Masters of Light

The 77s advances Azimut’s reputation as a premier builder of luxury performance cruisers.

The bay of cannes was a rollicking mess the day I tested the Azimut 77S. A cruise ship was anchored just offshore with numerous tenders continually transporting tourists into the harbor. The Festival de la Plaisance Cannes was in full swing, and every hour or so, another fleet of yachts passed through the show’s swing bridge opening to give potential owners a hands-on experience. Once these yachts cleared Vieux Port, they were up on plane, generating a chaotic weave of wakes that roiled the anchored fleet, which otherwise would have been moored within the Old Port. And when the land breeze began to blow, the bay chop peaked up and was as perfect a place to test a boat as I might have imagined.

Three 900-horsepower Volvo Penta IPS 1200 diesels matched to pod drives were amazingly quiet exiting the harbor, a benefit made possible by the underwater exhaust ports. The forward-­facing, counter-rotating props provided a great grip as I advanced the lower helm’s throttles. Her bow stayed well below the horizon, indicating that the hydrodynamic wizards at Azimut Yachts and Pierluigi Ausonio Naval Architecture had taken great care with their computations. Interestingly, the dual-lever binnacle was designed to provide single-­engine control of whichever outboard unit the skipper selected, but when used together, the center engine and drive were perfectly in sync with the other two. The 77S was on plane quickly. Her deep-V forward sections, 14-degree transom deadrise and 58-ton displacement made quick work of the choppy waters with a smooth ride. At 22 knots, her engines burned just 67 gallons of diesel per hour. At a higher cruising speed of 28 knots, fuel burn increased to 89 gallons per hour.

UNEXPECTED UPGRADE: A SATISFIED AZIMUT OWNER STEPS UP Renato Monaro freely admits that he fell in love with the Azimut 77S at first sight. He’s owned a 72S since 2012, keeping her behind his home in Fort Lauderdale. “I attended the Cannes boat show last year just to get away, without any desire to buy another boat,” he says. “I was very happy with the three-stateroom layout and the 34-knot cruising speed of our 72S, but after touring the new 77S and taking a cruise, I was hooked. The open concept of the main cabin and the incredible attention to finishing details were too hard to resist.” He jokes that his European getaway proved an expensive flight, indeed. Monaro judges the 77S to be an evolutionary yacht for Azimut, particularly in terms of spaciousness. Volvo Penta’s IPS drives free up space for a large garage as well as crew quarters. Monaro collects Ferraris, and the 77S satisfies his desire both to buy a stylish, Italian-built design and to enjoy a 36-knot top hop inside a sleek, beautifully designed package. — J.W.

To characterize the 77S as fun to drive is an under­statement. Even at 34 knots, the yacht banks beautifully, leaning into turns gradually and carving a flawless circle measured with a feeling of complete control and confidence. A large part of that confidence is conferred by the excellent sight lines from the lower helm, which is thoughtfully designed with large, twin multifunction displays flanking stacked Volvo Penta engine displays. This yacht is also balanced beautifully, and she’s quiet inside to boot, one of the benefits of having the close-coupled IPS 1200s and most of the major machinery located well aft. A large centerline tank also plays an important role, minimizing the sometimes troublesome (in other designs) side-to-side trim effect of wing tanks as fuel weight is burned off.

When I first laid eyes on the 77S, her long, lean lines gave hardly a hint that there was a flybridge. That’s what has made the whole S series so desirable, and credit for the exterior styling and design goes to Stefano Righini. On this yacht, the flybridge is one of three exterior living areas, sitting just abaft the amidships line and featuring a minimum of built-in furniture while leaving a large, open deck that is perfect for movable, folding deck chairs and lounges. To port, the stainless-steel ladder with teak treads is angled for ease of use, and stout, stainless-steel safety rails surround the entire flybridge.

Guests relaxing in the salon will have their choice of comfortable, contemporary furnishings, along with unhindered views of the seas all around, particularly through the wide-opening aft sliding doors. Natural ventilation and light increase dramatically when the electrically actuated overhead hatch slides open. Equipped with Miele appliances and designed with portlights for outside views, the galley is located ahead and down several steps on the port side, ready for long weekends aboard as well as gatherings with friends. Sight lines from the raised helm seat are excellent in virtually every direction, and the overhead hatch increases ventilation in the salon. Equipped with Azimut’s trademark windows on either side of the hull, the master stateroom is a study in light, contrasting colors and surfaces, and comfortable furnishings — a perfect owner’s getaway.

The second outdoors area is the aft deck, accessible by twin stairs, and the large sun pad abaft it. An outdoor kitchen with grill, refrigerator and ice maker is to starboard, and the sun pad snugs up against a built-in bench seat for four. Add a quartet of deck chairs to the forward side of the flawlessly finished, built-in wooden table, and you can seat eight. And if the sun is high, relief is a button push away — a cleverly hidden sunshade deploys from the aft edge of the upper deck.

My favorite place on deck, however, is the foredeck seating and sun pad area. For those times when the vessel is docked Med-style, this area is far away from the prying eyes of those walking the docks. A hideaway Bimini top that deploys electrohydraulically offers privacy as well as shade for sun worshippers who want a brief escape from the rays. And there surely will be good-weather days when guests can enjoy the thrilling ride underway in the forward seating. Believe me, when the 77S is charging ahead at 30-plus knots, the foredeck is one of the best places to appreciate this yacht’s powerful, dry ride.

The aft salon bulkhead is a nearly 9-foot-wide wall of three glass panels that slide to starboard to visually and environmentally connect the interior and exterior lounging and dining areas. Carefully crafted and upholstered salon seating invites relaxing and entertaining, and the side windows extend far enough below the furniture backrests to make views for seated guests truly outstanding. Contrasting colors and surface treatments, including leather and zebrano wood in the main salon, as well as pale ivory lacquering and sand-colored fabrics in the master suite, please the eye thanks to the design of decor master Carlo Galeazzi.

KEEPING IT FAST: THE AZIMUT S SERIES PERFORMS The 77S builds on lessons learned from the performance gains of the 55S, launched two years ago. All four of the current S models — 40S, 55S, 77S and 86S — benefit from Azimut’s resin-infusion building process. With the addition of Volvo Penta IPS power in the 55S, the builder saw not only a marked improvement in fuel efficiency, but also the addition of operator-friendly joystick maneuvering. Aboard the 77S, the 900-horsepower IPS 1200 engines and drives offer significant weight and space savings, reduced drag and a reported 30 percent improvement in fuel efficiency at a 34-knot cruising speed when compared with a pair of 1,800-horsepower diesels with traditional transmission and shaft drives. Are pod drives the future for the smaller 40S, currently powered by twin 480-horsepower Cummins QSB 5.9 diesels with shaft drives? My guess is yes, but maybe not for the larger 86S, which sports twin 2,000-horsepower MTU V16 M91 diesels turning Hamilton water jets. — J.W.

For convenience, a dedicated dining area is set to port of the helm console and is separated by the entrance to the stairs leading to the lower deck. The galley down is positioned to port and is nicely separated from the main deck — a layout that seems perfect for a professional crew and chef. Azimut has equipped the galley with all the right stuff, including four-burner range with sea rails, microwave, grill, dishwasher and large-capacity refrigerator. Miele is the primary appliance supplier. The general accommodations deck layout includes a guest stateroom forward, two twin-berth cabins on either side of the companionway leading aft and a full-beam, amidships master suite with comfortable easy-chair seating for two and a casual table to starboard, a large head compartment to port and a spacious walk-in closet to starboard. Trademark, inset rec­tangular hull windows offer marvelous views of the surrounding waters.

The 77S is a worthy new member of the S series, blending luxury and memorable on-water action with an interior and exterior package that is distinctly Azimut. Always a leader in the production of noteworthy, performance-oriented sport yachts, the models Azimut is turning out nowadays continue to set the pace for discriminating owners.