After the Ferretti Group absorbed the Mochi Shipyard three years ago, the yard was used to expand production of existing Ferretti models. However, per the agreement, when the yard was taken over, the Mochi name was retained as a brand. For Ferretti this meant developing a new range of motoryachts that would not compete with the existing concepts already produced by the various yards in the group-Apreamare, Bertram, Custom Line, CRN, Ferretti Yachts, Itama, Pershing and Riva. That did not leave many options. One possibility was to produce a modern version of the New England-style lobster boat, which had already been made very popular by the likes of Hinckley. Certainly the upmarket sector that the lobster boats were marketed to was very much in the Ferretti style.
Thus the Mochi Dolphin range was born. Since Ferretti does not do things by halves, the first Dolphin was a 51-footer, making it one of the largest lobster-style boats on the market. It was followed by the huge Dolphin 72 that tried to exploit the style in a grownup version, but perhaps felt a bit overwhelming. Now with the third and probably last of the range, Mochi has come back to where it should have started-with a 44, the size of the lobster-boat style that really works.
This new Dolphin has the best proportions of the whole range and the Victory design team has done a great job, not only with a stunning exterior style but also by incorporating all the requirements of modern yachting without compromising the overall style. For instance, this 44 Dolphin must be the smallest yacht to have a tender garage fitted in the stern. OK, the tender is a tiny thing and its outboard has to be taken off before it can fit-but you have to admire the way that space has been found for the garage without having to raise the cockpit deck too high. Access to this garage is by means of a large stern flap that folds down to create a large area of teak deck just above the water line-a fine "teak beach," watersports center and cockpit extension. At sea, the closed flap forms the transom, but with its top at only knee height this does not provide enough security in the cockpit. One lurch of the boat in a seaway and someone could end up going overboard.
Another surprise in this design is the huge master stateroom. Compact accommodations have tended to be a feature of these traditional designs, but here the master suite would happily grace a 60-footer. The bed is angled across the cabin; teak paneling and furniture give a nice luxurious feel, as is true for all Mochi interiors. Even both en suite bathrooms have teak paneling, though around the shower areas this is tinted plastic sheeting.
The forward twin cabin is more compact and has the traditional V-berths. As in the master cabin, mirrors are used to good effect to enhance the space. Farther aft, the galley fits in along the passageway access to the cabins, and despite its snug footprint is well equipped with a double burner and sink in a covered cabinet with a big fridge and a microwave oven. This is not the galley for extensive cooking, but it would happily serve an overnight stop, and I did like the fiddles fitted to the burners so they could be used at sea. (A cup of tea for the graveyard watch is always appreciated.)
Up in the deck saloon, the U-shaped settee fits around an expanding table that works well for the main dining and social area. There is a bar cabinet along the starboard side. It is at the helm, however, that the designers seem to have given up the challenge and just installed things where there is a convenient space rather than according to the requirements of safe navigation. Facing you at the helm is a mess of instruments combining both analogue and digital displays; important switches like those for the flaps are mixed with the rest of the switches. All in all it makes for a very distracting and uncohesive layout. This is a pity when the dash itself could look so impressive. I also am concerned by the huge amount of reflections bouncing off white molding just forward of the helm.
The double seat at the helm has a hinged squab that allows sitting or standing. The problem here is that the wheel has been placed right in the center of the seat so that in reality there is only space for one person. The rest of the crew have to make do with the cockpit or the saloon seating, which could make the helm a lonely place at sea. Plus, when sitting at the helm, your knees interfere with the wheel. It does not look as though too much thought has been given to the requirements of comfortable driving-not at all what you would imagine from Italian designers.
The windscreen is an impressive one-piece glass affair that, combined with the large side windows, gives excellent visibility from the helm. For fresh air the fabric sunroof can be accordioned back to convert this to virtually an open boat. The rear end of the saloon can also be opened up with another fabric screen matched to curved side windows, which in turn can be unbolted.
Access to the engine compartment is through a deck hatch in the cockpit. There is just enough headroom for the engines, but it looks a bit of a squeeze if you need to top up the cooling water-there's very little clearance. The two 575 hp Volvo Penta diesels are coupled via a down-angle ZF gearbox to a direct drive shaft and propeller system. Access to the rest of the engine compartment is adequate even though space is taken up by the tiny crew cabin to port.
Seen from outside, the style of this boat is a pleasure, although I am not sure about the coral hull (there is a wide choice of hull colors, so I can take my time in making up my mind). The bow has flare tapering down to a fine entry above a low chine, and the hull lines run aft to the distinctive tumblehome at the rounded transom. The toe rail is capped by natural teak and with no railings to spoil the looks, the profile is low and purposeful. For security when heading forward from the cockpit there are two sets of beautiful teak rails on the deckhouse.
I would've loved to see how this boat handles at sea, but, unfortunately, at La Spezia the winter storms were rolling in and regulations prevented us from running at speed in the sheltered waters of the harbor. For me this looked like good testing weather, but the Mochi crews were not looking for adventurous boating-at least, not on this prototype. Judging from my experience with the larger Dolphins, the boat should behave like a conventional deep-V, and the Victory Design team has incorporated a good deadrise angle to cushion the ride. Top speeds of around the 33-knot bracket are promised. At the moment, this looks like a fun boat for going out on day trips, though perhaps not yet dialed in for serious cruising. But then, this was the prototype-and knowing Ferretti as I do, things will improve on the production models and then, who knows, the Mochi 44 will be the toast of lobster-boat lovers from Maine to the Med.