Own or Lease Your Next Yacht - How Circular Economy Changes Yacht Ownership

A brand spanking new Swan 78, will you own or lease your next boat? Photo by Daniel Novello

A brand spanking new Swan 78, will you own or lease your next boat? Photo by Daniel Novello

The transition to a more circular economy, where the value of products, materials and resources is maintained in the economy for as long as possible mimics in many ways how nature itself has functioned for billions of years. In the natural world, life and death goes in to a cycle because even a dead mouse has value.

This is not true for the manufacturing industry in a post industrialist world. The linear approach where we take, make and dispose has been the leading way to produce.

This, as we all know by now, is not at all sustainable.

Given the long life of boats, it is essential to encourage design improvements that will reduce the environmental impact and increase the durability and recyclability of the boats components. 

Today yachts are designed and built and after years of use they end up in a landfill or at the bottom of the sea. Unless someone recognises the value and undertake a restoration or refit.

This can not go on. Of course.

From owning to leasing a yacht

Younger generations are less occupied with owning a bunch of stuff. Many sailors are more interested in actual sailing instead of owning a yacht. Companies that offers the infrastructure for renting, sharing and perhaps co- owning has established itself in young culture for some time now.

Think of how platforms like AirBnB and Uber helps to facilitate hospitality and transport. For a growing number of people, the concept of owning a car today is grotesque. So why should one expect that yacht ownership should be regarded differently?

Imagine leasing a yacht instead of owning it. You would lease your boat of choice and the yard would take care of maintenance and lay up and all sorts of other things included in the deal. That sounds like a good deal to many.

Built to last

Better design can make boats more durable and easier to repair. Smarter design can make refits or remanufacturing easier.

It can help recyclers to disassemble boats in order to recover valuable materials and components. Overall, it can help to save precious resources.

The positive side effects of designing and producing higher quality boats and equipment are many and can lead to a bigger incentive to take care of and properly maintain the yachts.

However, for a prospective owner such a yacht sounds very expensive. At the same time, the consumer, manufacturer and the recycler/refitter is not always aligned. The circular economy is working on a theoretical level so far and the EU and other organisations are launching initiatives to help facilitate and create laws to speed up the work towards a more sustainable industry.

It took a sailor

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a foundation set up in 2010 to accelerate the circular economy, is doing great work and is often referred to on the matter of circular economy.

Many sailors knows Dame Ellen MacArthur from her adventures at sea. Apparently, the experiences from ocean passages was something that inspired her to launch the foundation. MacArthur made yachting history in 2005, when she became the fastest solo sailor to circumnavigate the globe, and remains the UK’s most successful offshore racer ever.

The foundation has a number of cases worth investigating for those interested: In-depth - Washing Machines & The Circular Economy Applied to the Automotive Industry

What do you learn when you sail around the world on your own? When solo sailor Ellen MacArthur circled the globe - carrying everything she needed with her - she came back with new insight into the way the world works, as a place of interlocking cycles and finite resources, where the decisions we make today affect what's left for tomorrow.