Benetti Yacht 120

Benetti style and substance make the 120-foot Gladiatore at home wherever she goes

Benetti 120

When I think of a classic Benetti motoryacht, what springs to mind is something similar to Gladiatore, a recent delivery from the Italian builder that I was aboard in Miami. Like many recent Benetti yachts, this 120-foot trideck motoryacht features styling by Stefano Righini. She's modern without being avant-garde and current without resorting to fads. She's built well and solidly, with first-rate systems and equipment. That's what makes a classic, but Gladiatore is a classic in another sense of the word too. She springs from the line of semicustom Classic models that began in 1998 with the 115-foot Stella Fiera, Benetti's first composite yacht.

Benetti has been building ships and boats in Viareggio, Italy, since Lorenzo Benetti founded the yard in 1873. In the early years, the yard specialized in commercial ships, built of wood. When Lorenzo's sons Emilio and Gino took over in 1914, they began building oceangoing ships and yachts. It wasn't until 1963 that the yard began to build in steel. It went on to deliver a number of notable yachts, perhaps the best known among them being Nabila. Built for Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi in 1980, the 281-foot superyacht eventually was acquired by real estate mogul Donald Trump in 1988 and renamed Trump Princess. Later sold to a Saudi prince, she cruises today as Kingdom 5KR.

Benetti was acquired by Paolo Vitelli in 1985 and merged with his production company to form Azimut Benetti. The group now covers every facet of the boating market, from the smallest family cruiser to the largest megayacht, and it does so without the individual divisions stepping on each other’s toes.

Benetti’s continued success was not without its challenges. The old yard on the harbor was bursting at the seams when production of the Classic series gathered steam, and it was clear that something had to be done. In 2000, Azimut Benetti acquired space at Lusben, an idle shipyard at the foot of Via Michele Coppino, just a few hundred feet away from Benetti’s yard. The company refurbished part of it for Azimut, part for Benetti and part for a marina. This provided temporary relief, but as its semicustom composite yacht family continued to grow, so too did its space requirements. Add to that the dual complications of building steel superyachts alongside composite yachts and then delivering them through a channel that was becoming increasingly restrictive as the custom yachts got larger, and it was apparent that something further must be done.

The solution came in 2003 as Benetti took over another idle shipyard a few miles south of Viareggio in Livorno. The yard was rebuilt to Benetti's standards, and production of the steel custom yachts, many in the 200-foot range, was shifted to the new facility. The Viareggio yard was now fully devoted to the building of Benetti's semicustom yachts. By this time, the family of composite yachts had grown to include not only the Classic but also the 99-foot Tradition, the 143-foot Vision and, eventually, the 85-foot Legend. Meanwhile, the Classic, after 27 hulls at 115 feet, grew to 120 feet, as represented by Gladiatore, the 14th of the new series. The 90-foot Delfino will soon be joining the family.

My chance to visit Gladiatore in Miami happened as she was en route to her new owners, a young couple from Mexico, moving up from a 98-foot Azimut Leonardo. The semicustom design of their new yacht allowed the couple to contribute their personal talents as a painter and a fashion designer to Gladiatore.

Gladiatore's natural-toned interior is clearly modern, with no unnecessary frills. Yet it is quite stylish with its straight lines and clean corners. A large sofa on the upper deck skylounge converts to a king bed, transforming the area into another private guest suite with great views. All of the exterior tables can be dropped to create additional sunbathing areas.

With her extra foot of beam, added when the Classic model's length went from 115 to 120 feet, Gladiatore has lots of interior volume and can sleep up to 14 guests. In addition to the convertible upper-deck suite, there are four staterooms belowdecks, two with twin berths and pullmans, and two with queen berths. The master suite, with a king berth, is forward on the main deck. The extra volume is also evident in the salon and dining room, a single large area that appears even larger thanks to the abundance of windows. The extra length and beam enjoyed by Gladiatore and her sisters enhance their spaciousness and livability without really changing the basic arrangement.

Both Azimut and Benetti build yachts in the 80- to 120-foot range, so you may wonder why the couple who bought Gladiatore opted for a Benetti rather than moving up to a larger Azimut. Quite simply, the boats are very different creatures in a number of ways, sharing fiberglass construction and similar lengths but very little else. Azimut's models are larger versions of its smaller yachts, while Benetti's are smaller versions of its larger yachts. They have different designs and intended uses, different outfitting and equipment, and different navigational capabilities. In the end, it comes down to the owners' determination as to which type of craft will most closely suit their personal lifestyles and cruising plans.

Once those questions are answered and a decision is reached, the remaining choice is custom or semicustom. These smaller semicustom Benetti yachts benefit from a much shorter build period with few structural or machinery changes from boat to boat. This means the company is able to offer quicker delivery at a reduced cost, while still providing owners an opportunity to customize the interior. Gladiatore reveals these differences and advantages, as well as what some might consider a disadvantage. Unlike Azimuts of similar length, the Benetti 120 Classic is intended for long-range cruising, and therefore has a displacement hull for maximum fuel economy. The downside is a slower top speed, a limitation that long-range cruisers accept. Her maximum speed is 16 knots, but the continuous cruising speed is only a knot less. When you back off the Caterpillar C32 diesels and cruise at 11 knots, her range soars to 3,300 miles.

This 120 Classic is also equipped with Naiad “Stabilization at Anchor” units that operate both at sea and anchored. With active fins that are larger and longer, and that operate for more extended periods, this system is more robust and expensive than traditional at-sea systems. The added benefits, however, are numerous and, in my opinion, worth the cost.

For example, one of the most readily apparent benefits is the reduction in peak rolling angles. This means guests will be more comfortable whether under way or at anchor.

After visiting a number of Benetti Classics in Italy, it was nice to see Gladiatore bringing a little Italian pizzazz to this side of the Atlantic. She looked as comfortable here as her sisters do in the Mediterranean. But that's because she's a Classic.

LOA: 120'1"
Beam: 25'11"
Draft: 6'5"
Displ.: 261 tons
Fuel: 10,000 gal.
Water: 1,980 gal.
Construction: Composite
Naval Architecture: Benetti
Styling: Stefano Righini
Interior Design: Francois Zuretti
Engines: 2 x 1,652-bhp Caterpillar C32 diesels
Generators: 2 x 99 kW Kohler
Stabilizers: VT Naiad S@A
Bow Thruster: VT Naiad
Speed: 16 knots max, 15 knots cruise
Range: 3,300 miles at 11 knots
Price: Approx. $17,500,000

Benetti, +39-0584-3821; www.benettiyachts.it