Benetti 80

Benetti's smallest is still a superyacht at heart.

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If there's a single phrase that sums up the new Benetti Legend, it's "living large." Designed to straddle the 24-meter (79-foot) rule that is critical in international regulations, the Legend has the feel of a much larger yacht. Benetti builds custom superyachts upwards of 200 feet in length, and this heritage is reflected-through a reducing lens-in the Legend.

I had a chance to test the Legend in the superyacht-rich waters of the Mediterranean, departing from Monaco, cruising past St. Jean Cap Ferrat and anchoring in the lee of Villefranche sur Mer for a relaxing breakfast. It was easy to forget that the congregation of superyachts anchored around us were, in many cases, three and four times our length. The perfect weather helped the illusion, as the Legend has extensive outdoor space, equally divided between sun and shade. Also helping the illusion was the Legend's unhurried performance. Its bulbous-bow hull cruises very comfortably at a sedate 12.2 knots at 1800 rpm, and tops out at 13.8 knots. The Legend is extremely quiet and the pace tends to drain away any cares you might have brought aboard.

Engine options include Caterpillar C15s at 850-hp each, or C18s at 1,000 hp each. With its full-displacement hull form, the Legend is going to top out in the neighborhood of 14 knots in either case, so the larger engines will provide only two benefits. First, the additional power will enable a slightly higher long-range cruise speed at the same rpm, given the proper propeller pitch. Second, the yacht will be able to maintain her speed in heavy head seas more easily with the additional power.

Guest accommodations start belowdecks, with three guest staterooms forward of the engineroom. Nearest the bow is a full beam VIP stateroom with a central queen berth and large triple-panel hullside windows, which bring in lots of light from both sides. Two additional guest staterooms, port and starboard, lie between the VIP and the engineroom. Each is outfitted with a twin berth inboard and a near-double outboard.

Abaft the engineroom are a crew mess and two cabins, which can accommodate up to three crew members, or several additional guests. Therein lies one of the key features of this yacht. By designing the Legend with an overall length of 25.98 meters (85 feet) and a registered length of 23.98 meters (79 feet), the yacht can be licensed for use in various locales as either under or over the 24-meter regulatory demarcation line that determines where and how she can be operated, and by whom. More capable owners may choose to list the yacht at the lower length and operate her themselves, while others may elect the higher length, manning and equipping her to undertake crewed charters.

The owner's suite is forward on the main deck. A distinctive feature of the suite is its split-level arrangement, something borrowed from Benetti's larger models, but seldom found on yachts of this length. The bath and dressing area is down a few steps from the stateroom, tucked into the bow ahead of the VIP stateroom on the lower deck. Above the tub, four elongated skylights recessed into the brow, forward of the sun lounges, bring in light and provide views of the sky from the owner's Jacuzzi tub.

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The Legend's raised pilothouse arrangement places the lower enclosed helm between the owner's suite and the saloon/dining area, with the galley tucked to port and a convenient day head to starboard. The dining table seats six or eight with its extension in place, and the saloon has a comfortable sofa along with two swivel chairs, and two ottomans that stow under the cocktail table when not in use.

Between the galley and day head is an open winding staircase that leads to a sheltered area on the upper deck abaft the flying bridge. In addition, there's alternate access via a second staircase from the open main deck aft.

This area, usually devoted to tender stowage on yachts of this size, is outfitted with a spacious, fully equipped bar, protected from the elements. At the forward end is a molded panel between the legs of the radar arch. Overhead is a full cover with an accordion panel that can be retracted if sun is preferred. At the sides and back are removable curtains.

It was here that we enjoyed our breakfast while watching children learning to sail in a school of prams-they flitted through the fleet of anchored superyachts like butterflies in a flower garden. A more enjoyable morning cannot be imagined, and the comfort afforded by this special area played an important part in it. There's space abaft the seating here for a small tender or PWC. Alternatively, the swim platform is quite large and could be used for this purpose as well.

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Forward of this topside entertainment area and up a few steps is the flying bridge, and it too exhibits a duality of purpose that allows this 80-footer to live larger than its length. It is a command bridge only when the Rexroth portable control station is plugged in for docking or close-quarter maneuvering. Otherwise, it's a sun lounging area of grand proportions complete with a swing bolster that serves as a headrest forward for sunning or a backrest aft when sitting. Two portlights at the after end of the bridge beam sunlight into the bar area.

In keeping with Benetti's standards, top equipment names and first-rate materials are found throughout the Legend. Furuno and Plath are specified for the pilothouse, Maxwell and Opacmare for the deck equipment, and Miele and Gaggenau for the appliances. Interior materials include teak, cherry, and marble.

The Legend's design was planned to allow buyers some flexibility while still reserving the cost and time advantages of series production. There are few choices when it comes to the basic platform, the mechanical and electrical systems, and the structural layout of the yacht, but Benetti will customize the Legend's interior within reasonable limits. Buyers have the option to choose the interior fittings, décor, and finishes to suit their own tastes, or they can select one of designer Francois Zuretti's stock interiors, either classic or contemporary. Our test yacht had a light, playful contemporary interior that I found quite appropriate given the emphasis on indoor and outdoor living space. However, the classic décor would be equally comfortable for those with a more conservative bent or who cruise primarily in colder locales.

In addition to its fully custom steel and aluminum yachts, Benetti offers a line of composite semi-custom yachts that includes the 148-foot Vision, the 115- and 121-foot Classics, and the 98- foot Tradition. The Legend now anchors the lower end of this series, but that's a position based on length, not quality. It is a mini-megayacht that will please many a discriminating client, even those who can afford something much larger.

Contact: Benetti Yachts; www.benettiyachts.it.