After Briand completed the initial design stage for the owner, Perini Navi — which was looking to relaunch its historic Picchiotti brand of motoryachts — was selected as the builder. The fact that Briand already had a strong working relationship with the shipyard was no small matter either.
During the christening party in La Spezia, Exuma hung in her slings at the end of a long red carpet like a bucking bronco locked in a pen. Like nearly all the guests, I was drawn to the plumb axe bow, which sported a razor-sharp entry. The basic design principle behind the axe bow is that it extends the waterline while slicing through large waves with less resistance. The increase in running efficiency allows for smaller engines, with greater fuel efficiency, and thus more range. Moreover, the reduction in reserve buoyancy compared with that of a large flared bow results in less pitching while pounding through the big head seas that Exuma is sure to encounter during her planned circumnavigation. The one drawback with an axe-bow design is a tendency to create wetness, since there is a lack of flare to cast away spray. However, with a wheelhouse placed almost at amidships, and a clean foredeck, this won’t be an issue on Exuma.
Another noticeable underbody element is the two smaller bilge keels fitted abaft the fins of the Quantum Zero Speed 1500 XT stabilizers. These are intended to provide additional stability. A centerline keel ends just before the struts. Skewed five-blade props and twin Caterpillar C32 diesels push Exuma to a top speed of 16.5 knots and a cruise speed of 12 knots. A range of 5,500 miles can be achieved at 12 knots, according to the builder. In the wheelhouse, as we left the historic harbor of La Spezia, my mind wandered from the Mediterranean to the Pacific, imagining a long Pacific leg from Panama to the Marquesas, an easily achieved prospect.
For a naval architect like Briand, with a keen eye for aesthetics and pure design, creating a 50-meter motoryacht that looked like a wedding cake — stacked from stern to stem with multiple decks and landings — was not an option. The series name Vitruvius references Leonardo da Vinci’s famous drawing of the human body. It demonstrated da Vinci’s devotion to proportions and man’s relationship with nature. Briand explained with softspoken eloquence — like a proud father would share tales of his child — that it was with these principles in mind that he began to conceptualize Vitruvius. He was not shackled by conformity to the go-to design convention of six staterooms, a theater, a disco, marble foyers on every deck and a bar in every corner.
As the design brief between the owner and Briand developed, Briand certainly needed to address some, shall we say, unique hurdles. Challenges made more … well, challenging, by the fact that Exuma has a small length-to-beam ratio. In order to satisfy the off-the-beaten-path cruising itinerary, the owner knew he needed landing craft better suited to his goals than the standard RIB. How about a hovercraft and an amphibious diesel truck? That’s right. Come on, you can’t land and explore the Moai statues of Rapa Nui, Easter Island, with a typical inflatable tender and a folding bicycle. No, you need to assault that beachhead!
In keeping with the Vitruvius brief, placing these toys in a voluminous, full-beam stern garage was not an option. The proportions would not work. Instead, the garage for the 16-foot amphibious truck and hovercraft are forward on the main deck. In other, more conventional 50-meter designs this area would most likely be reserved for a multi-room owner’s suite — more on that later. On Exuma, however, that’s not part of the mission. Exploring and looking good are. Forward of these garages there’s additional space for a RIB and a PWC.
“You can make this space different on future builds,” Briand said. “Not everyone is going to want a hovercraft and an amphibious truck.” During my yard visit, a 55-meter Vitruvius was under construction that would not carry the same assortment of toys.
This willingness to build to a demanding owner’s requirements is certainly what made Perini Navi one of the premiere builders of large custom sailboats — it created the category, along with select Dutch and New Zealand yards. And after spending some time on Exuma in Italy, and most recently in Antigua, I can say that packing in more interior accommodations is not necessary. Personally, I would hesitate to sacrifice the clean design principles in order to accommodate another stateroom.