It was one of those glorious Mediterranean days when the sea is calm and there is wall-to-wall sunshine. The chill in the air and the snow on the Apennine Mountains behind Viareggio showed we were still in the grip of winter, but days like this hold the promise of spring. Viareggio is the yacht capital of Italy and everywhere there was the smell of fresh paint with yards busy getting yachts ready for their owners. In these conditions every boat starts to look wonderful, but the new Azimut 85 alongside the dock really did stand out from the crowd.
As befits one of the largest motoryacht builders in the world, Azimut follows a rather conservative design path-for Italians, that is. This new 85-footer, however, sports more adventurous styling, especially in the flowing lines of the superstructure. This gives a much more fluid look to the design than previous Azimuts, while the fixed Bimini towering above the yacht imparts a forward-looking, thrusting rake.
Looking good in harbor is one thing, performing out at sea is another. When I took the 85 out to sea, she lived up to her promise. Hull deadrise is the key factor to performance in waves and the 85's deadrise of 17 degrees contrasts well with the normal shallow-V found in yachts of this size. Although calm conditions did not offer a chance to test the hull's capabilities to the max, this level of deadrise should offer a well-cushioned ride in the waves.
There are plenty of head-turning moments on the 85. I love the flowing lines of this yacht's exterior, even more how the adventurous styling plays off the much more classic interior. Here, subdued color schemes and restrained decor appeal to the body, as well as to the eye. You will still be comfortable with this restful interior in 10 years, which is not true of many yachts on the market today. Along with this restrained appeal, the Azimut designers and stylist Carlo Galeazzi have introduced some practical features, such as the vertical rail handholds and the fiddles on the galley stove that prevent pots from sliding around.
The 85 comes in two versions, one dedicated to the owner, who can luxuriate in a very private stateroom with its own entrance and twin bathrooms. The other version, called the Classic, features a slightly smaller master stateroom with just one bathroom, which allows more emphasis on the VIP stateroom forward. (Which version you choose depends on how important your friends are, I suppose.) On both versions there are also two two-berth guest cabins between the two staterooms, each cabin with its en suite bathroom. Access to the forward cabins is via a stairway in the usual position alongside the helm, while the master suite is reached from the saloon.
Speaking of that expansive owner's stateroom, it's quite wonderful, with the large side windows giving a panoramic view. It's easy to imagine an owner sitting here watching the waves surging across the glass, all while letting the captain do the driving. There is a settee and a desk if business calls, plus ample storage for clothes.
A funny thing about those windows: They were the one element that I found off-putting about the exterior, wondering why there was such a confusion of squares and portholes along the hull. Having sat in the stateroom with the light pouring in, I can see now that the interior takes priority. My regret is that the irregular line of portholes mixed with windows of different shapes robs an otherwise dynamic design of cohesion.
The master's twin bathrooms are finished in a black-veined marble with cherry-wood trim. One has a full-size bath, the other a power shower. The décor here, as in all the staterooms, combines tweedy wall coverings and carpets with warm wood furniture and trim.
Equally thoughtful is the layout of the saloon, which is divided into lounge and dining areas. The glass and wood eight-seat dining table is cleverly angled to allow a free passageway between it and the semi-enclosed galley, where a wine-cooler cabinet incorporated into the side suggests that the Italians have their priorities straight. For more informal meals, a four-seat dinette fitted on the port side of the helm should do nicely.
Dining is definitely not on the back burner on this Azimut. The galley is one of the best parts of the yacht with five electric burners and a large oven. Unfortunately, the huge stainless steel fridge and freezer has been installed with its doors opening aft, never a good idea on a fast yacht because, after a day at sea, everything can fall out when you open the door. Yet serious culinary intent is apparent in many other details. The galley has its own outside door so that the crew need not impose on the guests; a dishwasher and a trash compactor help to dispose of the aftermath.
The lounge, with its settees and armchairs set in a square, is restful rather than challenging. The now mandatory flat-screen TV rises from a side panel, alongside a bar-all moods can be catered to. On balmy evenings the rear glass door can be opened to two-thirds of its width; for those who prefer to be outside, there is comfortable seating in the cockpit. The teak table can be lowered hydraulically to allow the settee to form a sunbed, although the extended fixed canopy above may restrict the tanning. A drop-down TV screen and a corner wet bar further extend the cockpit's possibilities.
If the weather allows, the flying bridge is where you will spend most of your time. That fixed Bimini covers the whole of the forward area, but the canvas can be rolled back inside the frame, opening the area up to the sun. Sunbeds and settees surround the helm station to starboard, and an electric barbecue serves a large dining area. At the rear is a spa pool, and beyond that, the tender stowage and crane.
The flying bridge helm has all the basics for navigation. The main center is down below, where a three-screen display provides all the information. The central screen is Azimut's own control and monitoring system, with a touch-screen system that removes most of the switches from the dashboard. However, I found the screen to be rather dark and difficult to read, so it can be quite a job finding the switch you want. I wish I could say the flap controls were other than very poor, but I much prefer the good old-fashioned switches. The windscreen pillars seem a trifle wide and intrusive. Finally, apart from the helm seat there is little provision made for good "at sea" seating, something that 17 degrees of deadrise would seem to require.
However, another sign of advancing technology that really works is the joystick control. Move the lever in the direction you want to go and the computer works out the right combination of thrusters and engines to make the move. Turn the top knob of the lever and the boat turns. It is all so easy and logical that parking this yacht is a simple operation, making the 85 a true two-person yacht, if necessary. There is even a wandering lead joystick control in the cockpit for stern-to docking.
The engines are twin 1,800 hp Cats driving through a V-drive gearbox to conventional propellers and shafts. This arrangement produces a considerable whine from the ZF gearboxes that intrudes into the accommodation in what is otherwise a very quiet yacht. The top speed of 30 knots is excellent for a yacht of this size.
This 85 is something very special, with performance to match its exciting looks.
Contact: Azimut, www.azimutyachts.net