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Bond Girl: a look inside the 69-metre Benetti yacht Spectre

The newest of 007-named boats built for John Staluppi, Spectre is much more than just a pretty face. It’s what you can’t see that truly impresses, discovers Cecile Gauert

It was a perfect day for a yacht cruise. The sun shone brightly over the Tuscan coast and a breeze brushed softly across the blond teak decks. But the group on board Spectre was disappointed. They did not fancy Martinis at the bar or a soak in the pool. What they wanted was wind and waves.

The captain did his best to produce a wake and crossed it repeatedly, but it was no big challenge for the sophisticated stabilising system aboard the new 69-metre Benetti. It took several outings to get the kind of conditions most guests would rather not encounter but finally the technical team had their wish and naval architect Frank Mulder was amazed. “Holy [cow],” he remembers thinking, “there is no pitching at all.”

One of the highlights of this handsome five-deck, 1,403GT yacht lies where it will seldom be seen: under the waterline. Spectre is a luxurious full displacement yacht with some unusual speed characteristics and a sophisticated ride control system, commissioned by a man who’s been known to chase (and set) speed records with his superyachts, John Staluppi.

Since the days of the 42-metre, 67-knot The World is Not Enough he launched in 2004 under his own brand, Millennium Superyachts, Staluppi has moved away from speed for speed’s sake, but he is still very keen on getting the most out of his machines.

“She’s done 21.5 knots, which is pretty impressive for a yacht of her size,” he says about the newest addition to the growing family of boats bearing a James Bond name and John and Jeanette Staluppi’s special touch.

In many ways, Spectre expands upon the qualities of 61-metre Diamonds are Forever, a full displacement yacht they built at Benetti in 2011. With a top speed of 16 knots, Diamonds was conceived as a yacht that would give owners, guests and charter clients the best of everything. Its luxurious interior had two big VIP suites, a lift and a spa.

With Spectre, they wanted all of the comfort and some, plus more speed. They returned to Benetti to build the new project. The Staluppis added to the team a Dutch naval architect they had trusted for many years, Frank Mulder of Mulder Design.

Mulder has worked on nine boats with John Staluppi, starting with the speed-record-setting 40-metre Heesen Octopussy in 1988. When it came to Spectre, Mulder recalls John Staluppi telling him, “I want a boat that cruises 20 knots, can go places, is spacious, good and comfortable.” His brief dovetailed very well with the work that he and son Bas had been doing at the time, fine-tuning hulls with good efficiency and comfort over a wide speed range.

“We feel that the times of extremely high speeds are over, but cruising at a good speed is different,” Mulder says. “It is nice when you have a boat that is basically a displacement boat, feels like a displacement boat, and looks like one with a normal interior, no honeycomb or whatever, and then you reduce drag to make a very efficient hull that is around 30 per cent faster than a normal displacement boat.

“Typical 69-metre boats usually do 17 knots, that’s the bread and butter speed. [Spectre] does 21 knots... but those 17-knot boats cruise at 15 knots and this one cruises at 20 knots, so it’s a lot faster,” he says. “The long-range speed, 12 knots, for when you want to cross an ocean and the crew is on board and doesn’t want to burn a lot of fuel, is also an important point.”

Spectre has a range of 6,500 nautical miles at 12 knots, burning an average of 260 to 290 litres per hour at this speed. Powered as she is with two MTU 12V 4000 M93s (small engines for her size), she can go 19, 20 knots “forever” and consistently tops out at around 21 knots, pure white statuario marble and walnut burr included.

“What we have is a machine that really burns a lot less fuel over the entire speed range. It is far more efficient not only at 21 knots, but also at 15 knots, and 12 knots, 10 knots, so it is a much better hull. We’re very happy, very proud; it’s a good machine,” Mulder says.

Uncharacteristically missing a sea trial before the handover in November due to a scheduling conflict, John Staluppi was on the phone with his representative, Mike Britton, to get the latest on performance. “[Spectre] handled unbelievably with the ride control; it’s incredible,” Staluppi says. “It’s probably one of the best things that we did.” It was done in the pursuit of more comfort.

Going faster means feeling the effect of waves more, says Mulder, who worked closely with Naiad to make Spectre the first yacht fitted with a comprehensive ride control system. Naiad originally developed its system for the military market, later expanding to commercial vessels, such as passenger ferries, says Steve Colliss, general manager of Naiad in the UK. Applications have been made to a few yachts, including the trimaran White Rabbit. However, “Spectre is the first one of its type with a full-blown system. It’s probably the most sophisticated we’ve done in the yacht market,” Colliss says.

The system is designed to mitigate all undesirable movement from waves with three interceptors at the transom, a pair of fins around midship for conventional roll damping and forward canards used for pitch damping in conjunction with the interceptors. “It’s this combination that makes it unique.”

“We did the full tank testing for the model and we knew exactly where things stood before we started construction,” says Britton, who supervised the build of Spectre, his fifth project with the Staluppis. “We also spent the extra money on the propellers.” The yacht’s top-of-the-line VEEM propellers have built-in interceptors that are designed to correct pitch because every incremental improvement matters to these owners. “John is always looking for the latest technology, speed and comfort,” he says.

There are many extras on board, including two large television screens in the upper saloon, among some 30 in total, all managed by an entertainment system by Videoworks, a sleek carbon-fibre-clad paperless bridge by Team Italia with foldable screens and a large digital chart table. But this being a project closely managed by John Staluppi, two of the highlights are the engine room, clean and shiny with brightwork, and an outstanding garage. Larger than the average London flat, it covers 110 square metres of the lower deck, with 2.1 metres of headroom and a more than nine-metre-wide portside door that forms a side terrace, expanding the garage into a luxurious waterfront space.

A project with and for the Staluppis tends to push shipyards to get out of their comfort zone and try new things. This was the case with Spectre, according to the Benetti team. The builder adopted several weight-saving techniques that saved around 150 tonnes overall, says project manager Marco De Cosmo.

“Since the structural hull was built, all the major materials were weighed, including the filler outside, and a report was produced each month to help predict the performance,” he says. Aluminium replaced heavier plywood supports for the interior and the gearboxes were made in aluminium instead of steel.

However, a big part of the weight saving was the structure itself, designed by Mulder Design and built according to their drawings using a “different philosophy” – simplifying it, it uses thinner plates and more frames for equal strength and less weight.

Even with a displacement yacht, saving weight is a big plus. “If you build five to seven per cent lighter, you save five to seven per cent fuel,” Mulder says. Except for honeycomb marble, which is ubiquitous on today’s superyachts, the interior is what Mulder calls “normal”, which is to say luxurious in every way, from the materials used to the grand dimensions of guest spaces.

The yacht’s exterior deck lounge areas are ultra-spacious, the stairs are wide and gentle to climb but the yacht also has a guest lift with a delightful chime. “I love the elevator, the garage space is incredible, everything about this boat is something I wanted to do,” Staluppi says.

The exterior stylist, Giorgio Cassetta, worked on numerous iterations (54 to his count) before the final design for a five-decker that reconciles a large interior volume with sporty exterior lines. “The big challenge was to try to make something which looked graceful and proportioned, and at the same time, satisfy this urge for huge volume and huge shaded areas,” he says.

“We tried to design her as something as balanced as possible so that the exterior design would influence the interiors and vice versa without anything predominating on the whole concept. When you look at her in real life, she looks sporty, she looks aggressive. If you sit at the very end of the bow and look back at the superstructure, she looks like a US bomber rather than a boat. But at the same time, she’s a big, imposing, safe-looking yacht, not a small boat grown to a bigger size,” Cassetta says.

“There’s a very nice correspondence between the exterior design and the interior functions, so there’s no big fake black glass on the outside. Everything that looks black [glass], or almost everything, leads to some light being transmitted to the inside. And we made sure that you could really enjoy these windows. From the master bed, you can actually see the bow tip because we’ve designed all these windows with a low bottom frame so that you could enjoy the view while lying down, which is quite a privilege.”

Britton reveals the “million-dollar” view as he presses a button and the curtains neatly fold to unveil a private spa pool, the helideck with an "S" for Spectre at its centre, the bow and the water beyond it. A second master is forward on the main deck, full beam and identical in size. All but two of the owner and guest cabins are on the main deck and above. Adding to the big expanses of glass are the tall ceilings, which exceed two metres everywhere.

The high-contrast decor by Benetti’s interior architect Domenico Gavagnin in close consultation with the Staluppis is a modern take on the art deco style prevalent in 1930s Florida, with stainless steel and etched glass details, light-hued fabrics by Armani as well as sconces by Lalique against a high-gloss walnut burr. All the interior pieces were custom designed for the yacht and Evan K Marshall added a finishing touch with artwork and accessories. One of the challenges, De Cosmo says, was to find a consistent pattern in the amazing walnut burr that covers the guest bulkheads, all coming from trees harvested in Germany.

The light art deco theme continues outside with custom-made glossed teak furniture. The owner’s deck is a fantastic air-conditioned space for dining, with “girls” and “guys” conversation areas. One level above, on the bridge deck, the fun continues with a bar facing a large jet pool in a nest of sunpads, and more dining space next to a pizza oven and a grill. Aft on the main deck is an elevated lounge area, inspired by the Staluppis’ previous yacht Skyfall.

“The whole thing about this deck is that it’s very nice when you [arrive here] because this cockpit is so long you really feel like you’re on a big boat,” Cassetta says. “I even gave up on some length in the main lounge to have the longest possible cockpit here. It’s where you welcome your guests, so it had to be proper.”

There isn’t much here that cannot sustain an active charter programme or satisfy an owner who likes to entertain. This was the Staluppis’ plan all along when they conceived of this yacht, whether for themselves or for someone else.

John Staluppi may be known as a “car guy” but he is also in the boat business. “Every time I build a new boat, I put it for sale. It’s just the way I do things, but I love the boat and I want to show it off.” He did that pretty well: after this article was completed, it was announced that Spectre had been sold. But it seems unlikely this will be Staluppi’s last superyacht adventure.

Building Bridges

To create a modern wheelhouse with the latest technology, the project team worked with TEAM Italia on

a custom, clean integrated system called I-Bridge, which adapts to each captain’s preferred set-up with easily interchangeable views.

The high-definition screens tilt up and down or lay flush in a console clad in carbon fibre. Another impressive component is an IMO-approved 46-inch chart table, which is multifunctional and interactive and allows the sharing of trip-planning information and “infotainment” with guests. All controls are neatly organised and condensed, including three redundant 4K 32-inch touch panels for steering and onboard safety systems such as sprinklers, watertight and fire doors, and three multifunction controls with joggers, trackball and OLED systems used for radar, electronic chart display, CCTV and thermal cameras. The fully integrated system extends to the wing stations, which are also equipped with touch panels.

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