Bernd Weel creates sculpture from superstructure.
Designer of the award-winning Holterman Shipyards’ Xtreme series, the muscular form of his yachts is instantly recognisable. Weel’s an agile designer whose signature lines create a play of brilliance and shade that elevates yachts’ hulls from function, to a celebration of form.
“I tend to look for sharp and crisp lines in combination with sculptural recesses. How the light and shadows reflect on each surface,” says Weel.
There’s good grounding for that design ethos. Sketching and designing from a very young age, Weel learned to turn his ideas into beautifully-functional designs with an initial role in an architectural firm. Three years in Turin followed where his creative flair turned to the automotive industry; and that hallmark use of light began.
“In the automotive design field it is very common to work on surface design. Think of how the sun is creating reflections on a car’s bonnet or wheel arch.”
But it was with yachts that Weel had a love at first sight moment. Introduced by his sister who has enjoyed a long career in the yachting industry, Weel knew from the moment he saw a superyacht in the flesh he would pursue a career in yacht design; falling in love with the presence superyachts exhibit. And they loved him back; yachts glow under his design touch.
“For me yacht design combines three things. The creativity and style I learned from the automotive design field. The technical know-how and functional design of my experience in architecture. And lastly, I always had the desire to be independent and to have my own design studio. Yacht design gave me the feeling I could do so,” says Weel. “These three things combined made the chosen path feel very natural and clear for me. I could have never planned this path in advance, but looking back it makes perfect sense.”
When he teamed up with Holterman, the Netherlands-based shipyard and the designer found a chemistry which turned Weel’s work in light and shadow into artworks of steel and aluminium. The latest example of this work is the Xtreme 78 Fly; an evolution of the Xtreme Yachts 78 Sport launched in September 2022, which itself followed the successful launch of Xtreme Yachts’ first iteration, 2022 delivery, Lady Fleur.
That launch astonished yacht observers, with Lady Fleur’s 105 feet or 33 metres, encompassing an aft drive-in tender bay that rises flush to the deck to form an 11 metre pool.
“The owner had some very specific wishes and features in mind, whereby the biggest challenge was to integrate the large hydraulic tender platform and swimming pool into the stern.”
But integrate it Weel did, with the design and build so successful it quickly attracted a raft of new orders in its wake as well as becoming an award-winner. Lady Fleur was named Innovation of the Year in her category as well as winning Outstanding Exterior Design for yachts 24-39.9 metres in Boat International’s 2022 Superyacht Awards.
It’s an extraordinary achievement. Weel introduced the height-adjustable pool and tender dock in a way which feels generous and expansive – creating a new area for guest enjoyment – and never seen before on a yacht of this size.
He likens it to solving a puzzle. And while other designers might have balked at the immense challenge of combining seemingly-contradictory requests that a yacht have a pool, transport a large tender, and be 33 metres LOA, this designer described it as what made the job so great.
Though he has created a winning formula with the Xtreme series’ blend of muscularity and slick lines, each successive yacht has carried her own individual character.
The XTreme 78 Flybridge takes the balanced, athletic profile of the Xtreme 78 Sport, and adds a spacious flybridge deck designed for enjoyment of hot summer weather. While the Sport is an excellent match for Dutch waters and northern cruising with its visually long, sleek profile and spacious interior living, the Flybridge caters to Mediterranean functionality with an emphasis on outdoor enjoyment.
There’s one feature Weel is particularly excited to see come to life; the ‘wings’ added to the sides in design.
“We added these because of the taller flybridge superstructure. It was needed to regain some balance and to give a stronger appearance. It emphasises width and they are mounted in a hanging way from the superstructure; ‘floating’ on the bulwark. I think this is a very cool detail that I have never seen before on another yacht.”
That the Xtreme 78 Flybridge is one of six in the series where the first vessel was delivered in 2022 is indicative of the runaway success Weel and Holterman Yachts are finding with Xtreme Yachts. Much of this success is down to a combined ability to interpret owners’ vision.
“The best part is to bring their vision to life. When I start sketching and drawing many times everything falls into place,” says Weel. “It is the process whereby an owner can really see their dream coming to life. It brings excitement from their side, as well as from my side. I love to work closely with owners, as it’s what makes every project unique and personal. Pushing together for the best possible design.”
With Xtreme quickly developing a pedigree of modern, dynamic yachts, Weel’s partnership with Holterman promises to deliver more projects which are sculptural masterpieces from the exterior, functional masterpieces while onboard.
Proving once again, this is a sculptor who works in light and steel, aluminium and shadow.