Big and Fast

Want a sweet 80-foot yacht that can hit 60-plus mph?

BORN TO BE WILD: The offshoot of a record-breaker, the OTAM 80 is all about going fast. No apologies needed.

BORN TO BE WILD: The offshoot of a record-breaker, the OTAM 80 is all about going fast. No apologies needed.

Planning to set out to break records? If so, luxury and comfort are probably way down on your list of priorities. Performance is what counts and you need every ounce of that you can find with every other aspect of design taking second place. That describes the original Record! Designed and built to break records, she was the largest creation of that master of high-speed design, Fabio Buzzi. The prototype set out to attack a number of world records and I spent a happy season as her navigator. First there was the Round Italy record from Venice to Monte Carlo, then came Monte Carlo to London, a 2,300-mile epic, and finally we smashed the Round Britain record at an amazing average of 44 knots.

Transferring this raw performance into a luxury yacht was quite a challenge. Italian builder OTAM, which has a history of building performance boats, was determined to keep the performance aspect but wanted to tame the power and add considerable luxury. The result is the OTAM 80 Record, which is one of the most exciting sports yachts to hit the market in a long time. It clearly demonstrates that you can combine performance and luxury.

Deep down, the OTAM 80 retains all the technical virtues of its predecessor. There is the classic deep-V hull with its healthy deadrise angle that cushions the ride. There is the hearty four-engine power installation-although for this leisure version the original MTU diesels and ZF 2-Speed gearboxes have been replaced by Caterpillar units and conventional gearboxes. These actually have more power than the record boat so that even with the extra weight of the accommodation, the performance is maintained; reducing the fuel capacity has also helped to keep the weight down.

And what an exhilarating performer she is. The top speed measured on the trials was 55 knots but OTAM is still experimenting with propellers. You could see the need during our trial because the four engines were operating at different rpm when at full power; OTAM is confident that a new set of Rolla wheels will take the speed up to 58 knots. If you feel a slight disappointment that it has not reached the magic 60-knot figure, simply convert 58 knots to mph and you are up in the 60's, which is seriously fast for an 80-footer.

Each of the four Cats drives a separate shaft so it is a shame that the underwater parts are hidden, because these four props stretching across the transom would look very impressive. The 80 uses Trimax Surface Drives, which do the high-speed business. You can adjust these drives for shaft angle but only when the boat is out of the water. This allows the shaft angle to be fine-tuned for performance, and then it is locked in place. With the 80 you get typical surface drive performance, with the engines having to be run up to nearly full rpm before the props bite and the boat gets fully onto the plane. You can see this in the performance figures and they would look very different if the same readings were taken when decelerating.

The 80 is remarkably docile when maneuvering at low speed, but then you only use the two outside engines for this so you immediately halve the power. Because these maneuvering props are widely spaced they give a good turning moment and there is a powerful bowthruster to help.

The helm station also benefits from race experience; here there are four of Buzzi's Tecno sprung seats. These have an electrically operated squab that allows standing or sitting, and any position in between. The springing is also adjustable so you can really match the comfort level to the conditions. Full instrumentation faces the seats with the helm side to port having a chart system and the radar while the engine station to starboard has the main engine monitoring system. The screens are all connected through a Furuno Navnet system, making the displays interchangeable.

The four throttles need two hands to operate, but at speed the electronic system does allow all four engines to be controlled from a single lever. It is a snug, purposeful helm design, one that other fast-boat builders should take a careful look at. The windscreen is narrow but it gives a good view; there is also visibility at the sides and astern.

The deck saloon continues the functional look, but the settees and tables create a sociable area that is very much in keeping with the boat. There is a minimalist look about the styling designed by Allevi E. Campici from Como, but the gray tinted wood comes from the pear tree and the grain shows through handsomely. Gray and black are the predominant colors with red highlights. I would grade the overall concept as very modern.

With virtually half the boat given over to the engine compartment, the accommodation is a little compact, but there is a large master suite that features a low bed and has space for a desk as well as a spacious bathroom. A feature of the styling in all the cabins are the leather hanging wardrobes that close with zip fasteners, owing more to style than practicality.

Two twin-berth guest cabins are included, each with an en suite bathroom. Then there are two crew cabins located just forward of the engine compartment adjacent to the belowdecks galley. This is a convenient location for food service in the saloon. Also up here is a large-screen TV and a Bose sound system for entertainment.

Outside, the OTAM 80 looks every inch a performance boat. There are no handrails or fittings to spoil the clean lines, and the pilothouse rises in a smooth curve from the coach roof, sloping back to engage with the low arch mast with the engine air intakes in between. The molded bulwarks get deeper as they run aft, creating a safe walking channel forward with handholds molded into the coach roof. For those brave enough to experience the wind at speed, there is a deep-cushioned sunbed on the coach roof.

Aft there is a useful cockpit with seating and a second sunbed, although you would not want to use this one at speed. The lack of gates and handholds for safe movement about the boat are features that, I've been assured, will be addressed as the prototype is completed. For tender stowage there is a useful garage with an extending slipway built into the transom.

This OTAM 80 looks compact, it looks mean and it looks purposeful. Everything about the boat promises speed and boy, does she deliver. Here is a combination of speed and sophistication that you rarely find, making OTAM a welcome addition to the big-performance boat league.

Contact: OTAM Yachts; www.otam.it