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Aria S: The green machine from Arcadia Yachts

In yacht design, you don’t have to create something that moves fast to leave the competition behind. “I was convinced about the Arcadia Yachts project for the reason that it’s really, really different from all the others. It was not useful to make another Azimut or Sanlorenzo,” says Ugo Pellegrino, sole director of Arcadia Yachts. “We are very, very different. If we find somebody that loves the boat, we don’t have any competitors.”

Arcadia’s fibreglass yachts certainly don’t look like anyone else’s. Their most unusual practical feature — extensive solar panelling — is also their most distinctive design trait. The yard presented its first design, for an Arcadia 85, at the 2010 Düsseldorf Boat Show. “The first day of the show opened at 10:00, by 10:10 we’d sold the first boat,” says Pellegrino.

Thus far the yard, on the Amalfi coast near Pompeii, has launched 13 85s, five 115s, one 100 and four Sherpa support vessels — “we keep one Sherpa and an 85 always in stock”, says Pellegrino — so they have found a market. While the models differ in layout, the solar panels combined with beamy, angular superstructures, designed in-house by naval architect Francesco Guida, lend a space age aesthetic to the whole family — what the owner of one 85 describes as “a timeless and un-temporal design”.

And according to the same owner, it’s not just the solar panels that make this an eco-friendly superyacht. “I loved the idea of having a part of the energy consumed on board provided by the solar panels. [It is] also a very economical yacht with very low engine consumption at cruising speed. My yacht is consuming less than a fast 12 metre boat,” he says. “I have also to admit that the solar panels create some beautiful shades, which generate a very relaxing ambience on board.”

The latest addition, the semi-displacement 31 metre 100, has a more substantial feel than the 85 and a flybridge deck that gives a lighter profile than the 115 — but it is still a recognisable sibling to both. The yard has designed five potential layouts to use as starting points, with owner input.

For Paolo Scudieri, owner of the first 100, Aria S, the combination of green thinking and lifestyle appealed — he previously owned an Arcadia 85. As a keen diver (the boat’s tender garage is packed with two Sea-Doos and loads of dive gear) he appreciates “technology that respects the natural” and also that having found a beautiful anchorage, you can turn off the generators and the solar power will run your hotel loads silently. As Pellegrino puts it: “You don’t have noise, you don’t have the smell of the gas and you don’t have any kind of consumption.”

Scudieri saw the appeal. “When you are younger you sometimes prefer to have a fast boat. Now I prefer to live on the sea, to have the ambience, so this is the reason I chose Arcadia. When you are inside it’s like outside, you are always close to the sea. Nature is in the boat,” he says.

The solar panels that make this possible are works of art in themselves, built to order in Austria. “We have two pieces of glass, with a gap between them of krypton gas, which insulates. It can give a difference of temperature between outdoor and indoor of 20C. And in that we have the solar cell,” says Pellegrino.

This insulating element is key — it means the yard can cover massive areas of a boat with this glass to flood the interior with natural light, without also flooding it with heat. And the cells themselves have evolved since Arcadia began. They use premium polycrystalline, as opposed to monocrystalline cells, and newer six-sided cells, as opposed to eight or more, that are more efficient.

“The panels on the first 85 gave around 3.5 kilowatt. Now, in six years, we are close to five. That will go directly to the battery pack,” says Pellegrino. The 5kW from 50 square metres of panels runs refrigerators, water circulation, toilets, lights, A/V, electronics and recharges the batteries — everything you need at anchor except air-conditioning, and the opened up saloon takes care of that. Arcadia offers an optional hybrid propulsion system that it estimates would run the boat at eight knots silently and with zero emissions, but it hasn’t yet installed it on a boat.

The feeling of openness throughout Aria S makes the most of the peace that the solar energy affords. Sections of superstructure on either side of the main saloon fold down beyond broad sliding windows, to create large superyacht terraces. The head height is also excellent. It’s easy to imagine sitting here, in serene silence, at one of Scudieri’s secret dive spots near Sicily, a breeze flowing all the way through.

The saloon sweeps back to an open plan dining saloon, which unbolts in an unusual way. Rather than traditional central doors to the aft deck, substantial corners of full-height window slide open, leaving a central section of shaded glass in place. This means diners look out on to the seascape on either side, rather than to those chattering on the aft deck. Conversely, those on the covered aft deck of Aria S get a more private space that could accommodate a separate party from the dining saloon without awkwardness.

Up top the open-air theme continues, with a superyacht sundeck whose windows can be automatically raised to enclose it. In either scenario, there’s a neat central coffee table arrangement and sunpads in an external nook aft, so sun worshippers can get their fix even when the rest of the deck is in ‘indoor’ mode.

Solar panels cover the hardtop of this level and the owner’s cabin forward on the level below. The latter are a more obvious part of the aesthetic — you can look out through the glass that creates a spaceship-like atmosphere inside. The owner wanted it up here and the advantages are clear. He gets a broad, private view forward, plus the foredeck all to himself, which will have a small sofa added.

The décor throughout Aria S combines a restrained palette with splashes of individuality. The owner’s cabin has grey panelling with cream carpets, recessed lighting and a textured white gloss headboard and cupboards, while the en suite aft continues the muted tones with marble sinks. But then the shower is backed with a decorative panel by Italian artist Alex Turco in livid reds and metallics and the bed is laid with a scarlet runner and cushions.

In the four lower deck guest cabins — a full-beam VIP that can be split in two, and two twins and a double forward — even more recessed lighting is laid on and the glossy overheads are supplemented with panels of mirror. With this volume of light, it doesn’t feel very “below decks”. Four crew are accommodated in the nose of Aria S in two compact cabins, plus the captain’s cabin, all with en suites, and there’s independent routing from here up to the main deck galley.

In the main saloon white sofas contrast with grey leather chairs and grey cabinets, all designed and assembled by Arcadia, and featuring a textural effect created by a printed wood paste by Italian company Alpi. Again, the cream carpet by Jacaranda has a red stripe and there are red cushions on the sofas.

Natural light from the massive windows is reflected in high gloss overheads and supplemented with recessed lighting and a modern chandelier, by German company Millelumen, over the dining table. The overall effect is chic, masculine and automotive — as is the way that Pellegrino speaks about his boats:

“We are an artigianale company. We are a friend of our customers — they are very, very close to us. We are not in industry — it’s the difference between a Ferrari and an Aston Martin.” And with Aria S, the little southern yard is showing that the Ferrari doesn’t always win.

First published in the February 2017 edition of Boat International

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