Rhythm of the Senses: Benetti 170

Benetti's Latinou is designed to embrace the joy of yachting.

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Yachting is a feast for the senses. The sonorous clang of a distant bell buoy, the cry of gulls wheeling overhead, and the gentle slap of waves reaching up the hullside- these are music to the ears of serious yachtsmen the world over. Gentle breezes dance to and fro, cooling tanned skin warmed by the sun, and if the breezes bring aboard sea essences on the salt air to tease the nose, so much the better. Nothing rivals being lulled to the land of Nod by the gentle rocking of your berth, with the full moon twinkling a golden path on the water, your last vision of one day and the anticipatory glow before the breaking dawn your first hint of the next.

Of course, there's also reality. It's all a lot less romantic when the sea is having a snit, the temperature hovers at one extreme or the other, the gale warnings are flying, and the air is perfumed by rotting fish. Isolating this assault on the senses is the reasoning behind so many new superyachts with their sealed windows, their ever-present climate control, and their at-anchor stabilization systems. Alas, something's been lost in the process, and that's a sense of being at sea. On some yachts, the interior environment, and to some extent the outside environment, is so completely controlled that you have to pull aside the curtains to see if you're even moving. You might just as well fly to a five-star hotel and spend your time in the presidential suite.

Serious yachtsmen and designers have recognized this unintended consequence and are taking steps to re-establish their acquaintance with Neptune, king of the sea. The 171-foot Benetti Latinou is a perfect example of a superyacht designed to keep her guests at least in touch with the watery environs. She is a splendid creation richly deserving of her name, which means elegance and harmony.

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For the guests, there are multiple open sitting and activity areas on the main and bridge decks. The bridge deck has alfresco dining areas both forward and aft, as well as a small observation platform aft. With its little cocktail table and two chairs, it's a perfect spot for people watching when Med-moored or toasting the green flash with a flute of Cristal as the sun settles into the sea.

The top deck is open, but its central section, which includes a bar and hot tub, is shaded by Latinou's massive radar arch. Aft is an open deck area for sunbathing or partying. The tenders are carried in a lowerdeck garage. Forward, a large sunlounge wraps around the upper terminus of an elevator that spans all five decks, including the sub-lower deck where a laundry, a wine cellar, and a baggage room are located. The elevator shaft is formed by glass panels on each of the guest decks, bringing muted rays of natural light into the heart of the yacht.

If the guests feel the open decks are still too remote from the sea, they can get a lot closer by taking advantage of the "beach club" created when the transom is lowered. Here, small waves lap at the sides of the teak-decked platform as tenders and water toys come and go, and a swim in crystal-clear tropical waters is just a step away.

Guest accommodations include four staterooms on the lower deck amidships, each with three oversized portlights behind translucent retractable shades. The port forward stateroom is fitted with twin berths while the starboard has a queen. Both have en suite heads with showers. The aft VIP staterooms also have queen berths, but each adds a sitting area, a larger shower and more hanging locker space. A fifth guest stateroom, a special VIP suite, is located on the bridge deck and enjoys a spectacular view that only large windows and such elevation can offer.

The main dining room has a flexible seating arrangement with not one but two tables, each seating six guests. Combined with the Art Deco motif and the neon-esque blue glow emanating from the backlit art-glass bulkhead, there is the unmistakable sense of an ultra-chic Roaring Twenties dinner party. In fact, just such a scene is illustrated on the opposite bulkhead, as F. Scott Fitzgerald's great Gatsby and Daisy descend the grand marble staircase, and you can almost hear the maestro striking up the band.

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Sliding translucent panels separate the dining room from the main salon, where the same chic but relaxed atmosphere pervades. Circular patterns in the sofa pillows echo the swirls in the door panels, the light inlays in the cherry joinery, and the grooves in the sole at the salon's aft bar.

On the bridge deck, abaft the VIP suite and captain's cabin, is a skylounge so large that Benetti correctly refers to it as the "second salon." Double glass doors open this area to the outside, where a large dining table and two smaller ones await guests seeking the natural environment.

However the ultimate in-touch-with-the-sea experience is reserved for the owner. Although it can be yours, too, as Latinou is available for charter. The yacht's sheer size and the on-deck location of her master stateroom mean there's lots of beam available. Taking advantage of this width, there are not one but two private balconies built into Latinou's hull, one on either side of the stateroom. Each is large enough for a table and two chairs, so it doesn't matter which way the current is running or the wind is blowing, or where the sun is setting or the moon is rising. One, if not both, will always offer the perfect option, and by opening the large glass doors on both sides, the master stateroom's guests can enjoy yachting as it once was, in elegance and in harmony with the sea.

Benetti; +39 0584 3821; www.benettiyachts.it