Meet the skipper: Second generation Mulder at the helm
A key factor in the Netherlands becoming a leading light leader in the superyacht world has been that many of its yards, naval architects and equipment suppliers started out as family firms. Mulder Design is no exception, having been founded by Frank Mulder almost 45 years ago (more on which below). After gaining his Naval Architecture degree from the same prestigious university as his father, Bas Mulder joined the company in 2000 and the two worked in close partnership until Frank’s recent retirement. How does it feel to now be at the helm?
How does it feel to now be at the helm?
I certainly had some big shoes to step into as my father Frank has had a remarkable career. In the early days Mulder Design developed a name for fast craft and Frank worked closely with Heesen Yachts in the 1980s on developing the record-breaking Octopussy along with other renowned speed machines.
By the time I joined the firm in the new millennium Mulder Design had broadened its expertise into all types of motoryacht. From 2008 onwards Frank started handing over more decisions to me in and this served me in good stead over the years. As did the fact that both of us have always been supported by a first-class team of design specialists, naval architects and engineers.
My dad and I were always well aligned on our vision for the company. There’s a nice video we made together a few years ago that captures both the spirit in which Mulder Design works and the approach we take to the business that bears our name.
Was it a smooth transition?
Yes, very much so. Frank decided to retire in 2020 as the onset of Covid led to a very different period of less traveling and more working from home. He still comes into the office occasionally to share his experience but is now enjoying a well-earned retirement. The pandemic came with it’s challenges but the team is now again working at full steam and we’re doing very well both as a company and on behalf of our clients. At full capacity we usually have a crew of around ten naval architects, designers and engineers and there are a couple of positions up for grabs now in the engineering and design departments. Drop me a line if you are interested.
How would you describe the ethos of Mulder Design in this new era?
That’s not changed actually… Like father, like son, I believe the key factor is that every project in which we’re involved must be a technical success. A yacht’s performance in terms of speed, seakeeping, stability and so on supersedes her looks. Don’t get me wrong – we like nothing more than drawing a beautiful boat in terms of aesthetics but she has to work technically and match the client’s expectations, whether that’s a yard or the owners.
As well as being built and engineered to last, a Mulder should also stand the test of time in design terms rather than just the latest trend. Of course, we take into account the ebb and flow of design in the way people see yacht lines and shapes, in the way people perceive classic and modern if you like. But we don’t design to extremes at either end of the spectrum as they don’t tend to last well.
What other aspects have underpinned the success of Mulder Design?
In addition to technical expertise, client focus and an eye for design, I believe the fact that our office can cover every aspect of a yacht’s development has been crucial. While happy to carry out specific naval architecture, design or engineering tasks on some projects, our favourite challenges are when a client asks us to take care of everything.
This also makes it much easier for changes such as the layout or the location of the engine room to be made during the project as we have all the disciplines working closely together here in our offices. No matter how good the teams are at different companies, in-house cooperation and communication is the most efficient way to get the best result for clients. It’s also very cost-effective for obvious reasons as we solve everything holistically.
So the future looks bright at Mulder Design?
Most certainly… After 23 years working here, I am more enthusiastic than ever. While Mulder Design is primarily active in the market for one-off custom designs in the 30 to 70-metre range, our doors are open to all. From eye-catching exterior profiles to premium performance, seakeeping and engineering, we’ll continue to ensure all elements of a design are seamlessly interconnected.
The four main stages in an all-in-one Mulder Design project:
• Preliminary design: Every project starts with ideas and a wish list which serve as input for a preliminary design supported by layouts, sketches, a mood board and artist’s impressions. We then supply a set of drawings and technical documents to prove the feasibility of the project and sufficient information for a bid package to be sent out to yards.
• Working out final design: Here the project is improved by repeating all the design steps and taking a number of critical decisions. This lays the foundations for the remainder of the design and engineering to come.
• Engineering: The most time-consuming part of the process, focused primarily on preparing construction drawings, system schematics, 3D shapes, 3D constructions, and making the calculations for construction, speed and stability-related subjects. Also includes communication with class and flag authorities.’
• Build supervision: Not to be confused with the project manager role, this stage involves overseeing quality at the yard and ensuring our drawings are followed. The ultimate focus is to achieve the highest degree of safety and comfort.