Custom Line’s new flagship may be sculpted for grace and polish, but, as Sam Fortescue discovers, she’s been optimised under the bonnet too...
Squeezing past the bouncers and stepping into Riva’s new El-Iseo electric runabout, in her anniversary livery of white and aquamarine, it is hard not to feel a bit like a VIP. And knowing that we are off to visit one of the largest yachts at the Cannes Yachting Festival does nothing to reduce the sensation. It’s just a shame that the transfer isn’t longer, I think, as we glide the paltry 40 metres from the Ferretti Group VIP dock to the slip where Custom Line’s new 42.6-metre flagship is moored in the middle of Cannes’ Vieux Port.
Although she dominates the harbour, the yacht’s stature doesn’t stem from being the biggest new boat in the show (she misses out by a mere 10 metres there), nor from sporting any wildly unorthodox design. But, away from the jostling competition of the quays, lying alone by her own pontoon, she has undoubted presence. “There are many new features on this masterpiece of naval design inspired by residential architecture,” explains Stefano de Vivo, chief commercial officer of Custom Line’s parent, the Ferretti Group. “In-depth research has enhanced the shapes and volumes involved.”
No doubt true, but the gravitas projected by this boat, the largest in Custom Line’s planing hull range, is also thanks to the exterior design of Francesco Paszkowski. In common with the smaller Custom Line 120 and 106 boats he drew, the new flagship combines a towering, classical bow with a streamlined superstructure that tucks in aerodynamically. A muscular flare to the forward bulwarks hints at hidden power and generous volumes. Topsides are gleaming white with deep lateral incisions that bear dark glass windows. A rising chine curves from just above the waterline aft to a point halfway up the bow. Above it is white; jet black is below. It is a very powerful combination.
Or, as the ecstatic new owner puts it: “a sublime expression of speed, performance, strength and aesthetic avant-garde”. He came to the project once it was already well under way, and made relatively few changes to the design, being already familiar with the marque from a smaller boat. “The main reason to upgrade my old Custom Line with the new 140 is the four decks, allowing more space for us and our guests, as well as privacy when we need it,” he tells me. “We are talking about more than 200 square metres of external spaces and internal areas that exceed 300 square metres, distributed over four decks in which the environments designed for socialising create a [unifier] between exterior and interior.”
This last feature was a key point in the brief for Paszkowksi, whose studio also styled the interiors in collaboration with Margherita Casprini. “As well as the exterior, the interior was designed according to the whole design philosophy: reducing boundaries between exterior and interior,” Paszkowksi says. “The best example in the layout is the large windows in the living areas and in the guest cabins, where we placed beds in front of the windows. Large windows contribute to flood the interior with natural light and enhance the colours of the decor.”
More literally still, those boundaries are reduced by the doors that link indoor and outdoor space on the main and upper decks. In the main saloon, twin double doors aft can be folded right back against the wall, with deep sliding windows to starboard, “so you can feel the fresh air inside”, according to Ferretti Group project manager Pier Francesco Boschi. In the upper deck saloon, the aft opening is wider still and windows on both sides slide back. The shimmer of the ocean is reflected in the glossy ceiling panels. It turns the space into a kind of luxurious pavilion.
But perhaps we’ve got ahead of ourselves here, because the first thing I see when I step aboard is naturally the beach club, which is revealed by a vast fold-down platform. On a steel or aluminium-hull boat, this would be an easy tonne of metal, but Custom Lines are built in composite, so it is a relatively lightweight foam-cored structure. When it is in the down position, it creates 10 square metres of beach club, and gives access to a huge mirror-lined storage space hidden in the transom. And even when the door is closed, there’s a teak-decked walkway just above the waterline that connects the two staircases that frame the transom and lead up to the main deck.
It is pushing 30 degrees on the day of my visit, so I seek shade on the main deck aft as soon as I can. And because of that aft-swept superstructure, there is plenty of shelter. On hull No 1, which was begun on speculation, there is a 10-place table here with lots of lounging room on sofas that run the width of the boat.
On the upper deck, the exterior space is a little more intimate and connects through to the cosy upper saloon. It still features seating and dining space, but you could imagine the family making use of this for a quiet dinner. As the owner explains: “For me, the upper deck was fundamental. Compared to the previous boat that was a flybridge, the Custom Line 140 reflects the perfect synthesis of what I imagined from the beginning: speed, design, space and performance.”
Climbing an elegant staircase in mirror-finished stainless steel and teak, you reach a sundeck that is worthy of the name. Spa pool, vast sunpads, shady lounging on low sofas and a full bar – the features up here cater for all manner of stress relief. And if none of these appeal, there’s also a well-equipped foredeck lounge on the main deck, positioned below the sight lines from the sloping windows of the wheelhouse. Each deck is linked by an exterior guest staircase, and has discreet crew access. “We appreciate the separation between the crew area with stairs through the decks,” says the owner.
Nowhere is that privacy more complete than in the large 44-square-metre owner’s suite, positioned forward on the main deck, just beneath the wheelhouse. As such, it has no forward views, but does offer a fantastic balcony. “The lateral windows on the starboard side make it possible to offer a version featuring a terrace suspended over the water,” explains de Vivo. “A simple, functional hydraulic mechanism extends the floor platform and handrail system out from the hull, creating a personal and totally private terrace for the owner’s exclusive use.” Better still, it can be operated autonomously by the owner – without any input from the crew to risk interrupting the moment.
Working with the craftspeople of the Custom Line Atelier, Paszkowski has created a calming space for the owner, based on relaxed, natural tones. “We chose just a few materials to create harmony of style throughout the yacht,” he explains. “Oak floors combine with gloss lacquered surfaces and hard leather for the ceilings. The result is an elegant, contemporary decor in light shades for the main fabrics, sometimes contrasted by dark hues.”
A his-and-hers bathroom lies forward of the cabin. The highlight is undoubtedly the free-standing bath by Zazzeri, with its shell-thin sides. It is framed by a fabulous wall of swirling grey orobico marble, flecked with pink. This being a lightweight yacht, the orobico is no monolithic slab of stone, but a masterful assembly of marble veneer glued to a honeycomb backer. In this way, it is also possible to continue the pattern seamlessly through a deep alcove that holds towels and bath products, as well as the taps and shower head.
Completing the suite are a deep walk-in wardrobe, an office area and a couple of chairs. Paszkowski has sourced the furniture from an array of top Italian design houses, with the likes of Casamilano supplying the twin blue chairs in the owner’s suite and Flexform’s signature on the desk table. Elsewhere on the boat, you can find Minotti and Flou, plus some custom-designed pieces. “Leather combines with fabrics,” adds Paszkowski. “Glass is used in different finishes – transparent or lightly grey coloured – for doors, the tabletop in the dining room and in the wardrobe doors. Door handles are by the Italian brand Olivari.”
The ability to choose the interior designer appealed to the owner. Indeed, he describes it as “one of the main reasons” for choosing the brand. “We worked in great harmony with Francesco Paszkowski, Margherita Casprini and Custom Line Atelier,” he says.
There are four guest cabins, all situated on the lower deck and artfully lit, with mirrored panelling to enlarge the sense of space. Two of these, towards the aft, are considered VIP cabins, with a generous 16 square metres of floor space.
But for all that the Custom Line 140 is a big boat, there’s more to her than meets the eye. She has a superpower. And her swept-back superstructure is the hint. With her lightweight composite build and efficient hull shape, she has a top speed of 21.5 knots. This 140-footer planes.
Now, that may not be a huge surprise to those who know the Custom Line brand, for which fast planing performance has been a keystone since its launch in 1996. What is impressive is that the engineering team has pulled off this performance using the same twin 2,638-horsepower MTU M96L engines as they’ve put in the smaller Custom Line 120 and 106 yachts. And consider this: the tad larger Canados 143, which also debuted at Cannes, needs three 2,400-horsepower engines to achieve similar performance (albeit with a slightly higher top speed).
Attention to detail and excellent naval architecture are two of the keys to performance, as is top-notch composite construction. “To ensure the yacht’s large volumes, but keep the overall weight as low as possible, required the use of carbon fibre for the upper deck and the sundeck, together with light material construction technology for the furniture, derived from high-performance sailing yachts,” says de Vivo.
There are other advantages to using composites. Although the development process requires a hugely expensive female mould, these costs are diluted by every subsequent yacht ordered. And composite construction gives a greater usable volume than building in steel or aluminium. “Another advantage is less maintenance, as composite is less subject to corrosion, leading to more time spent in the water rather than in a dry dock,” adds de Vivo.
Finally, of course, there is speed – not through the water, but down the production line. A composite hull is faster to mould and join, while using an existing technical platform saves development time and cost. The first boat might have taken three years to go from light-bulb moment to delivery, but subsequent orders will be built in around a year, according to the Ferretti Group. They have already sold three more.
None of which is of any concern to the owner of the first boat. He is looking forward to a relaxing summer of warm-water cruising. “We plan to cruise the Mediterranean, Croatia, Greece and Turkey, which perfectly matches the long-range capacity of this yacht,” he says contentedly.
First published in the April 2023 issue of BOAT International. Get this magazine sent straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issue.shop now