be in conflict with respect to its technical merit however there is now doubt that some uniquely different looking vessels are being created as a result. The other big thing is size, it would seem that having the biggest yacht has never been so important but I feel this may change with the political correctness of large yachts becoming more and more under scrutiny as the world’s resources are becoming strained. I feel that there will be a shift to more practically sized yachts.
And what steps are you taking to ensure that you remain at the forefront of the design world?
The most important thing is to continually evolve and be innovative. A designer should always be moving forward, often before you have completed your current project you find that intellectually you have moved on. It’s this evolution which I find inspirational and motivates me to push and create innovative designs. We mustn’t forget the role of the Owner, while we have passionate individuals that are wanting the best in design and uniqueness then there is no time or space for designers to become complacent.
From a business point of view, we have just moved to our new studio in Fremantle, Western Australia. It is larger and more spacious allowing us to expand into the future as we need and providing separate spaces for meetings and conference calls, samples, mockups.
Sam Sorgiovanni’s stock in the yacht design world is set to soar through his involvement with Platinum. Where once he sought inspiration, advice, and direction from mentors in his field, the time has come that others will seek the same from him.
First published in Men's Passion issue #6 September 2008