Designing your own yacht sounds like the ultimate indulgence for the head of any shipyard. Especially during a time of record demand, when customers are clamoring for any new boat they can get.
Paolo Vitelli, chairman of Azimut-Benetti, didn’t build his company into the world’s largest yacht builder by following convention. Vitelli, 75, decided it was high time to create a yacht that he could use for himself and his family—with certain parameters: It would need to fit into snug harbors in France, Greece and Italy that he loved to visit, so the length had to be under the usual 40-meter, or 131 feet, mark that is effectively the separation point between small- and medium-sized superyachts.
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But it also had to be able to accommodate a large group of friends or family, with more staterooms than any yacht its size. Vitelli also liked the idea of a separate owner’s deck offering exceptional views of the water, both from the stateroom and outer decks. The boat also had to feel relaxed, without the usual formal dining room and other stuffy interior spaces that define many yachts over 130 feet. Finally, it would require hybrid diesel-electric propulsion, not just for sustainability, but for being able to cruise waters restricted to electric-only mode.
Vitelli’s answer, the first 121-foot 37M B.YOND, was launched at the Cannes Yachting Festival, but we had a chance to tour it last month after the Ft. Lauderdale show. First impressions: It has a Frankenboat look, with a vertical bow at the front of the steel hull, four tiered decks rising high over the water, and an open stern. It looked like a lot of mini-explorers that have emerged in the last four years, but a bit more square-edged and commercial, and with the steel hull—extremely rare on a boat this size—downright intrepid.
But Goga—which Vitelli was forced to give up to a US customer who loved the design—makes more sense from the inside out. I’ve always thought Vitelli was a genius in a yachting world full of me-too builders. Partly because he was able to build an empire from a small yacht-charter business he started in 1969, but mostly because he always took the yachting market’s pulse across different sectors, and stayed a step ahead. He understood changing consumer trends and also used his knowledge as a boater to introduce innovations, along with his longtime collaborator, designer Stefano Righini. The prolific designer passed away this year. But even from his hospital bed, Righini sent final sketches to Vitelli for the first B.YOND.
The yacht defies convention, packing as many features into the hull—thanks to the 28’3” foot beam—as a yacht 20 feet larger. Righini was able to keep Goga looking somewhat svelte, rather than bloated, with creative horizontal lines. Of course, the four decks helped.
The interior layout is counterintuitive, especially compared to other yachts its size. But that’s what makes it work. The main deck includes four guest suites, along with an open, informal salon with loose designer furniture from Giorgetti and a flat-screen television. Vitelli called this area the “play room,” according to the Benetti rep showing me around the boat, because it’s designed mostly for the kids. The real salon and dining areas for the adults is actually on the next deck up. Goga’s owner also opted for his stateroom and outer decks to be on the bridge deck, which offers a measure of privacy.
The interior design by the Benetti in-house team might be too informal for some, though that’s currently the vibe of most superyachts. And while the stairs leading from deck to deck look cool and save valuable space, they could be a bit narrow and vertical for older owners and guests. The sky deck has space for al-fresco dining (all four decks are connected by a dumbwaiter for the crew to move food and drinks). The lower deck is designed for service, with the galley, crew quarters, laundry room. It also has two other guest staterooms, bringing the total to seven.
Goga also has a sizable tender garage to store its 21-foot tender, jet ski and other toys. The beach club has a shower, sauna and the fold-down transom door allows instant access to the sea.
The hybrid propulsion is probably one of Goga’s coolest features. Developed with Siemens, it has five modes for multiple functions. The system combines Siemens ELFA motors coupled to the main diesel engines. Both are connected via a power management system which feeds the yacht’s generators and batteries. The yacht can operate on standard diesel mode for a top end of 14 knots, along with four “eco-modes,” which cut back on both carbon and NOx emissions as well as fuel use. Benetti and sister company Azimut have used this hybrid system on other yachts. The goal is to make running the boat across different situations more efficient.
E-Modes range from the “Extended-range,” where the diesels power the electric motors to run navigation and hotel loads (air conditioning, electricity) to “Eco-cruise” in which the boat runs on batteries alone. That will allow Goga into areas restricted for electric boats, including many marine sanctuaries.
Vitelli’s design for his dream boat has proven popular. Since Goga was launched, eight other 37M B.YONDs have been sold and are now under construction. Which means the Azimut-Benetti chairman may have to wait a few more years to get his boat.
Check out photos of Goga.
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