It may not look like an explorer, but the first of Cantiere delle Marche’s RJ series holds many of the qualifications, discovers Risa Merl
Picture a luxury SUV trundling down a city street. They’ve become so ubiquitous that there’s no pretence this vehicle will ever be used for off-roading. It’s understood that the appeal is primarily about aesthetics, spaciousness and having a comfortable ride. Are we nearing the time when the same could be said of the explorer yacht? To answer this question, we can look to the recent 40-metre Cantiere delle Marche (CdM) launch, RJ. Besides appearance, she has the necessary features of an explorer yacht, including excellent seakeeping, plenty of storage and an easily serviceable engine room.
Remote expeditions are not part of the immediate plans for this yacht, though. “The owner of this boat isn’t necessarily an explorer, so you might wonder why he has bought this boat,” says Carlo Aquilanti, sales manager for Cantiere delle Marche. “He was attracted to the volume, the space and the comfort – this boat is heavy and very stable, so it doesn’t roll as a GRP boat would.”
RJ – both the name of the vessel, and the model name that CdM has adopted for this series – is the latest addition to this experienced owner’s small fleet. CdM also has a 47-metre and a 35-metre version. With naval architecture by Hydro Tec, RJ marries its explorer yacht pedigree with contemporary motor yacht looks penned by Francesco Paszkowski Design.
CdM is well known for its rugged, high-bulwarked, capable-looking Darwin Class models, but nearly a decade ago the Italian builder began to explore merging sleeker motor- yacht styling with expedition features, the result of which was the Nauta Air range by Nauta Design (the first hull was sold in 2012). RJ is another step in CdM’s evolution to offer a wider variety of vessels that can reach the ends of the Earth or look perfectly good just touring the Mediterranean – the latter of which is exactly what this owner plans to do.
Fittingly for a CdM yacht, we start our tour in the massive engine room, which shows off RJ’s expedition-yacht bones in all their gleaming chrome glory. Space is abundant with every component easily reachable, plenty of system redundancy and all the flooring lifts for bilge access. Just off the engine room is a massive lazarette, which Aquilanti says is one of the main reasons this owner bought the boat.
“He requested a lot of space for provisioning and toys,” Aquilanti says, pointing out the many bicycles and electric scooters stored here. “It’s all about making the owner’s experience at sea better because he has the space to keep the things he wants.” There are also two deep freezers, a 7,200-litres-per-day freshwater maker and a second full set of washers and dryers. This space, which has access to the swim platform, could easily be outfitted to match an owner’s interests, say fishing or diving, or as a gym.
RJ might match other CdMs in the engine room and technical spaces, but she looks like something else entirely on the outside. The brief was for a sleek and elegant yacht with large social spaces inside and out. “We focused on combining the essence of an explorer with particular features in terms of comfort and liveability to design a yacht that met the owner’s expectations,” says RJ’s exterior and interior designer, Francesco Paszkowski, who calls the yacht’s exterior styling a “study of architectural geometry”. The window shapes, strut set amidships and the curved overhangs are all intended to recall a sense of being in motion, both while cruising and at anchor. The curvaceous superstructure is made by metal carpenters, not from a mould.
RJ has a clean profile with wide windows on the main and upper decks, and unlike a typical explorer yacht, the bulwarks are cut low to provide uninterrupted views through the expansive glazing. “Priority was given to emphasising close contact with the sea, which we obtained by lowering the gunwales on the main deck and by creating several al fresco areas,” Paszkowski says.
One of the highlights is the sundeck, where the hardtop shades the dining table and a low glass wraparound shelters comfortable seating with sweeping views. Paszkowski paid close attention to maintaining good sight lines from this deck. For instance, the central section of the superstructure, sloping fore and aft, is nearly invisible from the sundeck. “There is no interruption to the view in any direction and it enhances visual contact to the sea and the surrounding environment,” he says.
The designer didn’t have to look hard for inspiration when it came to the interior. Paszkowski had worked before with the owner, who knew what he wanted, and he understood his sense of style. The owner’s brief was for a welcoming and elegant interior with a sense of seamlessness. Predominant neutral hues combine with darker accent shades and unique furniture and art pieces designed to draw the eye. For instance, in the main saloon, large cut-outs in the walls set the stage for sculptures. The designer selected a light oak that’s been polished, bleached and brushed for the walls, complemented by polished rosewood accents and leather details. The floor is in brushed oak slats, while lacquered panels are on the ceilings.
Jerusalem Stone is the marble chosen for the bathrooms. All bathroom fittings and accessories are by Zucchetti and Paffoni. The rest of the yacht is furnished by a who’s who of Italian brands, such as Minotti, Poltrona Frau and Flexform for sofas, armchairs, chairs and coffee tables. Other pieces such as the beds, bedside tables and light fixtures were custom designed by Paszkowski’s studio.
The contrasts inside RJ are subtle, with the interior designer using the same materials in different ways to keep a harmonious atmosphere throughout. “Careful attention was given to the different finishing of the materials,” Paszkowski says. Polished rosewood, for instance, was selected for the exterior furnishings, while the interior furniture features rosewood in a more subtle matt finish. Paszkowski also chose “extra clear” glass for the doors in the lobby and the shelves in the main deck saloon, while in the staterooms he selected smoky glass for the wardrobe doors and the tops of bedside tables.
Leather covers the steps of the dramatic floating staircase, which rises like a spinal column in a stainless finish. A light grey leather is also found on the bed headboard and wardrobe doors in the owner’s suite, enhancing the understated yet elegant vibe. Wallpaper decorates the walls behind the beds in the four lower deck guest cabins. Notably, there are no televisions in the guest cabins or the main saloon – the show that the guests might be watching instead is the chef hard at work in the galley. Forward of the main saloon is a formal dining area, which opens to the galley so that guests can see the chef in action, or it can be closed off for total privacy. The galley is also set up for the chef to give guests and the owners cooking lessons.
The designer’s favourite space is the upper deck saloon, which is nearly as spacious as the main saloon itself. A glass half wall separates a games table from a lounge area with smoked mirror walls that make the space feel even larger than it already is. Outside the doors is a large dining table and sun loungers. In CdM’s rugged Darwin Class, a crane would usually be found here, but on the sleeker RJ, the crane is purposefully hidden. The styling choices might conceal elements of this yacht’s explorer nature, but they are still here and will be noticed by a discerning eye. The doors, for example, are incredibly sturdy. “It’s one big piece of aluminium, not flimsy GRP,” Aquilanti points out. “The founders [of CdM] care that the boat is built well, no matter what.”
RJ’s true explorer soul is below the water’s surface in the extremely capable hull form designed by Hydro Tec, which has worked with the yard from inception on all projects. For RJ, the task was to create a yacht that could achieve a speed of at least 14 knots with a beam not exceeding eight metres due to berthing limitations. “For the rest, we have been free to design the best possible hull,” says Hydro Tec’s founder, Sergio Cutolo. On the one hand, the beam limitations helped Cutolo to design a very efficient hull, but on the other hand, he had to keep a sharp eye on stability issues.
The naval architect created a round bilge, displacement hull with a bulbous bow and flatter sections aft. These attributes are a hallmark of a Hydro Tec design, but RJ differs slightly from other CdM projects to meet the speed and stability requirements. “In this regard, the sections are a bit flatter and fuller,” Cutolo says. “The hull has been optimised for a higher power and speed combination, but it’s perfectly in line with CdM and Hydro Tec standards with regard to efficiency and seakeeping characteristics.” RJ reaches a top speed of 14.5 knots, cruises at 12.8 knots and can deliver a range of 5,500 nautical miles at a more economic nine knots.
Even though the first RJ series owner might not use this impressive range to go around the world, it will still come in handy. “Consider that despite not being an ‘explorer’ – not going to the Northwest Passage or Antarctica – the owner has still done 4,500 miles in the Mediterranean alone since delivery,” Aquilanti says. “They’ve been to Turkey, Greece, Sardinia… so even though they aren’t exploring an unknown path, they definitely aren’t just sitting at the dock.”
First published in the April 2022 edition of BOAT International. Get this magazine sent straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issue.SHOP NOW