Across the Italian peninsula, to the southwest from where Ferretti's CRN shipyard now builds its composite Custom Line yachts, a forgotten Roman once uttered the admonition "nihil nimis"-meaning "nothing in excess." While fine advice in most things, it's a phrase that is hardly applicable to superyachts. XS of London, the second in Custom Line's 128-foot series, is proof. True to her name, XS is a blue-hulled beauty that knows few limits.
The yacht made her American debut in Miami earlier this year, but I had a chance to go aboard while she toured the Mediterranean last fall. My visit was a stunning reminder that yachts built in a mold do not necessarily suffer from a sameness. XS has an interior arrangement that sets her apart from the crowd, and she's as finely finished as any fully custom yacht.
Her designer, Zuccon International Project, embraced all four of the elements-earth, air, fire and water-as inspiration for her interior and sought a balance between ancient and modern in selecting the materials and furnishings. The saloon exhibits considerable color contrast, from the ivory alcantara upholstery on the sofas and chairs, to the grays and silvers of the checkerboard pillows, to the playful polka dots of the drapes. The range is even wider in the master suite, where shades of rose and buttercup dominate, yielding to periwinkle and fuchsia in the owner's office.
Wisely, Zuccon has accomplished much of this dramatic effect with loose items that are easily replaced. Yachts change hands with some regularity, and even when they don't, tastes change over time. In either case, décor revisions quickly follow. The underlying palette of joinery aboard XS, while quite elegant, is a carefully subdued neutral that varies from darker cherry and Pacific madrona briar to lighter bird's-eye maple, all accented by light-hued overheads, polished stainless hardware and crystal handrails and accents. Such interiors allow refits that are quick and easy at reasonable cost.
Custom Line builds sleek motoryachts, like XS of London, and more rugged-looking Navettas, up to 141 feet, all in composites, at the same Ancona shipyard that launches larger steel and aluminum custom yachts under the CRN brand. Both Custom Line and CRN are subsidiaries of the Ferretti Group, and thus benefit from the parent company's unwavering focus on technology. An example of that is the installation of a Mitsubishi antirolling gyro system aboard XS for at-anchor and underway stabilization.
First tested aboard Norberto Ferretti's personal Navetta, Ziacania, the Mitsubishi ARG system has been widely recognized for its effectiveness and simplicity, and is now available across most of Ferretti's line. The smaller boats get one unit, the larger yachts get multiples-five in the case of XS-to cope with the greater tonnage.
Another unusual feature is the fully enclosed areas fore and aft where you can stow tenders. An Avon Sea Sport Jet 320 is carried under the hinged brow of the deckhouse at the bow and is davit-launched. The larger tender, a 125 hp Castoldi jet RIB, is carried in a garage between the engineroom and the transom platform. It is not, however, stern-launched. In the manner of much larger superyachts, hullside panels fold out so the tender, stowed atwartships, can be launched via an overhead crane either to port or to starboard.
It is a sensible arrangement, putting the tender, along with bosun's stores and other auxiliary facilities, directly above the shafts, props and rudders, where noise and vibration can become a problem, if accommodations are located there. Instead, all crew cabins and guest staterooms are forward.
Another aspect of the overall design that I found very well done was the layout of the stairways, which allows the crew to carry out their many chores and functions without disturbing the guests. Stairways can consume a lot of floor space, so some designs compromise on this point to gain a little more space for other things, albeit at the expense of privacy. XS has separate interior and exterior stairs for both crew and guests, without seeming to cramp the accommodations or public spaces.
The yacht also has full-length sidedecks on the main deck level, allowing the crew to go about their docking or mooring duties without interference. This feature means that the owner's stateroom, forward on the main deck, cannot be full-beam, but it does not suffer for this restriction. Entry to the stateroom is through a private reception area/office from the side guest foyer. Two hanging lockers and a bank of drawers line the after bulkhead, providing considerable storage space while buffering the stateroom from the noise and heat of the galley, which lies just aft to port. Forward of the central island berth is the head, which is more a yours-mine-and-ours arrangement than the standard his-and-hers. There are doors to either side of the berth, and separate toilets, bidets and sinks to port and starboard, but the room has a marvelous semicircular marble and glass shower on centerline that serves more as a unifying element than a divider.
Even though the designers have gone the extra mile to keep crew and guest spaces separate, it is worth a stop in the galley to take a look. Cabinets and appliances are commercial-grade stainless steel, their sterile look offset by gray granite countertops and backsplashes. A butler's pantry between the galley and dining room incorporates a small dinette, finished in a style and quality level equivalent to the guest areas.
Two VIP staterooms, located directly forward of the engineroom on the lower deck, are isolated from its heat and sound by heavy bulkhead insulation and by two large heads, each of which have full-size tubs and twin sinks. Separate compartments, each with toilet and bidet, are outboard. The staterooms have an innovative arrangement with the queen berths oriented diagonally. This makes the rooms feel bigger than they actually are, though they are by no means small. Each stateroom also has a spacious walk-in closet.
Forward of the VIP cabins are two more guest staterooms, each with a pair of twin lower berths as well as a Pullman above for overflow guests. En suite heads are equipped with large showers, and like the VIP heads, have separate toilet and bidet compartments outboard. The hanging lockers in these staterooms form a mini dressing area between the sleeping areas and heads.
The functional flexibility of the saloon and dining room arrangement is another nice feature. Gentle light spills from translucent columns that flank the entry to the dining room from the saloon. This divider incorporates a portside stair to the skylounge and a bookcase and buffet to starboard.
Once dinner is over, translucent doors slide out of the divider to close the dining room from view, allowing the crew to clear and clean the room while guests enjoy a video on the 42-inch plasma screen that folds from the overhead of the saloon just abaft the doors. Two sofas and four chairs accommodate up to 10 of the guests in comfort, while those with other interests can relax in the skylounge above, with its own video screen, bar and seating for up to eight.
When the weather is cooperating, sliding glass doors from both the saloon and the skylounge open up the rooms to oversized aft decks with spacious conversation and dining areas of their own.
XS of London has a Portuguese bridge arrangement and wing control stations outboard of her wheelhouse, so there is no need for a helm at the flying bridge level. Instead, a whirlpool spa and sunpads occupy the forward end of this open deck, while an alfresco dining area sits in the shade of the radar arch and its integrated hardtop. A small snack bar is conveniently nearby, and the after end of the deck is open for sunlounges during the day and large moonlit parties in the evening.
Contact: Custom Line Yachts, (011) 39 071 501 1111; www.customline-yacht.com