ISA 120

The ISA 120 pulls a fast one that you'll want to believe.

ISA 120

One of the latest yachts from International Shipyards Ancona(ISA) is named Illusion, but this is a yacht that is much more than smoke and mirrors-although the extensive use of mirrors on the interior does play into the name. Illusion is hull number five in the Italian builder's series of ISA 120 semi-custom composite motoryachts, and three more are currently in line for delivery.

Illusion is a 120-foot raised-pilothouse yacht that has sizzling performance to match its sleek, modern lines. Propelled by three MTU 16V 2000 engines driving KaMeWa waterjets, her top speed is 34 knots. That may not be news in the world of smaller sportfishermen, but for a motoryacht of this size, it's impressive.

This latest version of the ISA 120 is distinguished from her sisters by modest changes in the exterior. A black stripe has been added to the hull in line with her ports, and a stainless steel strip defines the main deck level. Both modifications tend to lower and lengthen her apparent hull lines, though they haven't really changed at all-an illusion, if you will. The biggest changes, though, were reserved for her interior, though the white hull, black stripe and stainless trim give a hint of what is to come.

Working with the ISA design staff and Lady Green, the owners' representative, architect Pietro Mingarelli has given Illusion a stunning monochromatic interior. The design makes extensive use of clear glass, beveled mirrors, white leather upholstery and overheads, stainless steel trim, and near-black walnut joinery to create a contrasting palette for the lighted display of numerous Lalique objects d'art, some in recessed niches, others inlaid into the woodwork.

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The color scheme-or rather, striking lack of color-carries all the way back to the exterior of the yacht, in the tables, seating and other furnishings. It also dominates the top-deck whirlpool spa, which is tiled with a black and white mosaic, and flanked by sunpads sporting black and white pillows and towels. Retractable black awnings provide shade over the numerous exterior "terraces" when desired.

Illusion sports an arrangement that is a bit unusual for a yacht of this length, and the key word here is "sports." She is, in essence, a large sports cruiser designed for fast, short hops, rather than a typical motoryacht intended for extended cruising. As such, she has fine sections in her hull forward and an engineroom all the way to the stern. Her galley is belowdecks, amidships in the crew area, and instead of a salon, she features a "cinema area" on the main deck between the raised pilothouse and her dining area. The arrangement is clearly focused on outdoor living, with expansive open deck areas on both the main and upper levels.The dining area opens outward by way of six curved, sliding-glass doors.

In any harbor, Illusion and her sisters are easily recognizable by the port and starboard stairways that curve in a continuous climb from the swim platform to the flying bridge. Though a striking visual element, both from the stern and in her profile, it is also eminently practical as a means to link all the outdoor entertainment areas together during large parties. I was aboard one of Illusion's sisters with a party of thirty or so, and the casual interaction of the guests between decks was quite remarkable.

Belowdecks, three crew cabins with a lounge are situated amidships. A tender garage, with a side-loading door and davit, lies between the crew area and the stern engineroom, and includes a small workshop. Personal watercraft are stowed under cover in the transom corners, in small pockets aft of the outboard engines.The outboard engines are fitted with steerable waterjets, the center with a fixed boost jet.

Guest accommodations forward of the crew area include a full-beam VIP stateroom with a queen berth, another queen-berth stateroom to port, and a twin-berth stateroom to starboard. On the main deck, the owner's stateroom is forward of the raised pilothouse. It features a large bathing and dressing area recessed down a half-deck into the hull forward of the VIP stateroom.This allows Illusion's cabintop to curve downward into her foredeck, giving her a sleek profile appropriate to her speed, and also creates a half-height compartment in the bow for auxiliary machinery and technical stores.

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On the upper level, Illusion has a flying bridge with a helm to starboard and comfortable seating to port and starboard for both the captain and guests. Just aft is the spa, with sunpads on either side. In the shadow of the radar arch are a spacious dining table and bar, and aft is another table and settee. A third sunpad, this one larger than the two forward, can be shaded by an awning that deploys from the aft edge of the radar arch.

On the main deck, aft of the indoor/outdoor dining area, is yet another dining table and another sunpad, this one with a shade that deploys from the aft edge of the bridge deck. On paper, it all may sound like a bit of overkill, but with large parties and good weather, it offers an incredible amount of entertainment area for a yacht of this size.With smaller parties in less than ideal weather, it's easy enough to button up the main cabin and enjoy a video and a nice meal with a few good friends.

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By the time the dessert dishes are cleared away, Illusion's speed will have outrun the weather, and everyone will once again be able to enjoy the great outdoors.

International Shipyards Ancona, +39 071 502191;