Gigreca: breaking the superyacht mould
It seems unusual that a shipbuilder known purely for its motor yachts should suddenly decide to build a sailing yacht, but then The Italian Sea Group is not your usual yacht builder. Since Giovanni Costantino stepped in as chairman a little over five years ago, the Admiral and Tecnomar brands, the yard facilities, the business structure and the company’s ambitions have changed beyond all recognition.
Enter the Silent series – the first sailboat line-up amidst a sea of motor yachts. “Basically,” says Claudio Corvino, a naval architect who works in the Admiral sales department, “everything started because of Costantino. He is a passionate sailor, and he wanted to turn his passion into business.” The result was the Admiral Sail division, and the initial offering was intended to be a range of sailing yachts from 20 metres to 30 metres, built in composite but with the custom interior design ethos of the motor yachts applied to the concept.
Soon, work began on the first model – a 23.15 metre known as the Silent 76. Fast forward to 2015, and that first yacht, now named Gigreca, is sailing the waters of the Med.
Gigreca is silent at sea
As I wander the pontoon to look at Gigreca, in the yard at Marina di Carrara, she looks like a typical, comfortable mid-sized cruising yacht. Her lines are shapely, her deck profile modern and rig modest. Her profile is made more striking by the addition of a fixed windscreen and hardtop, and while her aesthetics might not suit everyone, the structure is to prove its worth in the bitter wind blowing off the Tuscan coast.
As we motor out of the harbour entrance, it is clear why her model name is “Silent”. With barely a whisper on deck from her twin Yanmar diesels, the throttles ease forward and Gigreca makes headway.
“The idea of twin engines,” Corvino explains, “was a matter of safety in case of an issue with one of the engines. Also, she has joystick control which controls the two engines and the bowthruster, so it makes any operation very easy, even for just one person.” Not only that, but her powertrain also means she is capable of cruising under engine at 12 knots, topping out at close to 14 knots, which is perfect for the Med where the wind can be unpredictable at the best of times.
Manageable navigation, maximum comfort
Gigreca’s main purpose, though, is as a cruising yacht. Her hull has a single rudder and a fin keel with integrated bulb and winglets to ensure her draught is kept below three metres: important for this owner, whose preferred cruising grounds are Corsica and Sardinia, where shallow water access can be an advantage. Her metal mast and boom were built by Maxspar. In-boom furling makes her easy to handle, while her controls are all top spec. Her standard sailplan includes a self-tacking jib, but if more power is required a 108-110 per cent overlapping jib can be specified. Future builds could also opt for carbon spars, but it’s comfort, not performance, that the Silent 76 is designed for.
This facet is emphasised by her layout and her interior – created by The Italian Sea Group’s in-house Admiral Centro Stile design office – where hints of marble and stone complement the dark wood finish. Her arrangement is a little unusual for a sailing yacht: the deck saloon features seating to starboard and a longitudinal galley to port, complete with a galley island. A few steps down and aft lie her aft master cabin and two further guest cabins. The VIP guest suite is located forward of the saloon. The crew cabin is in the bow, accessed via a deck hatch and featuring a sleeping cabin, shower room and head, and a washer/dryer.
Room for change
While Gigreca’s layout has compromises – her crew quarters access, the lack of fiddles and the like in the galley area, a small chart table and navigation area at the forward end of the galley, and limited access to the mechanical space – she has been designed to meet the needs of the owner, so not only are several standard interior layouts available, but a client can customise the interior style, change the layout and some of the bulkheads. “The aim of the yard,” Corvino points out, “is to make each boat as a custom product – even at 23 metres.”
Although the custom interior does not feature high-tech weight-saving solutions, and while the hull is built using standard lay-up techniques with fibreglass, Kevlar and carbon elements, the weight is a reasonable 45 tonnes, thanks in part to using materials such as Slate Lite for the galley counters, which give the look and feel of stone but without the weight penalty. It shows in her sailing performance.
Gigreca boasts leisurely cruising at impressive speed with ease
As we finally hit a breeze line, we hoist the main and unfurl the jib. With the mainsheet running atop the aft arch, and the boom clearing the hardtop with space to spare, moving about the cockpit is safe and easy. The twin helm pedestals feature scalloped wheels mounted on the forward side, so accessing the instrument controls does not necessitate reaching around, over or through the spokes.
At first, she feels reluctant to get going and with the breeze at about nine knots true, she ambles along at between five and six knots with the wind on or just aft of the beam. As the breeze picks up, climbing towards 20 knots true, so Gigreca picks up the pace, climbing through seven knots on the wind to just over nine knots on a beam reach. Her steering is rod-and-cable from the wheels to the quadrant, so while she is light on the helm, there is just enough feedback to feel her groove. There is no question that she is capable as a leisurely cruiser, and the yard is making tweaks to the design for the next in series, including reconfiguring the rudder and adding folding props.
Soaking up the rays on Gigreca
When not sailing, Gigreca’s deck layout offers plenty of opportunity for relaxing. She has three defined sunbathing areas: foredeck, aft deck and atop the coachroof, with superstructure steps affording easy access to a space that normally is inaccessible. In the stern she has a large garage, with the whole transom folding down to create a swim platform. She carries a 3.2 metre waterjet RIB and there is space in the garage for a jet ski or further storage. Alternatively, the aft bulkhead can be moved to give a smaller garage, but a larger aft master suite.
A sign of things to come
Things have changed since construction on Gigreca began and that has led to a change in philosophy towards the Admiral Sail line. “The plan changed because the yard changed: we largely abandoned the idea of building in composite,” Corvino explains. The Silent 76 will remain as a composite, semi-custom sailing yacht with full custom interior, but the rest of the Silent range has been replaced with a larger series and intended to be built in aluminium, comprising sailing superyachts at 38 metres, 48 metres and 60 metres in length.
“Of course, this is only the beginning,” Corvino concludes. “The idea is to offer fully custom projects like we do with the motor yachts, but we want to guide clients through a sailing yacht which is not only fast, but comfortable in any conditions.” As beginnings go, Gigreca is a confident introduction, and considering the changes Costantino has introduced, perhaps that is not so unusual after all.