The intelligently designed custom superyacht Vica

The 50 metre superyacht Vica is the first of a new custom yacht concept from Benetti. Well known for building large yachts in metal and smaller yachts in composite, Italian builder Bennetti has of late has been pushing the size range of its semi-custom composite models, last year introducing a 42 metre fast displacement series called Veloce to accompany the 44.2 metre displacement tri-deck series dubbed Vision. One look at Vica, however, and it’s clear she is in an entirely different camp.

Benetti thought like a client when designing Vica

The planning for the yacht that became Vica began four years ago, according to Benetti CEO Vincenzo Poerio. “It was the middle of the financial crisis and we were determined to find a way to offer more possibilities to the market,” he says. “Our goal became how to overcome objections to custom builds, primarily the length of time it takes for a typical new build. How do we shorten the time, reduce the cost and customer headaches, yet keep the product custom to each client?”

Benetti’s approach was to adopt the customer’s point of view, visualise the desired result and work backward from it. The technical department developed the best engineering framework to satisfy a majority of interests and left customisation for the areas that are the most obvious to the owner — appearance and layout. Along the way, Benetti realised the most likely customers for this product were yacht owners who wanted to stay below 500 gross tons but still aspired to have some of the features available on steel yachts 55 meters and beyond.

We will laminate the hull on speculation — we intend to have one always in production. This is our investment and it will shorten delivery time by six to eight months.

How the build time was shortened on Vica

To minimize build time, Benetti chose to develop a new mold for a composite 49.8 metre hull with a 9.3 metre beam, the same as the Vision, but a full load draft of nine feet, same as Panthera launched a few years ago. “We will laminate the hull on speculation — we intend to have one always in production,” says Vincenzo Poerio. “This is our investment and it will shorten delivery time by six to eight months.”

Benetti also opted for an interesting combination of a hull in composite and superstructure in aluminium. “Because composite is lighter, we end up with less of the yacht’s volume under water and more of it where the guests want it to be,” says Vincenzo Poerio. As far as aluminium, it affords the yard and the owner nearly unlimited options in styling.

With the hull shape and mechanical package preordained, Benetti’s design team works with the customer on the layout and the design of the superstructure. So custom is the approach that the yachts are built right alongside the fully custom steel yachts at Benetti’s Livorno shipyard.

Vica’s owner asked for a modern, Mediterranean-style yacht with plenty of open air spaces — which plays nicely into staying under 500 gross tons. She doesn’t look like a scaled version of Illusion V or a scaled-up version of the Veloce; she is entirely her own look, just as Poerio and the Benetti team had envisioned it. Although the yacht can be certified for charter, Vica’s owner is choosing to keep his yacht for private use.

Vica is designed for outdoor living

Captain Pierre Yves Jourdan showed us through his new charge in Gocek, Turkey, where the enormous exterior spaces could be enjoyed to their full extent. Moving around Vica's decks is comfortable, easy and secure. The covered aft decks are spacious and the main-deck walkways are pleasantly wide. Stairs at the forward end both port and starboard provide a link to the upper foredeck. Here, with the wheelhouse set well aft of the bow, there is a large forward seating and sunning area with a Jacuzzi. It’s a logical spot for yachts that anchor out during the hot Eastern Med cruising season.

The next clue that Vica is a yacht for outdoor living is found in the protected al fresco seating area aft of the salon doors, where a large sofa fronts a TV recessed into the wall. The main salon itself is divided into two sections. The aft-most section features a bar and a Yamaha baby grand piano, a karaoke setup and plush seating, indicating that the sliding glass door will often be kept open. Illuminated columns flank a buffet that delineates another media lounge just forward. 

The space is large enough for dining and likely would have been used for this purpose if the owners had not decided to move the formal dining to the upper deck. Here, an oval table seats six to 12 under an embellished overhead of the same shape and takes advantage of the views offered by huge sliding glass doors opening out to the aft deck. The rest of the upper salon on Vica is given over to a games table and a conversation area. Its oversized parquet floor design blends nicely with the aft deck and contrasts with the light-color bamboo carpets used nearly everywhere else.

Vica’s unexpected layout and smart balcony

Both the main and upper decks have pantries linked to the galley and crew circulation pathways, a prerequisite for proper service. Opposite the main deck pantry space is a large and inviting foyer, and the spiral staircase that is the center of guest circulation. Numerous main deck windows and a skylight inset in the upper deck flood the space with natural light. 

Two doors lead from here to the master suite that begins with a surprisingly large office, its big desk positioned for the best views. Vica's full-beam stateroom features the latest thinking in balconies, a permanent installation fitted with watertight glass doors that slide open to allow fresh air into the room. It has space for a small table and two chairs, and an air curtain prevents insects from flying into the bedroom. Uniquely, this balcony is equipped with an articulating passerelle allowing the owners to exit the yacht to a tender or a dock directly from their suite. A dressing area separates his-and-hers bathrooms.

Descending from the main deck lobby to the four guest suites below, Vica holds a surprise — the lower lobby fronts a fold-down terrace to the sea, protected by a set of watertight glass doors, that makes for a charming al fresco spot to relax or perhaps to have a massage. “People want to be able to find their own special personal outdoor space, that’s why we have given them so many options,” Poerio says.

Benetti’s in-house interior architect, Maria Rosa Remedi, arranged the spaces and built-ins, choosing surfaces and colours in concert with the owner’s interior designer. The joinery is primarily cherry with accents in rosewood. Soft goods create a neutral background so as not to compete with the vibrancy of Turkey’s Emerald Coast, which is the owner’s favourite cruising area. Vica's owner also sought to use materials that are more environmentally friendly; hence, the choice of a bamboo-fibre carpet.

Again, the sun deck is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream featuring a second Jacuzzi wrapped by a sunbathing area. A full bar with room for food storage and service accompanies a second dining area located under the radar arch. Farther forward is a circular open area set up with lounge chairs. It is structurally engineered to function as a landing pad for a small helicopter.

Vica is designed to make clients’ lives easier

The pre-engineered solutions that the owners don’t necessarily care to delve into include the engine room and lazarette (which accommodates a technical tunnel running aft to bow at bilge level). The engine room and air-conditioned engineer’s control room are compact as much of the technical equipment is installed along that tunnel. Two Caterpillar C32s develop 1,300 horse-power each, enough to push Vica to a top speed of 15.5 knots. Her cruising speed is 14 knots, but throttling back to 12 gives her a 4,000-nautical mile range. 

The yacht is classed to ABS, but Poerio says it could be built to any of the classification society rules. As to that tonnage rule, Vica measured in at 498 gross tons and Poerio thinks he has delivered the maximum pleasure for the rule.

“Clients are definitely looking for less of a headache; that’s why we are staying under that five hundred-gross ton limit,” he says. “I think if you are prepared to go over five hundred gross tons, you might as well go way over it and build in steel, but we do that, too,” he adds.

The best business paradigm may be to make new friends but keep the old.  

This originally appeared in the September 2015 issue of ShowBoats International magazine. Cecile Gauert contributed to this feature.

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