Owners Heather and Clarke Hill greeted me as I boarded the Aicon 52 via her passarelle. Standing with them in the cockpit was Marc-Udo Broich, president of Aicon Yachts USA. All beamed with excitement as they fawned over the first of this model to be off-loaded on American shores. The builder refers to the 52 as a fast, European-style motoryacht, and after spending the better part of a day aboard, it is clear that owners who select an Aicon yacht will benefit from the builder's expertise in interior construction. It is a vessel with a large comfort zone.
The Hills are a couple with direction, and their previous cruising experiences were the building blocks for what they required of their first large powerboat. Both were very active in selecting the components. Heather in fact took the lead on many of the mechanical decisions as well as the interior scheme.
"That is just her nature", Clarke said of his wife. "Our last boat was a 44-foot Pearson ketch and we knew what we wanted in this boat. Aicon was the only company that would accommodate my requests, he continued."
The amount of interaction between builder and owner was clearly evident throughout the boat. The mental images Heather had in mind came to fruition with the assistance of Broich and his staff.
"Our interiors are totally custom and we build everything in-house. There are some things we cannot change, such as the interior molds that create the rigidity in the hull we desire, and we feel they offer a clean look", Broich says. It is hard not to be impressed with the final results.
Aicon Yachts are built in Italy; in current production are the 52 and 56 models, and a 66, 70 and 86 are in the works. The builder uses conventional construction techniques with Divynicell core from the waterline up. The hull is based on a deep-V design that culminates in 18.5 degrees of deadrise at the transom. Prop pockets minimize shaft angle, so the 52 only draws 4 feet, perfect for exploring shallow bays. Three crash zones are incorporated into the design, the first being the swim platform, the second the engineroom and the third is the forward cabin.
The builder infused the project with European flair and American headroom. Even the starboard side lower helm eliminates the need for a tall skipper to slouch. The low rise of the foredeck and bow allow for the helm station to be skewed slightly aft. This position still affords good lines of sight and provides more space for the accommodations below.
Owners requiring a complete array of monitors and screens will have to be creative in their placement; there is a minimum of flat area on the helm console. There is a detailed ship's service panel on the console, and stowage for navigation and other electronics is provided under helm. A section of the side window opens for natural ventilation.
As we mingled about waiting to clear the dock lines, the saloon remained cool and handled the a small crowd with ease. Seven chilled-water air conditioning units, three dedicated to the saloon and one for each cabin (including the optional crew quarters), are plenty to maintain the comfort zone throughout.
The faux ostrich settee hosted five adults comfortably on soft cushions. There is a large stowage area underneath the cushions and even space under the stools. Aicon finely crafted the satin-finished hardwood soles and high-gloss joinery. Heather added wood stairs for visual continuity from the saloon to the step-down galley. Her goal was to achieve a look found on larger yachts.
The large stainless steel framed saloon door creates a clear view of the transom for the pilot and we enjoyed its picture window quality as we cruised down the Intracoastal.
The Aicon 52 is a delight to maneuver. I toyed with the thruster and maneuvered her about as we held position awaiting a bridge opening. Neither current nor wind bullied this motoryacht. Emerging from the no-wake zones the 52 reached a cruising speed of 21 knots at 2050 rpm, her fuel burn was approximately 45 gph and the saloon decibel levels were 78. Top end for this well-laden vessel was 26-knots; the builder hopes to squeak out a bit more and is still fine-tuning her propellers. The waterways were calm, but plowing through boat wakes at speed indicated to me that this yacht will embrace ocean conditions just fine. The Hills are quite happy with both the performance and comfort of their Aicon.
"We lived on the boat in Sicily for 21/2 weeks, and we knew the boat will meet our family's needs. We feel the 52 is perfect, with the separation of the cabins and the lower placement of the galley that keeps it out of sight", commented Clarke.
The three-cabin, two-head Aicon 52 motoryacht will indeed meet cruisers' needs. The dinette is up a few steps from the main saloon and has seating for six. A close inspection of the fit and finish of the cherry wood joinery work shows why Aicon has long been noted for its interior expertise; it is yacht-quality. Everywhere you look an intricate detail, such as where headliner meets joinery, shouts out quality workmanship.
One level down is the galley, and the area is compact. There is plenty of counter space, but I did find it a little restricted by the overhang of the stowage compartments above. It is outfitted with a three-burner cook top, upright refrigerator and microwave. Aicon also includes dinner service for six.
The washer/dryer unit can be found off the passageway to the master cabin. This cabin affords headroom of 6 feet, 10 inches and a berth that measures a full 7 feet. There is ample room bedside for a novel, glass of water and the usual sort of pocket paraphernalia.
Although flowing curves in the European theme highlight the Aicon's interior, the heads included, a teak-and-holly sole in each head tips the hat to American tradition. A split door allows easy access into the shower stall. The builder provided a portal in every cabin and head (except the crew's). Each guest stateroom is outfitted with side-by-side berths of 61/2 feet. The builder offers a single berth option as well.
The crew's quarters are situated aft and are substantially larger than those of other yachts in this class. Still, I believe the North American marketplace will find other more practical uses for the space.
Access to the engineroom is also aft through a wide hatch in the teak sole of the cockpit. Substantial sound attenuating materials confine the bulk of the noise to the engineroom, maintaining a serene quiet in the saloon, even at top speed. Aicon's underwater exhaust system puts a lid on noise, but it makes moving about the engines a bit cumbersome-a small price to pay for the quiet ride.
The 700-hp C12 Caterpillar engines drive conventional running gear and sit atop Divinycel-cored stringers capped with aluminum. The engines pull fuel from two saddles and one center aluminum tank. The Aicon's dual fuel filters and huge sea strainers are readily accessible. The Americanized electrical system was neatly wired, and AC power is supplied by a Mase 14kW generator.
Thoughtful design graces the exterior of the 52, as well. The relatively wide treads of the molded stairs and the shallow angle-instead of a steep ladder with narrow treads-ease the climb from the cockpit to the flying bridge. A solid grab rail helps, too. A large family will be able comfortably to hunker down on the half-moon settee, dine at the large table or relax on the sun pad forward of the helm station. The Hills like this placement of the sun pad, because it keeps the younger generation in plain sight.
The helm station provides good lines of sight for gauges and surroundings; the ZF controls are within easy reach.
Kudos to Aicon for preserving a safe width along the side decks, in spite of having devoted so much of the overall beam to the generous interior volume. Crew and guests no doubt will appreciate the 52's substantial safety rail, which borders the side decks for most of the boat's length.
Aicon Yachts has proven that even within an LOA of 52 feet, it is possible to minimize the compromises and deliver a yacht that offers a luxurious saloon and comfortable cabins. I am excited to see what they will do with 66 feet.
Contact: Aicon Yachts; (954) 713-8108; www.aiconyachts.com. For more information, contact: (866) 922-4877