Wild Water: test driving Dominator’s 10m drama queen

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Wild Water: test driving Dominator’s 10m drama queen

3 April 2024 • Written by Katia Damborsky

Dominator Yachts' new breed of boat is a superyacht in sheep’s clothing, says Katia Damborsky

I’m enjoying the final dish of an elaborate seven-course candlelit meal in Porto Novi, Montenegro’s luxury marina and resort, when a hush falls over the tables and our attention is diverted to the water. Suspenseful music fills the warm air and a trio of dancers with lit torches begin to perform a fire dance to a backdrop of flashing lights and giant sparklers. 

Dominator’s new 10.5-metre Midi Ilumen M35 glides into view with another dancer poised on the prow and a projection screened onto the side of the hull. This is the reason I am here in Montenegro, but this isn’t my first time seeing the boat; earlier in the day it was revealed in a similarly dramatic scenario with booming music, live violinists, and dancers bearing smoke sticks in the exclusive setting of Porto Novi’s One&Only villas.

The next day is the sea trial, and I arrive on the dock after breakfast with the cynical part of me wondering if all the fanfare is a distraction. Am I being bribed into writing nice things by fireworks, five-star hotel hotels and themed cocktails with the Dominator logo dusted into the foam? But the moment I step on board and take a proper look at Dominator’s new offering, the cynicism melts away with the realisation that the boat has the same OTT style as the big reveal.

The first thing you notice about the new Ilumen is, if you see it from a distance, it looks like a superyacht. Dominator managing partner, Angela Pernsteiner is happy with this feedback. “This is what we were aiming for,” she explains. “[Some of] our clients are accustomed to owning big yachts,” so the Ilumen 35M needs to feel like an “extension” of that. She envisions its use as a superyacht tender or as a dayboat.

The model certainly doesn’t feel out of place in the Bay of Kotor, where the sea trial is taking place. In fact, her agility makes her ideally suited to a bay like this one, where the coasts are studded with umbrella-lined beach clubs and dreamy coves. Gleaming white superyachts lumber in and out of the bay, but the Midi Ilumen 35 can gracefully dart around them, putting her 48-knot top speed to the test. I take over the wheel for a bit and we zip around, but I’m happy to give up the helm for the sunpads on the back, where I can watch the double 300hp engines leave a frothy trail in our wake.

Headquartered in Austria and constructing in Italy, Dominator traditionally builds boats between 24 and 38 metres and the new Midi Ilumen 35 is a new breed for them. The 28-metre Ilumen 28M is one of its most popular lines, and the brand has neatly transferred those elements – like the distinctive rollbar, sharp A-pillars and angular windscreen - into its latest model.

Studio Agon’s Lorenzo Berselli and NavalHEAD’s Andrea Agrusta are behind the yacht’s design and naval architecture respectively. The team didn’t let the yacht’s 10.5-metre LOA deter them from packing all the big-boat hallmarks into the Midi Ilumen 35, though. At the forward part of the boat, a sliding glass hatch leads through to a cabin that can be configured as either a berth or a saloon, with a smart glass screen that separates a head and shower. A skylight ensures the yacht lives up to the Ilumen name, and the bathroom is clad in Astana Grey marble with hints of orange that tie into the yacht’s orange theme.

On the port side of the cabin is the galley set-up which, remarkably, manages to contain a covered sink, coffee maker, storage space and counter space for basic cooking and food prep. “I have sailing yacht experience,” says Agrusta when I marvel at how much has been packed into this tight footprint. In his mind, every yachting project that he works on should be treated with the same approach to quality, design and amenities. “It’s about how you use the cards that you have on the table,” he explains. “We’re not inventing something new here”. 

Up on the deck, the superyacht-y ethos continues with wireless charging pads that blend into the teak and a cleverly integrated barbecue and ice-maker that pop up from below inconspicuous seats. Eight people can be seated around the cockpit dining area, with the table equipped with a rise-and-fall mechanism meaning it can be tucked away to create a more open area.

As we glide around the bay,  Pernsteiner takes the wheel for a little bit. "This level of quality is uncommon in this size segment," she tells me. "In this niche, there are no competitors".  She angles the wheel and we arc effortlessly around a passing superyacht that measures four times the size of the Midi Ilumen M35. This, Pernsteiner says, with a gesture of her arm, is the competition. 

LOA: 10.5m
Beam: 3.2m
Draught: 0.77m
Engines: 2 x Sterndrive Aquamatic 300hp (Diesel) , Volvo Penta D4 300A-G / 2x Sterndrive Aquamatic 430hp (Gazoline),Volvo Penta V8 430 - DPS
Speed (max/cruise): 27-45 knots depending on engines
Fuel capacity: 600l
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