In civil architecture – be it public, commercial or residential – it would be impossible for a young person without the necessary academic qualifications and on-the-job experience, to tackle a complete design and be taken seriously. He or she would be derided by other architects and not even given a second glance by the market.
The nautical industry, on the other hand, is so unprofessional that it will accept any project anyone, however inexpert, presents. Passion aside, aspiring young yacht designers need to be humble enough to realise they require an in-depth knowledge of boats both in terms of how they are used and the processes involved in conceiving and building them. That knowledge will only come through a broad range of scholastic, professional and navigational experience.
This translates to spending time working in design studios and yards to get a first-hand idea of the real problems involved from safety issues to quality details. When it comes to actually getting out on the water, they don’t need their own boat but can simply get a job as a crew hand, ship’s boy, etc. In the meantime, they need to continue developing their computer skills and knowledge of CAD programmes. They will then have all the right boxes ticked when the right opportunity comes around to propose a design.
Of course, their first proposals should be for reasonably-sized craft not crazy gigayachts. But young designers tend to come up with solutions aimed to dazzle rather than be of any practical use. While I agree that contemporary technologies mean we can dream of solutions that will improve life aboard, I still can’t accept that dazzling solutions that are problematic to implement and hamper navigability should then be completely handed over to the real experts to deal with on a practical level. Far too easy! A good new idea can’t just be genuinely new and original (not plagiarised!), it also has to cover all the bases in terms of feasibility!
So to summarise, I would strongly recommend that anyone passionate about nautical architecture build up the necessary theoretical and practical background before venturing into producing a complete boat design. Don’t think that a good knowledge of computers and CAD makes you an expert: yacht designers are actually the modern-day equivalent of the shipwright and, as such, need all the experience of a master craftsman.