When did the first motor yacht appear?

When did the first motor yacht appear?

A short excursion into the history of yacht building - from the first yacht to the present day
Share on social media

The year 2021 marks the 135th anniversary of the launch of the first ever motor yacht.

The first motorboat was built in 1886 at the German shipyard Lurssen by order of inventor Gottlieb Daimler, who wanted to test his new gasoline engine. A year earlier, Daimler had patented the technology for forcing air into an internal combustion engine using a gear pump.

Daimler's engine was single-cylinder, weighed 60 kg and produced only 1.5 hp at 700 rpm. It was carried by 11 people to a lake in Stuttgart, where it was to be tested.

The locals protested against the launching of the Rems - the name of the first motorboat in history. They heard that the boat is set in motion by explosions and considered the experiment deadly. However, Daimler still managed to convince the locals in Stuttgart that his boat would not kill anyone.

In 1887 Daimler tested a motor boat with an improved engine: he equipped the invention with a second cylinder, placing it at an angle of 15 degrees to the first. The new motor from Daimler had a power of 4 hp. Thus a V-shaped engine was born.

Lurssen continued to cooperate with Daimler, and in 1896 their joint effort launched a 12-meter Daimler motor yacht.

The first motor yachts

While Daimler was trying automobile gasoline internal combustion engines on boats, another German, Rudolf Diesel, was inventingand testing the first diesel engine. Diesel's know-how was that it was not fuel itself that was compressed inside the engine pistons but air and in the course of air compression heat was generated which helped fuel to ignite itself. The first working diesel engine was assembled - under the supervision of Diesel - by the company MAN.

Diesel engines turned out to be much more effective than steam engines used at that time in commercial and military fleets. Already in 1903 the first ship with diesel engine was built. It was a river tanker Vandal.

The first diesel engines were huge and very heavy - this prevented their application on pleasure boats. Diesel engines started to spread in the yachting world only since the second half of the 20th century.

Powerboats were developed in several countries simultaneously. In 1888, inEngland , the Priestman Brothers company tested the first motor yacht. Its engine was powered by kerosene and used an innovative high-voltage ignition system. Priestman Brothers was the first to begin mass production of motor boats, and by 1890 Priestman's boats were being used successfully to tow cargo on canals.

In 1903 the first ever powerboat races were held in CorkHarbour in Ireland . British newspaper magnate Alfred Charles William Harmsworth was the founder of the races. He was slightly ahead of Prince Albert I of Monaco, who also dreamed of organizing such a race in 1903,but the idea failed.

The winner of the first powerboat race was....woman.

Dorothy Levitt, in a 12-meter,75-horsepower Napier-built steel motor yacht, set the first-ever speed record at 19.3 mph (31.1 km). The engine on this yacht was already a 4-cylinder .

Prince Albert managed to catch up with the nimble newspaperman in 1904.Monaco hosted a powerboat race in which teams from Italy,Germany, France, Sweden and England took part. Competed in two classes: cruising (cabin boats) and racing (open boats).

In 1906, Baglietto Shipyard in Italy launched the largest motor yacht with internal combustion engine - 22.6-meter Giuseppina. The Giuseppina was still equipped with a sail, which had an auxiliary role.

In 1907, Ole Evinrud had invented the first outboard engine. This momentous yacht-building invention had a very interesting story to tell: Ole was out rowing a boat to get ice-cream for his wife but the ice-cream melted while he was rowing.

This is when he had the idea of mounting compact engines on ordinary rowing boats. As early as 1909, outboard boat motors went on sale.

The motorboat market after the war

Two world wars led to the main recreational boat manufacturers working for government contracts. After the World War II, a ban on yacht building was imposed in a number of countries . The situation normalized only by the middle of the century.

In 1949, after a long break, the Feadship yard launched the 13-metre motor yacht Ibis with Perkins diesel engines. In the 1950s Perkins diesels were used in the Thames river police fleet .

In 1952, the company Yanmar managed to create the first small diesel engine. To solve the weight problem, Japanese developed high-strength cast iron with spheroidal graphite and increased engine speed by reducing the stroke of the piston.

The first «small» diesel engine still weighed 125 kg, but over the years the technology has been improved and refined.

The result was a series of engines under the K (from the German Klein) designation. These diesel engines with output from 1 to 7 hp weighed a little more than 50 kg. By the mid 50's, Yanmar was producing compact marine diesel engines, which could be equipped with yachts. This is how diesels came to boats.

In 1958, Jim Wynne in his garage in Miamiassembled the first turntable. Volvo Penta bought the technology. Volvo improved on Wynne's idea by turning the propeller on the nose. This type of tilt-turn propeller started to be fitted on wakesurfing boats. Mercury Marine joined the production of tilt-up propellers, and they quickly captured the market for small powerboats and supplanted the outboard engines.

In 1961, Correct Craft launched the first fiberglass yacht on the market.

This was the 5.5-meter long Ski Nautique, a water ski tow boat designed by Leo Benz. It was Benz's idea to build fiberglass boats, though at first it was dismissed as a ridiculous fantasy. Today a vast majority of not only motor but also sailing yachts are built in GRP (glass reinforced plastic).

Motor yacht market today

By the 1960s the motoryacht market had acquired a modern face. The Fort Lauderdale Boat Show (FLIBS), the largest boat show in the world, was organized in 1959 by local yacht builders and dealers and had only 13 boats. In 1969 the first Boot Dusseldorf Boat Show, now the largest pavilion-based boat show in the world, was held in Dusseldorf, Germany. The first year 116 companies (mostly local, with only 7 shipyards from other countries) participated in the show. In a year the number of participants grew to 183from 25 countries. In 1977 Cannes Yachting Festival was held in France for the first time.

Today, powerboats up to 10m are dominant in the market with planinghulls used for fishing, short walks, or water sports such as water skiing and wakeboarding. Such boats are fitted with outboard engines or swashbucklers.

Motor yachts, unlike motor boats, are more habitable and seaworthy. Compact motor yachts with length of 10 to 15 metres have from 1 to 3 cabins, a small galley and a bathroom. They can be planing, displacement or transitional semidisplacement type, completed with slewing columns or traditional shaft-mounted engines. In the medium size motor yachts 15 to 20m segment the leading position is taken by the planing yachts with flybridge - open cockpit deck with additional control station. Only stationary diesel engines are used here.

The leading countries in production of motor yachts are USA, Italy, Germany, UK, France and Holland. Italy, Germany and Holland are leading in the super and megayacht segment. According to Boat International, the Italian Azimut-Benetti group is the leader in the superyacht market in 2020. Italian Sanlorenzo comes second.» Dutch Feadship is finishing the top three. Germany in the list of top manufacturers of luxury yachts «is represented by Lurssen (number 5), Amels-Damen (6) and Heesen( 8).

Table 1: Largest multi-brand yacht builders

Share on social media
Want your yacht SOLD?
Let us know whether you want to get a fast deal by selling instantly for cash or list your yacht on favorable terms. Leave a request and get a free valuation of your Boat.