Riding 30 feet up on the windward rail with the leeward sheerline a couple feet under water, the keel threatening to go airborne, and every inch of the rigging strained to the limits of its capability, this was a moment to remember for me. It must also have been a memory in the making for the dozens of owners and crew aboard other Perini Navis. Hundreds of spectators had gathered to enjoy the magnificent show that day, and I was enjoying the privilege of participating in the inaugural Perini Navi Cup in July 2004, racing aboard Santa Maria (now Zenji) against Burrasca, ketch-rigged sisters, and ten other big Perinis in mistral conditions off Sardinia. The regatta showcased the quality of these yachts—in both design and construction—like no other test could have. A total of 15 Perini-built superyachts, from 110 feet to 184 feet, had gathered for the regatta and 12 eventually participated in the staggered-start race.
Last fall, as I walked down the floating dock in Monaco, I instantly recognized another of the sisters—Riela—yet I'd never seen her before and really didn't know her at all. This was the seventh build in Perini Navi's series of 184-foot sailing yachts that began with Burrasca in 2003. That year was also the 20th anniversary of Fabio Perini's company, located in Viareggio, Italy. In addition to series-built yachts, Perini Navi continues to offer custom designs. There are also motoryachts, built by Perini's sister company Picchiotti. The first motoryacht of the Vitruvius line, a 164-footer, is due to launch this spring, construction of a 180-footer is well underway, and a contract has been signed for a 240-footer.
The word series is used in preference to semi-custom for these yachts, because the extent of changes from boat to boat is well beyond the norm. It is not just colors, textures, and a few arrangement details that differ, but rather almost everything except the hull and deck structure. While some early Perinis were built with steel hulls, the yachts of this series have aluminum hulls and superstructures for lighter weight and better performance.
Naval architect Ron Holland, who collaborated with Perini Navi's technical department, refers to craft of this type as "performance cruisers," and not without reason. It is more than a marketing term, because these comfortable yachts perhaps best display their hidden assets in a serious blow. Those in the know use still another term for series. "Limited-edition yachts offer the advantages of reduced build time and cost, a proven engineering platform, and the reassurance that the concept has been tried and tested at sea," says Holland. "The owner retains considerable flexibility of choice over details of the accommodation, styling, and finishes." While they share naval architecture and marine engineering, each of these yachts has been built with a different arrangement, a different interior design, and in some cases, different exterior styling and even different rigs. Burrasca and Riela are ketch-rigged, but Salute, one of the middle sisters, is a sloop.
I've been aboard many of the vessels in the series. The interior styles range from reserved traditional to cool modern. Riela lies somewhere in the middle. With Riela, interior designer Remi Tessier has provided us with an interesting exercise in interior design, one that is illustrative of just how flexible a yacht interior can be.