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Bound for America

A Brit looks at some boats that premiered recently on European shores. Look for them in the States soon.

October 4, 2007
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The best thing about U.S. boat shows, I find, is their egalitarianism: Almost every show-goer seems to be carrying about a million dollars in loose change. And what does he do with it? Well, he inspects all those exotic, handcrafted European boats that have somehow found their way to U.S. shores, admiring the dramatic curves and beautiful finish. Then he thinks for, ooh, at least a couple of minutes before going off to buy a huge, home-grown, boxy white thing with a hose-down interior and enormous windows and a fridge the size of Iowa.

Come on, chaps, cut loose a little. A bit of style won’t kill you. It’s supposed to be the land of the free.

Over here in the land of the expensive, the best thing about boat shows is their exclusivity. No one would have it any other way. Your cultural hero is a stubbly Humphrey Bogart in “Key Largo. Ours is Brigette Bardot in a Riva Ariston. To go boating in any kind of style on this side of the pond, you need gargantuan quantities of cash-which most people haven’t got. Buying a boat, docking her, filling her with fuel, these amount to a kind of glorious madness, a secret vice that holds us helpless in its grip. To make it even remotely pleasurable for us poor saps, boatbuilders long ago hit on the idea of opulence and style, ladles of it, poured on like a sticky sauce. It sweetens the pill.

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Is sex dirty? It is if you do it right. Does a European motoryacht have to be excessively, outrageously gorgeous? You’re damn right it does.

So the Italians rule the roost around here. The British sell a lot of boats, but you don’t see too many Italians creeping around the London show copping the next great idea. At Genoa, on the other hand, first off the plane are the U.K. boat designers, trying to look casual. It was ever thus.

To see why, look no further than The Ferretti Group. The conglomerate has been acquisitive of late. As well as Pershing, it now owns Riva, still one of the world’s great brands. Ferretti’s influence and investment have been a tonic for a firm that had been feeling rather poorly through the 1980s and early ’90s. The first sign of the new spirit was the beautiful Aquariva, and now comes the Rivarama, a substantial 44-footer available in colors to complement the seven deadly sins. Brown is for gluttony, apparently. The boat I saw was Pane e Nutella: bread and chocolate spread. She’s nowhere near as pretty as the old Aquarama she wants to put you in mind of, but she has an undeniable presence, some snappy design details, plenty of room for two below and a better crew cabin than some British 74s I could mention.

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Another Ferretti purchase was Apreamare, builders of distinctively tubby, traditionally styled cruisers and day boats with masses of volume, rapid performance (thanks to big planing flats aft) and surprisingly capable seakeeping, courtesy of their round-bilge form and fine entry. The latest is the 53-foot, 6-inch Apreamare 16, offered with a two- or three-cabin layout. Go for the two, unless you don’t need a saloon or dining area below. Everything about her is solid and substantial, from the excellent engineroom to the broad side decks. She is supremely comfortable for loafing around on, and feels huge. Her beam is more than 18 feet. Just pour yourself a drink, stroll along to the foredeck and park yourself on the huge sofa there, shaded by a bimini. You won’t want to leave.

Azimut has also been shopping recently, and picked up the family yard of Gobbi. Almost instantly, the new Atlantis marque emerged, a marriage of Azimut’s brand values and Gobbi’s sports-cruiser know-how. The results are impressive. First was a 42, and now comes the lookalike 47, a stylish two-cabin, two-head machine with twin Volvo 75Ps capable of around 34 knots and cruising at 30. The tender garage can take an 8-foot, 9-inch RIB. Azimut’s influence is everywhere, from the beautifully executed interior to the extremely smart blue-and-silver dash design, but the 47 was a team effort: One factor behind the acquisition was Azimut’s respect for Gobbi’s production methods.

Far from resting on its laurels with the launch of the capable and innovative 98 Leonardo this summer, the parent company is keeping up the pressure with the Azimut 50. Sporting new shark-fin windows and available in a two- or three-cabin layout, this is a boat designed to take on the British in their strongest suit: flying bridge middleweights. Designed around the new 525 hp Cats, the 50 promises a lively turn of speed. She has plenty of good design detailing and a nicely organized if rather small engineroom. While there’s a great feeling of space in the saloon, helm and galley areas, the cabins don’t feel so roomy. Sealine, Fairline and Princess (Viking Sport Cruisers) will be preparing their responses.

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Ferretti, meanwhile, also seems to be in a hurry to expand and update its range. The 590 has a fascinating layout involving lots of differing levels, with a crew cabin and utility room amidships. A companionway leads down from the helm to the owner’s suite amidships and to three guest cabins, each with a head and shower. Standard engines will be 30-knot, 800 hp MANs, with 1,050s available to add four knots. The quality of fit-out is of a very high order, indeed, and Ferretti’s enginerooms continue to set the European standard.

While the 590 replaces the 57 in the Ferretti range, a new 730 supplants the 72. This is a substantial and beautifully executed motoryacht with a particularly good upper dinette opposite the helm position, a pop-up plasma TV in the saloon, a double and two twin cabins for guests, and a palatial owner’s cabin occupying the midsection of the hull. Walking through the boat is like immersing yourself in the glossy color brochure, such is the level of finish. Here we have motor cruising at the highest level, Italian style: opulent, authoritative and supremely comfortable.

Not all Italian yards have been snapped up by the big boys-not yet, anyway. Cantieri di Sarnico has a four-boat range topping out with a jewel of a 65. She’s a three-cabin boat, with one aft and two forward of the engineroom, although a crew cabin can be crammed aft. MAN diesels of 1,050 or 1,300 hp provide top speeds in the upper 30s. The quality’s good, the angular interior is extremely cool and the hardtop design with the sliding sunroof section has never been done better. The builder showed the 65 at the swanky Sardinia yachting events last summer and at Cannes and Genoa in the autumn, and went home with orders, confidence and designs on the U.S. market.

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One of the big stories on the British scene in 2002 was the launch of Sealine‘s C39, a clever hardtop offered with outdrives or surface drives and a stepped hull that provides 42 knots without sacrificing the accommodations Sealine is famous for. In January, Sealine plans to launch the S42: same plan and profile as the S41 (outdrives) and S43 (shafts), but with Fabio Buzzi/ZF surface drives and 500 hp Volvo 75Ps. She’s expected to be good for at least 36 knots.

Fairline also has a boat on the drawing board for a January debut: the Phantom 40, a flying-bridge cruiser of the sort the builder does so well, with two cabins with heads, a hull by the matchless Bernard Olesinski, and styling by Adam Greenwood’s team. Engines from Volvo and Caterpillar will supply 636 to 770 hp and speeds up to about 31 knots, according to Fairline.

Sunseeker‘s big news at the Southampton show in September was the 82 Yacht, a typically radical-looking beast that encouraged the British to imagine they were seeing the Italians off at their own game. The 82 has some very strong features, among them a huge deck saloon unencumbered by flying bridge steps (they’re in the cockpit) and an amazing, full-beam master cabin. It has a screen across the entrance and the berth backed up against it, creating an extraordinary illusion of space because you can walk right around the bed. This is a 30-knot machine, packing 2,800 to 3,100 hp from Cat, MTU or MAN.

The new Plymouth-built Viking Sport Cruisers 75 is known over here as the Princess 23-Meter, launched head-to-head at the Southampton show against arch-rival Fairline’s flashy new 74. Comparing the two underlined the differences between the marques, for Princess takes great pride in design that doesn’t date-not just for owners who keep a canny eye on resale values, but for those who believe true style has little to do with fashion. The 75 is a remarkably assured motoryacht, full of light, short on gimmicks and long on main-deck space. She has a conventional four-cabin layout, comparatively roomy crew quarters and 1,300 hp MANs that should be good for about 31 knots.

Sea Rays and Boston Whalers and Hatterases all sell here too, of course, but the one development we’re all watching with interest is the birth of Nuvari, the Trojan horse set up at Fano, Italy, by Carver Yachts. The first truly new Nuvari is a 65 that’s due in January and based on the 63 Sonic. This is essentially the Mochi 19, one of the late yard’s most successful recent designs (“late because of management, not the boats. Ferretti now owns the name). Styling is cool European, with the interior a mix of gloss cherry, russet walnut, emerald green carpets and cream-colored leather. There’s a three-cabin, three-head layout, a small crew cabin and a choice of German engines up to 1,050 hp apiece. Detailing is good, and quality looks fine. She’s huge inside, with a minimum of space-sapping curvature to the layout and plenty of headroom everywhere.

Actually, the Nuvari is a lot like an American boat. Bogart would have been fine with one of these.

And so, maybe, would Bardot.

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