The “X” in the 43WallyTender X’s name stands for extreme – and this 13.2-metre delivers with both looks and power. BOAT takes it for a spin...
I am standing in a shipyard that’s more than 700 years old, a vast and beautiful space measured in hectares, not square metres. I’m talking about the Arsenale di Venezia, now incongruously shared by Italy’s Marina Militare and the Venice Biennale art exhibition, a combination that juxtaposes a submarine from 1968 with a tree sculpture by Giuseppe Penone.
It would be worth the trip just for the backdrop, but on this particular day the Arsenale is also the setting for the Venice Boat Show. And I have the unmissable chance to test a brand new 43WallyTender X with Stefano de Vivo, Wally’s managing director, and Wally’s founder and president himself, Luca Bassani. It’s Italy’s nautical past and present: we board the super-slick, ultra-modern boat from La Serenissima’s docks and motor slowly out between the ancient brick and stone towers that once guarded the Arsenale’s entrance, following the same route sailed by the ships that won the great naval battle of Lepanto in 1571.
After shaking up the world’s top yacht clubs with innovative sailing boats that were fast around the regatta course but comfortable enough to cruise, Wally began building powerboats in the early noughties. “We created a market that hadn’t existed up until then,” chuckles Bassani as he manoeuvres the boat off the dock. “I started to ask myself why we should limit ourselves to seeing tenders as small boats that you load onto larger boats when they could be more independent and used more widely. It all depends on the product you make. Like in any manufacturing business, if you make an innovative, quality product that works, it’s only logical that it finds its market.” And he should know: before founding Wally, Bassani helmed his family’s hugely successful electrical equipment company.
Even though Bassani says that the first 118 WallyPower was “un flop”, he also acknowledges that it was a groundbreaker. The look was shamelessly modern and aggressive, the attitude was unapologetically either-you-like-me-or-you-don’t and the main selling points were technology and performance. “It’s kind of like the race to space travel today,” he says. “Some of us might be asking ‘What do I need that for?’ but in a few years we may see that they opened a market segment that hadn’t found its calling yet.” When it became part of the Ferretti Group in 2019, Wally had already won a couple of Italy’s Compasso d’Oro design awards as the first shipyard to successfully integrate both sail and power options into its fleet.
Wally yachts express speed by their looks alone, and the 43WallyTender X is a minimalist wedge of a boat: straight bowed, with squared-off planes, a wraparound fender and a wide open expanse of teak deck aft. The inboard 43WallyTender was launched in 2020 but this is a more powerful beast – there are three Mercury 450R outboards grumbling and gurgling as we motor slowly down the navigation channel out to the Venetian lagoon.
Bassani has always said that Wally yachts’ style is driven by function and that their success comes down to the fact that they perform better. “Hull shape is everything,” he says. “Boats are made for heading out to sea and seas aren’t always calm, so performance isn’t just a question of speed, it’s also a question of how your boat moves through the water. If your hull slams you’re uncomfortable and you have to slow down. Wally hulls, both sail and motor, are made to be fast and comfortable.”
Carbon fibre features big on board and is used for the counter and tabletops, handholds and the signature Wally helm seats with their backrests in three segments. There’s even a nod to the boat’s sailing ancestry in the use of carbon-laminated sailcloth as a covering in the T-top. A peek under the countertop by the console reveals a fridge and a sink but no grill or cooktop. “It’s made to be a support boat so it’s not set up for cooking, but clients can request additional sockets for a microwave, for example,” says de Vivo.
There’s plenty of room for guests with banquettes on both sides of a fold-out table in a rubberised, non-skid carbon fibre finish. A narrow side passage leads around the console to the foredeck where sunpads are nestled into the gunwales. Below, there’s a double cabin and a bathroom with a separate shower – and details in carbon fibre. I’m just beginning to investigate a large sunpad on the aft section of the deck when we reach open water. Let the fun begin.
The engines roar, the water rushes, the flags and banners rip – 1,000, 2,000, 4,000, 6,000rpm… It’s performance, it’s high-octane and it’s thrilling to skim along in a boat that can easily do 50 knots. Communication is reduced to hand gestures and facial expressions, but the cockpit, with its wraparound glass siding and cushioned seating, is comfortable, safe and well protected. Everyone stays dry and the boat, with its sturdy GRP hull and carbon-fibre reinforcements, handles beautifully as we negotiate banked curves through the water.Read More/10 facts about Lürssen's 136m superyacht Flying Fox
But this boat has a double soul: when we cut the engines and it quickly converts from gas-guzzling speed demon to eco-friendly chill-out guru. De Vivo touches a button that deploys fold-down sides and an extra metre and a half is added to the already wide aft section. “Even though you have the outboards, you can easily load and unload from the sides,” he says. Functional design touches abound: the optional sunpad that I had been investigating can become sofas and the automatic boarding passerelle becomes a swim ladder. Best of all, this particular hull is fitted with solar panels on the T-top that produce enough energy to run the boat’s hotel functions.
“Wally is 20 years ahead of the rest, and you see it in things like this,” says de Vivo. “When you’re at anchor you can run the fridge, sound system and other basic appliances off the energy produced by the panels. No diesel engine, no generator, no fumes.” And total silence too, calm after the storm. Is this a new direction for Wally? “Designing for sustainability is practically obligatory,” says Bassani, with the dreamy look of an inventor who is already thinking of his next big thing. “Already we build for sustainability because we are so careful to keep our boats lightweight. But I hope that solar panels become more and more efficient so that they can run more of the boat’s functions.”
Confident style, high-octane performance and green credentials? It’s ambitious – but this game-changing brand just might be able to pull it off.READ MORE FROM WALLY