The quiet Italian: Inside the Wider 150 superyacht
by Caroline White
A hushed and compact diesel-electric propulsion system allowed Italian yard Wider to maximise the spectacular living spaces on its 46 metre Wider 150 and then open them up using super-slick technology.
On a placid grey swell off Ancona, the Wider 150 cuts through the mist towards her tender. Her approach feels increasingly strange, until at close range the omission becomes easier to identify – noise.
A familiar hum is absent; the only sound is the languid slosh of the Adriatic against aluminium hull. When the Wider 150 turns her flank and slides hushedly past the smaller boat, like some futuristic ghost ship, it feels distinctly as if the captain is showing off.
The 46 metre Wider 150, the first superyacht from the Italian brand, boasts a sculptural exterior by Fulvio De Simoni, a clever layout by Ideaeitalia, but it is her diesel-electric power system that’s liable to drive a modest skipper to bravado.
Four gensets in the bow drive the boat via azimuthal pods, while also charging lithium polymer batteries to stern. These batteries, by Dutch company ESTechnologies, power the rest of the boat – or can propel her at modest speed with the generators off.
Some benefits of this set-up are obvious, even from a nearby tender. She is quiet – really, really quiet – even in her generator room. Cruising at 10 knots overnight, with air-conditioning at 50 per cent and zero-speed stabilisers on, an owner could snooze with just 44.5dB(A) in his cabin, a level that sound comparison charts denote as “library”. And it is even lower in guest cabins.
From the bridge, the generators two decks below are almost inaudible, despite the fact they are driving the yacht at 11 knots and charging the batteries. With the generators off, the batteries can supply the entire hotel system on board for up to eight hours or drive the Wider 150 at five knots for six hours — ideal for night-time navigation — in what most human beings would call silence.
Vibration is also low — levels were measured at less than 1mm per second in all areas — even with generators on. The only evidence that you are moving is the seascape sliding past the windows. “When the man came from RINA to test the noise and vibration on board he shook one of his machines to check it was working,” says Tilli Antonelli, founder and CEO of Wider, pointing to the motionless surface in a glass of orange juice.
Antonelli, who guided every aspect of the design, enhanced the hush by mounting the generators and ensuring the cables that stretch the length of the boat are amply muffled, as well as by taking an enthusiastic attitude towards insulation generally (there are about 35 tonnes of it on board).
Because the generators are variable speed and can operate independently, the Wider 150 uses only the fuel she needs at that moment, so consumption is only about 70 litres at 11 knots. On battery power alone, she produces zero emissions. The propulsion – no shafts, just electric cables that link to electric motors positioned above the pods – also had some wild benefits for the layout.
With no traditional engine room to consider, the Wider 150 could be designed around the features the team loved, rather than trying to squeeze these features into a traditional yacht layout. As Alessio Battistini, co-founder of Ideaeitalia, puts it, “the beach club and the owner apartments were the ideas the project developed from”.
This was an exciting prospect for Antonelli. He began his yachting career as a professional sailor, then founded the Pershing brand, which became part of the Ferretti Group in the early 1990s.
He left in 2010 to try something fresh. “It’s something we wanted to do, to be a bit different from the other players in the market,” he says. “You have to excite the market, you have to offer the opportunity to buy something different from everyone else.”
The Wider 150's tender garage is certainly something different. Float-in garages have been done before, albeit on much larger boats – Lürssen’s 126.19 metre explorer Octopus, for example, or CRN’s 58.2 metre J’Ade. But on the Wider 150, the absence of a traditional engine room allows a dramatic change in scale.
“Our aim was to make the most of the electric solution, which allowed us to move the [generator] room to the bow and take advantage of the large and valuable volumes of the stern area,” says De Simoni. The resulting dock takes up around a third of the lower deck’s length and allows this 46 metre yacht to accommodate a 9.6 metre Wider 32 that, complete with dining table, mini-galley, cabin and sunbathing area, is more dayboat than tender.
And that’s the point. With a modest draught of 1.98 metres and a shallow pod propulsion system by Dutch manufacturer Veth, the Wider 150 can cruise serenely between shallow anchorages, while guests who want to explore at a faster pace can jump on the 32 and spend a day zipping about at 37 knots.
Back on the mothership, comfortably still owing to five gyroscopic stabilisers, those who remain on board get their own alfresco fun. With the “tender” out, a carbon section stowed in the stern hatch is fitted over part of the tender dock, while sections of hull fold down to port and stern. The whole lot is covered with Paola Lenti outdoor carpet.
The result is a 90 square metre beach club – Wider says it is the biggest available on any yacht available between 44 and 47 metres – complete with a protected seven metre saltwater swimming pool (the forward part of the dock).
When the adventurers return, the beach club is dismantled, the tender slides in, the water drains out and the 32 rests on a base that is moulded to the shape of its hull, “like a foot in a shoe”, as Antonelli puts it. Then the Wider 150 can pick up and carry on for quite some time – she has a range of 4,800 nautical miles at 10 knots.
Living areas also benefit from the propulsion arrangement. “By splitting the technical areas between bow and stern, more space is left for the guest accommodation,” says Battistini. “They significantly increase the interior volumes compared to other motor yachts of a similar size: a 75 square metre, full-beam owner’s apartment [for example]. And everything is conceived to point out the continuity between indoor and outdoor spaces.”
Indeed, throughout the boat, the design transforms at the touch of a button, usually in service of this indoor-outdoor lifestyle. In the upper saloon, huge sections of full-height window slide back, making balconies out of the broad side decks and, with the doors to the long aft deck open, it becomes a breezy cabana-like space.
Those side decks bulge from the superstructure to exaggerate the already expansive 8.6 metre beam, meaning the upper saloon can be full-beam, but crew have routing around it to avoid disturbing guests. They are a refusal to compromise – Wider by name, wider by nature.
The master suite, forward on the main deck, has its own technical treats. To starboard, a broad window powers open automatically for fresh air under way. But close that window and a much larger, marble-clad section of superstructure folds out. Touch the button for longer and teak decking slides out from under the floor and railings rise up.
It is an immaculate terrace with decking flush to the interior floor. It looks and feels like a permanent feature, not a temporary fix, and yet it’s easy enough for an owner to erect without the help of crew. Just as importantly since it will be closed most of the time, when stowed you wouldn’t guess it was there.
Transformational tech (mostly by Fratelli Canalicchio and Mak 2) also has more prosaic uses on board, as in the study at the entrance to the master suite. “If someone’s using the cabin and you want privacy here, there is this door,” says Antonelli, pushing a button that slides a concealed door from a bulkhead to separate the two spaces. “When it is closed there are two pneumatic seals, one in the ceiling and one in the floor, so we won’t hear anything.”
Indeed, sound has been considered in all tech on board, down to the air-conditioning and the automatic blinds, which descend inaudibly. But the bridge is the space most kitted with fold-out gadgets and moveable parts. “Because the space in the bridge is not huge we have two configurations,” says Antonelli; “one when the boat is in the marina or at anchor, and one at sea.”
The former involves five flat touchscreen Team Italia panels in a row plus one overhead; for the latter, the five panels angle up to 90 degrees and the outer two power round to form a semi-hexagon around the captain, whose seat folds out automatically from a cabinet below the consoles. “You can monitor all the functions of the boat, but you can also switch different functions to different screens, to have the configuration as you like,” says Antonelli.
Forward of the wheelhouse lies one of a few spectacular outdoor spaces. A watertight section of the forward coachroof rises automatically to create a hard roof with a recessed lounge – and built-in sofas – beneath it. “The covered foredeck lounge in the bow represents an exclusive and private space, where owner and guests can enjoy a nice breeze, shaded and panoramic views,” says De Simoni.
The foredeck also conceals a large garage with a 4.5 metre tender, jet skis, wakeboards, paddleboards and diving gear. Up top the aft of the sundeck accommodates loungers, the central space offers modern blocks of loose furniture in bright turquoise by Paola Lenti, while forward there’s a glamorous glass-topped bar and spa pool.
The deck’s stainless steel railing sits atop a low glass screen containing an LED strip for spectacular parties. Combined with underwater lights, she’ll be instantly recognisable in a night-time marina or among yachts in a crowded anchorage. Further down, the main aft deck is a private-feeling spot for a coffee, while the upper aft deck is the place to eat.
The focus is on these outdoor spaces – as well as making indoor spaces feel like outdoor spaces – and the interior décor reflects that. “It is a contemporary style of clean lines and taut, smooth surfaces,” says Davide Bernardini, Battistini’s design partner and co-founder of Ideaeitalia. “Soft bright spaces with a huge amount of natural light, wherein everything seems to look bigger and ‘wider’.”
In the main saloon, this translates to full-height windows outside of which sections of bulwark have been replaced with stainless steel rails, for seascape views even from the snug, low seating area aft. The simple shapes and muted tones of brown and ivory are chic and low-key, highlighted with stainless steel mullions.
A huge textured metal panel at the forward bulkhead contrasts the glass dining table next to it, while cabinets are plated with what Bernardini calls “a reverse cast of silver and steel, placed directly on wood”, a thin layer of metal laid over wood and showing its grain.
Forward, the master suite, which takes up roughly the same space as the saloon and lobby combined, has a similar style. It runs through a big cabin with fabrics by Gentili Mosconi Home, a spectacular full-beam bathroom forward, featuring a custom-made wooden bathtub by E-Legno Group and a massive shower, plus a walk-in wardrobe and, of course, the office and terrace.
Down on the lower deck, you can really feel the beam in the en-suite guest cabins, which have a simple, pale, decorative scheme. In the two doubles, a nook with a full-height mirror serves as a compact dressing room – a thoughtful touch.
In the upper saloon, the sliding window sections are not the only attempt to open up the space. Every surface of superstructure and bulkhead that could take a window has one. The style here is lighter and less formal, with flowing white curtains, a silky cream rug and smaller glass table.
Throughout the interior there’s the graphic grain of zebrano parquet flooring, the muted taupe of Roman travertine, Poltrona Frau leather and pure white Thassos marble.
Crew accommodation forward on the lower deck, built to the new LY3 standards, comprises a bright (orange-upholstered) mess that’s packed with storage, bright en suite cabins and a laundry room. There’s access forward to the generator room, or up via a crew corridor to the galley, near the dining saloon, which has a long window positioned so the chef can enjoy the view during prep.
Altogether the Wider 150 is a clever, lifestyle-focused package and while the Wider 150 was built on spec – she’ll be on show at the Monaco Yacht Show – a 125 version is at an advanced design stage, a 220 has garnered serious interest and a 165 is already in build for a client (and due to be launched in February 2017). That version, however, will have an even larger float-in garage so that forward of the tender it can carry a submarine. Now that’s how to show off.