A quick spin on Azimut’s new 53, designed with seafaring families in mind, reveals a restless shipyard that’s on top of market trends, says Clare Mahon
Like child’s play, for the Azimut 53’s designer Alberto Mancini it all starts with a pencil sketch. “It’s the best way to start a dialogue,” he says as we sit down for a quick dockside coffee before the boat arrives. While Mancini’s studio, AM Yacht Design, is in Monte-Carlo, he studied transportation design in Turin, where Azimut Yachts is based. “At design school we had to learn to identify an automotive brand by looks alone and to isolate those design elements that expressed its history. It’s the same when you look at a shipyard’s design legacy: you perceive and identify the elements that represent it and you learn how to bring them into its future,” he says.
On top of thinking about Azimut’s future, Mancini is leaving his mark on their present: in just a couple of years his studio has designed the Grande S10 and S8, and the 78 and 53 from its Flybridge collection. Soon his Grande Trideck will be unveiled, continuing his gentle updating of the Azimut range in a step-by-step process that leaves its heritage intact.
Once the romance of sketching is done and it’s time to switch to three dimensions, Azimut’s moulding technologies let Mancini design dynamic, sculpted surfaces that play with light and shadow. “The 53 fly is a real departure from Azimut’s past and a big step towards its future,” says Mancini. “I brought a bit of an automotive feel to the design with organic and fluid lines, but kept things simple because I like to design in black and white, playing positive against negative surfaces.”
The real challenge in designing a flybridge is avoiding the “top hat” effect that can come with plunking a habitable space onto a boat’s roof. Mancini did this by using a black wraparound on the 53 that starts above the windscreen and kicks up over the aft cockpit. “We used the junction between the superstructure and the flybridge to insert a continuous line. This lightens the fly visually and gives it dynamism that I find molto bello,” says Mancini as he points towards the arriving boat. With its white and grey hull punctuated by smooth black surfaces, the 53 is compact, neat and clean and looks ready to run even as it motors slowly into the harbour in Varazze.
When Federico Lantero, the Azimut-Benetti Group’s product marketing and communication director, sits down with us I feel like I’m looking at the future of the group: both Mancini and Lantero are forty-something Italians, fast-moving, focused and full of ideas. As Mancini heads back to his studio, Lantero accompanies me aboard the 53 for a spin on the Ligurian Sea – that unfortunately is doing its best imitation of points further north.
“The 53 fly was designed with family use in mind, so space was important,” says Lantero, pointing out that all stairs off the aft deck are to starboard so that there’s room for an extra curve in the banquette. The galley is aft just off this space so that whoever is rattling the pans can also take part in conversation and moving between the spaces is easy. As Lantero says: “The 53 fly’s Volvo Penta IPS propulsion system is placed lower, so the yacht’s centre of gravity is lowered too. This allowed us to keep a continuous deck level for more ample perceived space.”
Azimut paid extra attention to the saloon and it shows. The windows are a single, uninterrupted pane of glass, so views are spectacular. The built-in sofas are constructed as if they were stand-alone design pieces, not just blocks of upholstered foam rubber. Colours are light but finishes are matte so fingerprints won’t be a problem. Lantero points out a clever touch: “In case there’s an extra guest, the coffee table can convert to combine with the couches and become the base for a sleeping platform.” I can already see my kids jostling for the privilege of sleeping on the “funky” bed.
As the crew docks out we pop down to the guest cabins. Azimut bills the largest – a full-beam cabin with a desk, side sofa and a centrally placed bed amidships – as the owner’s, but a family with children and a couple of invited guests might want to set things up differently. This is because the “owner’s suite” has a private en suite bathroom, while the VIP fore, with a centrally placed bed whose wide headboard benefits from the 53’s squared off bow, shares a bathroom with the twin cabin where children might sleep.
A break in the rain lasts just long enough for us to run up to the flybridge deck and take a quick look at the helm up there. Set back a bit to allow extra room for sunbeds in front of it, there’s still good visibility over the well-equipped foredeck (where more sunpads with adjustable backrests and another sofa are likely be a sulky teen’s favourite spot). I take a quick glance around at the banquettes and adjustable table and the bar and grill but soon a squall has me eyeing the foldaway bimini and wondering how many seconds it takes to deploy it. Luckily, Lantero is no more pleased with the weather than I am and we’re helming from the bridge in the saloon in no time.
Like the 78 before it, the 53’s hull shape has been optimised for two Volvo Penta IPS 950 engines. These are controlled via Garmin touchscreens that display data on everything from engines to tank levels to the sound system. As we gear up and start slicing through the choppy water I can tell that the noise and vibration levels are lower than with a conventional shaft drive. We’re running with half a tank of fuel, no water and four adults aboard. The yacht starts planing at about 9.5 knots and 1,230rpm and we’re burning 56 litres of fuel. A tap on the screen and we’re in trouble-free Auto Trim mode.
We renounce running at the yacht’s top speed of 31 knots but even in chop, helming the Fly 53 is child’s play. Tapping my way through the yacht’s colourful and intuitive touchscreens and manoeuvring with its joystick control make me think that there could be one small problem though: it might be quite a challenge to keep all this fun and friendly technology away from little hands. I guess the naughty ones could be sent to the aft beach platform to cool their heels, but then again, kids are usually much more adroit with screens and joysticks than their parents will ever be. So invite a couple of friends and bring the kids, the 53 is molto bello and a good time will be had by all.