The Azimut/Benetti group is the largest motoryacht builder in the world and they continue to innovate and surprise with their new designs. Fulvio di Simoni has a knack for envisioning the improved facilities that owners demand and interior designer Carlo Galeazzi adds the finishing touches that make these yachts stand out. Azimut entered the sport yacht market late in the game, but they have made up any lost ground very rapidly with an ever-expanding range. So, it's no surprise that the 103S, their latest and largest sport yacht, is a market leader in both concept and style.
The version I tested was different in many ways from the standard 103S and demonstrates the degree of owner customization that is possible. Since this yacht was destined for Mumbai, India, where warm temperatures and sunshine are guaranteed for much of the boating season, the owner's requirement was to maximize the design for open-air living on pleasant days. Of course, the 103S can also be closed up and air-conditioned with the flick of a switch, if temperatures get too extreme or the weather takes a turn for the worse.
The cockpit is large and dotted with settees and tables that allow both intimate and open seating. Salon and cockpit are served by a bar counter just inside the salon doors and outside is a table that's large enough for al fresco dining. On the flying bridge, similar amenities are complemented by a bar and barbecue, creating a selfcontained entertainment area. The foredeck features more seating and a sunbed that's set into a protected well. Extending the outdoor options is a very large retractable sunroof over the main salon. The rear doors also open fully to connect salon and cockpit. Bimini protection is available on the flying bridge and a blind across the sunroof reduces glare in the salon.
The 103S has added a bridge helm and more seating, stretching its profile vertically without compromising its good looks. I like the way the forward-facing seats have been fitted at this helm so that guests can enjoy a safe, wind-in-the-hair experience.
At the lower helm, there are three good seats with an adjustable one in the center for the skipper. A vast array of electronics creates a very impressive dash layout.
This 103S is one of the very few large yachts fitted with waterjet propulsion and these KaMeWa units come with their own dedicated control system. Each engine installation has a combined throttle lever and bucket control that can operate independently, so maneuvering is very much a two-handed job. At the lower helm, the controls are located on either side of the helm seat- although at speed both engines can be controlled from one lever. There is a conventional wheel and the steering is very sensitive with little more than half a turn, lock-to-lock. For trim adjustment, this 103S is fitted with quadruple interceptors. It adds up to an unconventional arrangement but once you get used to it, you'll find it works very well.
There is plenty of power available from the twin V16 MTU diesels. The 2,434-horsepower engines, coupled to the KaMeWa water jets via a clutch system, are enough to take this yacht up to 34 knots in light conditions. The auxiliary systems in the engine compartment are fitted around the main engines and the stainless steel piping for the bilge-pumping and fuel-transfer systems is impressive.
The tender garage aft is exceptionally large with space for an 18-foot tender and a personal watercraft. An integral system makes launch and recovery a simple operation and the large swim platform is a handy base for watersports. A stairway leads from the swim platform to the open spaces of the cockpit and then on to the triple doors of the salon. Like the cockpit, in this arrangement, the salon is mainly dedicated to seating but a dining area is included in the standard layout. This area has direct access to the galley, which is down a stairway on the starboard side of the helm. Equipped to restaurant standards, the galley is stark in stainless steel and white but has a full range of equipment.
Galeazzi has done a great job on the interior, following the style seen on earlier Azimut yachts, with dark wenge wood matched to oatmeal-colored fabrics and off-white window blinds. There's a greater emphasis on glass-not only in the furniture, but in the heads, where molded-glass washbasins match the luxuriousness of the overall decor. The result is a comfortable, modern look. The standard layout for accommodations features a master suite and three double or twin cabins but, on this yacht, one of the twin cabins has been omitted and replaced with a lower salon that also acts as a foyer. A large crew area is located forward of the engineroom.
The full-beam master suite is spacious with a small lounge area to port. A desk to starboard is below the large side windows to take advantage of the natural light. Aft is a large head and a dressing area that help to isolate the stateroom from the engine compartment, although noise levels are so low on this yacht that this is hardly necessary. The remaining twin cabin is on the starboard side and forward is the unique VIP cabin. Instead of the normal tapering shape of a cabin tucked in the bow, this one features an angled bed that gives the cabin an illusion of squareness that's very inviting.
The powerful looks of the 103S are complemented by its excellent sea performance. The overwhelming impression is a complete lack of vibration from the propulsion, a dramatic contrast to normal propeller systems. The full bow shape lifts at speed and presents a fine entry that cuts cleanly through the waves. The sensitive steering takes a bit of getting used to but it does make this yacht very responsive, bringing a sport-boat feel to the large-yacht driving experience. From the lower helm you get little impression of speed because everything is so quiet, but up on the flying bridge you can really feel the high-speed performance.
The 103S is an impressive yacht, with a good-looking design that is bound to stand out in a harbor and to thrill at sea.
Azimut Yachts, +39 011 93 161; www.azimutyachts.com