One yachtsman’s determination to marry speed and stability has reinvigorated a bold brand. The resulting Bluegame 62 offers both pace and precision.
Stefan is nodding and smiling at me – encouraging. Luca too. What the hell, I think: with both the skipper and the designer on board, it must be safe. I lean forward and push the throttles as far as they’ll go. There’s an instant response – the bow rises gently, then falls again as the automatic trim kicks in. The vibration beneath my feet increases fractionally, and I’m pushed slightly back in my seat.
All images: Maurizio Baldi; No Noise
The speed increases to 35 knots, 40 knots. Then I put the wheel over as hard as I can. Now, last time I tried this on a boat, the engines roared, the deck tilted wildly and the stern skidded alarmingly out of the furrow created by the hull. That was on a smaller craft – around nine metres in length – at around 30 knots. This time, I’m sitting up at the wheel of the new 18.8-metre “dayboat” from Bluegame.
The rudder hits its maximum 25-degree deflection and the boat turns fast, but the control is absolutely perfect. Tilting a few degrees, the twin 1,000hp Volvo IPS drives push us around in a smooth circle. Our speed doesn’t drop below 35 knots. The depth is no more than three metres here in the Dutch inland IJmeer, and I feel like a skimming stone.
“We borrowed from the automotive SUV,” explains Luca Santella, the former Olympic sailor behind the Bluegame brand, which is now in its second incarnation. “She’s got great performance, and combines something from the fishing boat, the open boat and the dayboat. Everyone uses it the way they choose.”
Serial Bluegame owner Cem Boyner enthusiastically confirms this. “Beauty, power, and, like the Swiss army knife, versatility,” he says. He bought one of the original Bluegame 47s and sees the same DNA in the new generation of yachts. “Robust enough to cruise in force 6 storms, every corner designed to serve a purpose, not a millimetre wasted and a very safe boat.”
The Bluegame 62 has striking looks, too. Her high, flared bow has broad bulwarks, giving her a muscular air, like a crouching athlete with shoulders rippling. Her lines, with just a modest superstructure to punctuate them, sweep aft to a long bathing platform. Her reverse explorer windscreen and low grey coachroof make her look at once businesslike and built for speed.
The owner of this particular hull is Bas Lengers, the Dutch dealer for Bluegame. He loved the boat so much during sea trials that he bought one himself. “She doesn’t have the ‘wow’ effect like, say, a Riva Aquarama,” he admits of his new toy. “But you will adore her more and more as time goes by.”
“She is a wife,” agrees Santella with a big grin. What they mean is that the boat seduces with her stability, performance and flexibility – not simply gleaming topsides or flashy design. Bas relates the story of going to meet a potential buyer of a larger boat in Ibiza in a Bluegame 42. The deal was done, but the customer was so taken with the Bluegame that he spent 24 hours on board and ended up buying it on the spot as a chaseboat. “She’s a ‘next-step dayboat’,” Lengers adds.
The key to the Bluegame line is the hull, which is a fast-planing creation of US maestro Lou Codega, renowned for building safe, rapid sportfishers that handle well in a seaway. He has given it a deep chine that helps the boat ride over the chop, as well as keeping her stable, thanks to some reverse camber. We got her planing on salt water at just 12 knots, leaving two smooth, clean tracks astern like the furrows of a sledge, with a tumult of white water between them. It is only this wake that tells you how fast you’re really going – looking ahead at 40 knots, you have only a slight sensation of movement. Codega is modest about his input, and yet Santella made great efforts early on in the Bluegame story to seek out the American and describes him now as a foundation of the brand. “Before founding Bluegame, my brother and I went to Washington to meet him. We believed that the boat had to come from the bottom up. We feel he’s part of the family.”
The hull design is one part of this boat’s impressive performance. The other is its weight. By keeping the engines low and central, and designing a small coachroof – just 300 kilograms of lightweight carbon, the hull is perfectly balanced for planing. “Early on, we worked together to come up with reasonable weights and centres of gravity for different loading conditions,” explains Codega. “They took great care to keep the weights under control as the design developed. This is critical to the performance of any planing hull.”
On top of this stable platform, Santella’s long-held dayboat vision could take shape. The helm is well protected behind that explorer windscreen, with roll-up plastic windows for protection at the side if you need it. Then there’s the sweeping grey carbon roof, designed by Zuccon International Project, which shelters a table and a wet bar in the cockpit. Santella shows me the track that runs around the roof to attach plastic and fabric sidewalls for protection, allowing you to heat or cool the space as necessary. There are also sunpads forward, aft and, unusually, on the roof itself, accessed via two ladders on the trailing edge. “We’ve put non-skid paint right up to the edge, so kids can use it as a diving board,” says Santella. For the less daring, there’s a big transformer stern platform, which can be lowered into the water for swimmers, or used to launch and recover jet skis and other toys.
Below deck, the 62 is smart and practical. It offers a galley and dinette, a good-sized master cabin aft and a split V-berth forward. It is well finished, and owners can specify materials and styles, although, as Santella points out, “Experienced owners aren’t so likely to ask for something crazy.” It is a hugely capable dayboat that also offers the option to sleep, shower and cook on board.
As we plane back in towards Muiden, near Amsterdam, and the tightly packed marina at 20 knots, Stefan the skipper leans over and asks if I want to have a go with the joystick manoeuvring system. As I play at making the boat walk sideways and swing on the spot, he casually mentions a recent delivery he made from Ameglia, on Italy’s north-west coast, to Corfu. “Sounds like a fun trip,” I tell him.
“Not much of a trip,” he says. “We did it in a day.” It’s around 700 nautical miles, so I check I’ve heard him right. “Oh yes. We stopped to refuel at 3am and carried on at 30 knots.” Yes, I reflect as I step ashore again. This is a boat that will reward experienced owners – those who appreciate the difference between form and function… but would rather have both.
This feature is taken from the August 2019 issue of BOAT International. Get this magazine sent straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issue.