The yacht of the future, today-imagine that was your mission impossible. Still, given a drawing pad and the talent to use it, plus a sense of what the market wants and a palette of revolutionary technology, you might end up with something like this: a large express configuration that can cruise at 30-odd knots; sleeps four couples with room for crew; stops, starts and reverses and even goes sideways at the twitch of a joystick; and has lots of bathrooms.
Now imagine being asked to execute such a futuristic vision. An even taller order, you might say, and we would agree, except that we've just come back from looking at the new Lazzara Sport Express Seventy Five (LSX75). Propelled by the latest iteration of the still brand-new Volvo Penta IPS system, using four joystick-controlled engines for trackball maneuverability, the LSX75 is just about future perfect. The combination of its 31-knot cruise speed, remarkable maneuverability even at zero and four-stateroom accommodation (plus crew cabin) sets it apart from any other express cruiser.
One of the conditions of designing a sport or express yacht is that at first glance it must excite admiration, even envy. To do this, it must look as if it is moving at speed even when standing still. The clean, minimalist, very functional lines of the LSX75 meet this challenge, thanks in large part to the remarkably compact quad IPS600 propulsion system. The benefits are clear, as evidenced by the yacht's lower deck, which extends approximately 53 feet from the forward bulkhead of the VIP stateroom in the bow to the engineroom bulkhead astern. That's almost 70 percent of the yacht's overall length.
In addition, a yacht of this type must also dazzle the owner and his guests with first-class accommodations, and provide for a crew; this is usually difficult given the necessity of providing space for the large engines needed to achieve express-class speeds-but, again, not with these quads.
The yacht is boarded via doors on both sides aft of the saloon, or else from the swim platform by stairways that flank the engineroom access and central garage. The latter houses the 10-foot tender and a four-person hookah diving system: No doubt the boat's underwater lights will be particularly appreciated when diving at night.
Cockpit and deck surfaces are teak, providing an attractive, cool and surefooted surface. The aft deck includes a dining table, fixed and movable seating and a large sunpad. Flanked by stainless steel railings, side decks offer more-than-adequate width and easy line handling to go with safe passage to the foredeck and its large and inviting sunpad. Up here you will also find the deck hatch to the forward stowage and chain locker, ground tackle and electric anchor windlass. A hatch on the afterdeck leads to a two-bunk crew cabin, its head compartment and a third engineroom access door.
The large deck-level saloon is entered from the forward end of the cockpit. The teak deck extends into the saloon to allow wet and/or sandy access to the port-side day head. The saloon's furnishings include all of the usual amenities, a very large plasma TV screen, high-quality audio system, bar with pass-through to the cockpit, numerous storage cabinets and luxurious seating. A very large sunroof is built into the saloon overhead, and opening the sunroof, even at cruise speed, will not change the air pressure in the saloon.
The two-chair helm station, with its standard 38-inch wide, three LCD-screen navigation, radar and comprehensive vessel system display, is located forward on the starboard side of the saloon. (The entire navigation array can be moved vertically to suit the position of the helmsman.) As in other Lazzara yachts, the LSX75 is equipped with an ISIS total vessel information system that monitors and records information from all onboard systems. The information stored in the system can be recalled whenever desired and is used during the semi-annual Seacheck inspection in which most Lazzara yacht owners participate. A SeaKey satellite-based safety and security system is part of the extensive standard equipment list. A semi-circular stair on the port side of the saloon at the forward end provides easy access to the lower-deck galley, dining area and staterooms. The space above the galley and dining area extends upward for 14 feet to the very large, infrared-rejecting glass windscreens above, visually joining the space with the saloon. The form-follows-function design approach used by Lazzara is evident in large, vertically oriented portlights that provide an excellent view of the sea from the galley and dining area.
Located forward of the dining area is a VIP stateroom with its centerline bed, hanging locker and head/shower compartment, all just past the doors for the utility locker and the washer/dryer. The full-beam master suite and two double guest staterooms and their private heads are aft of the dining area, three steps below the deck level of the dining area and beneath the saloon on the deck above. The arrangement of the staterooms provides maximum privacy and noise isolation. In fact, the thoroughly soundproofed engineroom is separated from the staterooms by the crew cabin and head compartment and the master suite's head compartment. One nice aspect of the Lazzara is when tradition trumps technology; for instance, the use of space echoes the arrangements and techniques found in large sailing yachts, which means passengers will be more comfortable for extended periods of time, especially at sea.
On the other hand, as might be expected in these times, flat video screens and connections for iPods are everywhere. All lighting is managed using programmable controls. The flow of air from the air-conditioning system is almost inaudible.
Regardless of the magnitude and quality of the accommodation, a yacht must be able to perform when underway and especially when docking and undocking. The joystick-controlled IPS600 power system provides the LSX75 with capabilities competitors will be forced to match-because this is a large yacht that handles more easily, and with greater certainty in adverse conditions, than yachts one-third its size and one-tenth its weight.
All propulsion and maneuver functions are computer-controlled, including the amount of power delivered and direction in which it is applied. The yacht can be controlled using the conventional wheel and throttle controls at the helm, or from either of the dual mode joysticks (one at the helm and the other at the station forward of the cockpit). The contrast in low-speed maneuverability between a conventional propulsion system, with or without bow and stern thrusters, and the IPS joystick can only be appreciated by using it, as some dozens of boating writers were able to do at the yacht's press introduction in St. Petersburg, Fla., on October 20 (a scant nine months after the LSX75 project was begun). Person after person, almost all having no prior experience with the IPS, took hold of the joystick and found that they were able to maneuver the yacht precisely as they wished. You simply move the joystick in the direction you wish to move; it happens so easily that you can turn the yacht about its center, with no lateral movement, by rotating the stick.
The joystick is extremely useful at very low speeds because, in place of the usual frequent shifting into and out of gear (with less than certain directional control), the joystick allows positive control of direction at any speed required. A few minutes' experimentation will provide a level of confidence that can be hard to achieve after months of practice with conventional throttle, shift and thruster controls. The ease and certainty in low and zero speed maneuvering will make it possible for virtually anyone to safely manage this large yacht, even when wind and current must be compensated for.
The Quad IPS600 power package is installed far aft and is remarkably compact, reducing the fore and aft length of the engineroom to about 10.5 feet, less than half of what would have been required for a conventional twin engine, inclined-shaft power system. Yet the engine room is far from cramped: The four engines are entirely accessible. The 25kW Kohler genset is mounted on an elevated platform to port, a position that ensures that it can be properly cared for. Two glass doors that provide access to the aft deck and swim platform admit a flood of natural light. In common with other Lazzara yachts the engineroom is pressurized and cooled by a massive flow of salt-free fresh air.
Preliminary performance numbers obtained at the demonstration suggest that the 78,000 pound (at half load) LSX75 will plane at just over 12 knots at 1900 rpm and reach a top speed of 35 knots at wide-open throttle. It will sustain 27 knots on three engines and 18 knots on two. The yacht makes one nautical mile per gallon when running at 13 knots with four engines in operation.
High-speed yachts need to be light in weight and at the same time very stiff and strong to withstand the forces created when moving through the sea at better than 30 knots. Lazzara has addressed these requirements with a combination of techniques, including vacuum bagging of all laminated structures and molding the deck in one piece to ensure maximum rigidity when it is bonded to the hull. The design includes the use of longitudinal and transverse welded steel frames, overlaid with epoxy-infused carbon fiber to provide structural strength at minimum weight, eliminating the need for structural bulkheads.
How revolutionary is this system? A number of the experienced captains present during the demonstration were wistful at losing the opportunity to shout their more colorful commands while docking; others expressed alarm at the prospect of being done out of a job. All expressed admiration at what is clearly a vision of the future, available today. Contact: Lazzara Yachts, www.lazzarayachts.com