Lighting Design for superyachts

“The history of architecture is the history of the struggle for light.”
So said one of the world’s leading modern architects, Le Corbusier, born in Switzerland in the late 1800s and died in 1965.
Mood maker”

Leading light designer of this day and age, Rogier van der Heide, believes light is what brings an emotional element to a building (or boat), and is why sometimes owners are reluctant or nervous to change it. He says, ‘Everything has evolved on board, navigation and entertainment and it’s all wireless, the internet everywhere. But the lighting is still very conventional. Actually when I go onboard I still see these little halogen lights or tungsten lamps that make a very conventional image and I think somehow owners are reluctant to change it because lighting is something very emotional maybe. When you arrive back on your yacht after some time away you want to feel it is your place and of course everything does that; from the furniture, the food, the crew, but the lighting is something that connects with you very emotionally and that’s why it is so important’.

So with the help of van der Heide and other experts in the field, Onboard focuses the headlights on new developments and innovations in lighting installations that will help to soothe, enhance or excite our emotions.
Savage Lighting specialise in LED, halogen and fibre optic lighting for yacht interior and exterior lighting, as well as illuminated logos, yacht names and custom fittings.

During the pandemic the company looked into ways to introduce non-uv led light sources into its standard downlights. Explains Julie Clark-Barnard,’ We also joined with VYV Technology in New York and now they are partners in the creation of luxury lighting. VYV stops the growth and kills viruses, bacteria, fungi, yeast, mold and mildew. Unlike UV light, this technology is fine for people to be exposed to anytime and without any restrictions. We have various solutions for colour temperatures and can integrate with all control systems onboard, Savage light fixtures using VYV are built to continuously reduce microbial growth to keep our indoor environments and surfaces clean’.

Lee Hirons is Marketing Manager at OceanLED that specialises in underwater lighting for yachts. The company’s most recent product launch is the Explore E9 which completes its innovative range of underwater lighting. Says Hirons, ‘OceanLED has always offered a light which can be placed in tanks and void spaces and accessed from the water, without the need for the yacht to be hauled. However now, the E9, with its patented technology, allows the light to be swapped underwater, with its in-water electrical connection, and yes, the electrical connection happens in water!’ Hirons claims these advancements are significant for a number of reasons; size-wise they are smaller than anything else on the market; they’re more sustainable- the advanced optics provide better light with reduced power consumption. ‘Also’, says Hirons, ‘The innovative and unique technology, which includes in-water servicing and optical angling to counter the hull shape while remaining flush with the hull’.

OceanLED recently launched its smallest light, the Discover D3. Originally designed for smaller vessels the D3 has attracted a lot of attention from the superyachts for use in swimming pools, jacuzzis, and on tenders and toys.

‘We have also achieved IP69k classification for water-ingress protection, which is the highest possible rating, above the industry standard IP68. This gives our customers total peace of mind when choosing their ideal lighting solution.  In addition to the highest protection from the outside, we have started to offer protection on the back of some of our lights from temporary submersion for those yachts that tend to get a bit too much water in the bilges!’

OceanLED is particularly well known for its high-level quality of lighting effect through optics. Explains Hirons, ‘Our lighting is engineered to specifically produce the best possible optical in-water lighting effect, with maximum water penetration, whilst only using the minimum power output possible.  In fact, OceanLED is the only company to design and manufacture optics specifically to create an effect in water as opposed to in-air optics which are ineffective in the water, or worse, underwater lights with no optics at all.  Our signature optics create a rectangular beam shape (90° x 20°) , aiming light where it is needed with minimal light loss’.

People often talk of potential problems related to retro-fitting lighting but for Kristin Schaedel at Yachtlite these are simply tasks rather than real problems. Clark-Barnard agrees that in the early years of upgrading from incandescent bulbs to LED technology caused issues with control systems, existing wiring and lack of experience. ‘Now the technology has advanced, installers are more educated, and we have developed many solutions and drivers to adapt to existing systems onboard. We also have experts at hand to advise on compatibility making refits as easy as possible.’

But regardless of advances in technology Hirons at OceanLED admits that you still need to get at the lights in order to refit them, and access can be an issue, particularly underwater. But it depends where the lights are and the extent of the refit. Lighting angles can be tricky; Hirons explains, ‘To get an even lighting effect, whether a halo of light around the hull or an aft wrap, we need to calculate the angle our optics need to be to counter the hull shape and identify areas where a tank might be.  This can be a challenge in itself when you have a yacht with no access to the drawing or 3D models in their original format.  However, our Custom Projects team are used to these hurdles and they usually overcome them through tenacity and a close working relationships with the original build yard and yacht.’

Spotlight on?
Sustainability is hot topic in the superyacht industry, now more than ever and it is something customers are becoming more and more concerned about. Which is one reasons OceanLED has partnered with the Water Revolution Foundation; ‘Working hard on minimising our effects on our environment, whilst providing the best solutions for our clients. We can demonstrate that our lighting gives the best possible effect with minimal power consumption, whilst meeting the vessels commitment to a sustainable environment’, explains Hirons.

At Yachtlite solutions that put yachts in their ‘right light’ are always in great demand; says Schaedel, ‘One keyword here is light signage, highlighting contours, emphasising certain areas such as the contours of the ship’s mast’. Its individual helideck solutions are in also in demand. ‘It’s “cool” when a helideck can also serve as party lighting, for example, says Schaedel. At Savage Lighting where solutions are also custom-led they often colour match to blend with design schemes and colour change either cool to warm or using the complete colour spectrum.

Van der Heide finds the most innovative revelation is the scientific studies between lighting and health. He says, ‘We know some lighting makes you feel good, or some gives you a headache but it was never scientifically underpinned and there is so much evidence now that the levels of hormones for example in our bodies are very much influenced by light. The medical world discovered that we have these receptors in our eyes that see the red, the green and the blue but there is also a fourth receptor called the non-imaging receptor and it links directly into our deep primal brain where things like melatonin and serotonin are being treated and that makes you feel good or relaxed or sleepy or awake and it turns out that light is not just illumination – it could be some kind of therapy – it enhances in us good feelings. I think this is the greatest innovation’. Now luminary programmes for wellbeing, collaborations between doctors, technicians and lighting designers introduce a world of healing and health with light. He’s pretty sure the concept of ‘Wellbeing from light’ would be appreciated onboard the yachts’.

Love, Light
‘Lighting determines not only brightness and darkness, but also tone, mood, and atmosphere. We can create a beautiful environment using the correct lighting and it has always been one of the most important elements onboard,’ say Clark-Barnard, echoing the sentiments of the other specialists. Says Hirons, ‘Here at OceanLED we love how our lighting helps to show off the exquisite design and lines of a yacht. We love how our lights are able to provide an unrivalled in-water lighting effect with the least power output, helping the overall sustainability of the yacht. However we also love the challenges our clients ask of us; pushing our boundaries and that of the underwater lighting world.  There is always something we can help with’. Schaedel appreciates how light can enhance individuality and uniqueness, ‘We love the moods that can be created with light and lighting technology, the ideas of lighting designers and the creative possibilities of LED light.’
Rogier van der Heide does all his lighting wireless, not wi-fi because wi-fi doesn’t go happily with all the steel in the yacht and it is not very stable. He also uses a protocol called Zigby which has a military background and is very robust and sturdy, plus is 128-bit encrypted, so no-one can hack your lights. The ‘mesh’ network means every node, dimmer or lamp switch, receives data but also becomes a transmitter. And if one node drops out it is not a problem at all, because all the other ones all over the boat keep up the network so it is extremely stable.

What does he love? He loves trying to understand the owners. Where do they spend most of their time? Where do they cruise? ‘Is it in the Med where it is always warm and they spend a lot of time out on deck, or not? Bedrooms can be tricky because you want to make light at night but you don’t want to disturb the partner who sleeps, but that is similar to hotel rooms where we created a solution of a strip of light under the bed.’

He takes care to consider lighting for crew areas;-‘To be honest I really want to take care of the crew because when the crew is happy that is a huge factor in the spirit of the boat. I ask myself what are they missing? What does their space look like? Often they are below deck, or close to the kitchen where there is always noise, and if we can, we improve things with good lighting for when they are relaxing. I always check in with them and make sure the lighting is as good as we can make it’.

‘The theatrics of creating an atmospheric cinema, we all get excited about that one’, he says, ‘And also the biggest moment of interaction – dinner time – so it’s important that is set in the right scene which is obviously the food, the table setting, but definitely the lighting is a factor as well. It can be empowering, candles on the table, soft shadows, it’s not that difficult but you’ve got to do it so – that’s also my favourite – al fresco dining’.

How bright is the future for the world of lighting where we learn it is wrong to light up the sky, that illuminating trees kills thousands of insects, and so perhaps ditto the seas? Says van der Heide, ‘You have to take care of biodiversity. Restrictions will of course come to our industry where they say this lighting is bad for algae or that for underwater creatures. We try to take care of everything which is not always easy’. These light specialists are doing their best to improve, offset and develop products that minimise light waste and pollution. But is it time to to turn down the dimmer switch just a notch?

That doesn’t mean its radiance will glow any less powerfully and make us feel alright.