The transformation of Aspire into the award-winning explorer Masquenada – and in just eight months – was no easy feat. It required a select team of designers, architects and craftsmen working together in perfect harmony under the watchful eye of one legendary and discerning owner Pier Luigi Loro Piana.
As one of the most ambitious refit projects to have come out of the shed in 2021, Masquenada was rightfully awarded the Neptune for Best Refitted Yacht at the World Superyacht Awards 2022. Now, one year after her launch, Mario Pedol, founder of Nauta Design, unlocks the story behind Masquenada’s record-breaking refit.
Understand the owner
“I have gotten to know Pier Luigi Loro Piana from having worked with him on all of his past superyachts. He is an experienced yachtsman and had been considering building a new expedition yacht in the 55 to 60-metre LOA range. At his request, Nauta spent seven months developing a 57-metre new-build project for around 10-12 guests that featured several social areas. However, the client had been planning a circumnavigation of the globe aboard his new yacht and decided that he couldn’t wait the three years needed for a new superyacht.
“The team at Nauta began to search the global market for a yacht that could fit his brief. I recalled a ship originally called Etra (later known as Aspire) that I had visited a few years before. I thought she could fill the bill, as she was almost 600 GT and 50 metres LOA, with naval architecture by Leonardo Acciarri’s Bluefin, an important name in the world of industrial fishing ships.”
“Aspire just happened to be for sale and I felt that she could become that expedition yacht that would best fulfil the brief. With Nauta acting as the buyer’s broker, we closed the deal. It wasn’t easy, but Aspire soon arrived in Italy in early September 2020 and we looked for a yard. We chose Lusben, the Azimut-Benetti Group’s refit branch, for this top-to-bottom refit that required redesigning the vessel both inside and out. The yard had an advantage, as the team knew the boat, having already carried out refit work on her in the past.
“In November 2020 when the contract was signed, it seemed like there wasn’t enough time to complete the work. However, just eight months later in June 2021, the newly refitted yacht was launched.
“Once Aspire had arrived in Livorno, Names’ Francesco Rogantin took structural calculations and adapted the naval architecture to suit her new shape and weight distribution. At the same time, Nauta organised a 3D scan of the whole superstructure so we had a 3D model to work with when updating the design.
“A priority for the owner was to have a direct connection with the natural environment and live similarly to how he did on his previous sailing yachts. As a result, we redesigned the main deck to have an uncluttered deck that flowed into the main saloon. The aft area would serve as an on-the-water beach club with chaise lounges and sun shades, and transform into a touch-and-go helipad for a 4.5-ton chopper when needed. Thankfully, Aspire already had a large aft deck, but it was occupied by a 4.5-ton crane and the entrance to the main saloon was severely encumbered by the engine room access.”
Trust the process
“A major modification was removing the old deck crane and replacing it with a custom-built, 7.5-tonne capacity crane that folds away out of sight into a dedicated compartment below deck. It required cutting off the stern section and adding a completely new aft block creating a 200 square-metre free and usable main deck. The new entrance to the main saloon was cleared and improved by a new two-metre wide door.
The upper and bridge decks were also lengthened by 1.5 metres. These decks were already large and very liveable, but the longer lengths made the yacht’s profile more elongated and elegant. At the owner’s request, the original Jacuzzi was removed from the sundeck and it was replaced with an outdoor cooking station.”
Perfect the result
“By changing the propellers and slightly increasing the power of the engine (Masquenada has two engines with a total of 2,100 hp), she gained 1.5 knots in speed, which was a 10-15% increase with better consumption. Now, at 12 knots in economical mode, she only requires 130 litres of fuel an hour. The owner felt that although refitting an old boat was a green choice, it should be enhanced with the propulsion system. The original yacht was already stable and reliable, but the changes in the design of the stern lines were particularly beneficial, as the exit of the water is now very smooth.
“Of course, all the interiors were refitted, but the layout remained mostly unchanged. On the main deck there are two VIP cabins with three spacious cabins on the lower deck. The entire upper deck is dedicated to the owner, with a suite that now features a king-size owner’s suite with 270° views. The new interior styling and décor were created by the owner’s wife alongside designer Misa Poggi, who also designed the owner’s house. The style is nothing extravagant, but rather like a classic, elegant house on the water that is warm with a strong character.”