IDEA GENERATION

How two families created the 78-metre Malia

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Two fathers and their sons joined creative forces to forge a new kind of boat for Golden Yachts. Marilyn Mower discovers how a fresh spin on ancient inspiration led to 78-metre Malia

GUILLAUME PLISSON

“You know, it was like two families getting together to design and build a yacht,” says Stefano Vafiadis. “It was two fathers and their sons.” He’s speaking about the origin of Malia, the 13th new build at Golden Yachts with Studio Vafiadis as the designer.

The scene is easy to imagine: yard owner Captain Paris Dragnis and Stefano’s father, the architect Giorgio Vafiadis, call the meeting in Athens, then slowly but surely push back from the table, perhaps stepping out to enjoy an espresso while the next generation – their sons, now professionals in their own rights – frame the details and explore the look as Project Andromeda begins to take shape. Fast forward to 2023, when was originally launched as O'Rea, but after a speedy sale with Northrop & Johnson and Burgess in November 2023, she was renamed Malia.

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GUILLAUME PLISSON Striking design features like the streamlined aft structure and glass-bottom pools added layers of complexity to the project

GUILLAUME PLISSON Striking design features like the streamlined aft structure and glass-bottom pools added layers of complexity to the project

The next Dragnis generation, sons Ioannis (John) and Vassilis, have executive positions at Goldenport Holdings, the parent company of Golden Yachts Shipyards and a network of commercial fleet operations and leasing for tankers, carriers and cargo vessels, ship management services, brokerage and ship conversions, and the superyacht charter company Atalanta Golden Yachts. While the Dragnis sons grew up in the business and have had involvement with the design and build of superyachts, their role was peripheral to that of the captain, at least until it came to operating the yachts for charter. 

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The sundeck (bottom right) is an outdoor cinema at night and a sunny lounging spot by day (top right), while the upper aft deck (top left) hosts al fresco meals and cocktails

“With this yacht, the sons were very present,” says the younger Vafiadis, Stefano, who joined his father’s firm in 2013, the same year he won BOAT International’s Young Designer of the Year Award. “The idea from John and Vassilis was to do something different.” In fact, announcing the launch of the yacht on social media this summer, Vassilis referred to the yacht now carrying the name Malia as the “first of a new generation of Golden Yachts”.

Malia began to take shape with those design meetings in late 2020, working from the keywords “beautiful”, “streamlined” and “sleek”. The senior Dragnis feels the charter market is oversaturated with yachts from 50 to 60 metres. Yet to have a faster build time than their flagship 95-metre O’Pari (2020) and still be large enough for the entire family to enjoy, they set a target of 75 metres. Plus, there is the pragmatic side, as Vassilis notes “the 60- to 80-metre segment demonstrates a consistent order book increase from 2019 to 2023. The steady orders within this range suggests a market sweet spot.”

“You know, it was like two families getting together to design and build a yacht. It was two fathers and their sons.” This was the 13th new build at Golden Yachts with Studio Vafiadis as the designer”

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“For a 75-metre yacht to capture attention, it has to be special,” says Stefano Vafiadis. “We decided to do a sporty look but with displacement comfort.” Then came the request for 2.4-metre overhead height on the lower deck and 2.3 metres on the main and upper. Providing the extra overhead heights within a sporty profile became an exercise all of its own, with Vafiadis turning to ancient Greek sculpture concepts called “canon”, a sequence of mathematical proportions that allow the sculptor to reproduce the proportions of ideal beauty in nature. The profile – now realised at 78 metres – is based on longitudinal full-height windows. Forty-five-degree cuts in the bulwarks bring an air of aggressiveness and redirect the look of the tall hull. With the strong horizontal lines below broken by trapezoidal shapes, the superstructure appears lighter and sculptural, despite its massive size. Folds and reveals add mystery while its charcoal colour visually lowers the structure. 

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The high raised bow – the first axe bow on a Golden Yacht – conceals a helipad, mooring deck and garage for a rescue tender, helping free up space in the beach club. The tenders comprise two customised Novuranias: the bestselling DL 430 A comfortable, smooth and stable-riding side-console RIB, perfect for exploring local bays; and the fast, highly maneuverable LX 600, with proven offshore seakeeping – great for day-time excursions and watersports   

Equally strong is the bow, the first axe-bow on a Golden Yacht and a definite break with the more traditional superyacht styling of her predecessors. The high raised bow conceals a helipad, mooring deck and a garage for the rescue tender as well as allowing the owner’s suite to extend far forward on the main deck without appearing like a bubble or breaking the height of the sheerline.

The sporty look requires minimal enclosed volume of the deck above the bridge. That explains why the owner’s accommodation is on the main deck, along with two VIP cabins and a twin, plus the location of four guest cabins below. Malia marks the first time in 10 years that Golden Yachts has launched a boat with guest cabins on the lower deck. Not that a guest would complain; the cabins – two VIPs, a double and a twin – are generous (and benefit from those high overheads), the windows are very large, and each suite has its colours worked into a comprehensive theme. Some of the cabins feel more contemporary and youthful, as signalled by their wood floors instead of carpets, but all contain the same elements. 

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Stretching 13.2 metres across, the full-beam master cabin (top) is luxurious yet restful, finished in ebony and bronze. The axe bow allowed plenty of space for this suite forward on the main deck. Curves make the seven guest cabins feel bigger, while allowing more space to be given over to communal lounges. The colour scheme was carried over from Project X at the owner’s request

The cabin envelopes are soft and curvaceous; the rooms have no 90-degree corners, a design “trick” that makes spaces appear larger because the human eye doesn’t perceive a stopping point, notes the senior Vafiadis. Bringing another classical Greek element to the discussion, the younger Vafiadis says the influence is Ionic, one of the three primary orders of ancient Greek architecture known for a slender line and controlled curves. But it looks anything but ancient, with modern elements of matt bronze, lacquered glass, pale madrona burr or eucalyptus panels creating a background for embossed leathers and Loro Piana or Rubelli fabrics. Each suite’s built-ins feature the same shapes, but accent woods and details show great attention to design, down to the finish of the Crestron switch plate covers. In all, there are 250 surface materials aboard.

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The full-beam owner’s suite features a desk and seating area to starboard and a vanity on port with a walk-in wardrobe and bath forward. Ebony and bronze surfaces project luxury, as do unusual textures in the joinery and the quality of the loose pieces. Other than enjoying the yacht’s full 13.2-metre beam, it is a pleasant, rich, but not overtly palatial space. But that is one of the trends brought by the younger generation of yacht owners – cabins are for sleeping; more space should be dedicated to entertainment and enjoyment for all. Taken together with the adjacent VIP suites, however, the collection of cabins is an impressive area.

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Unusually, Vafiadis did not create the design for the main and upper saloons, the entrance lobby or the breathtaking central staircase. These areas are by Massari Design, the Fano-based Italian design firm that created the interior for Project X delivered by Golden Yachts in 2022. It’s worth noting for the opening thread of our story that Alessandro Massari is also following in the footsteps of his father, studio founder Luigi Massari, who began designing motor yacht interiors in the 1970s. The Massari design house favours a contemporary European style, which harmonises well with the Vafiadis profile. “The client asked me to use the same colour palette I had used on Project X and the same level of details as he fell in love with both,” says Alessandro Massari.

“For a 75-metre yacht to capture attention, it has to be very special. We decided to do a sporty look but with displacement comfort”

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GUILLAUME PLISSON The yacht features advanced hydraulics for steering and stabilisers, offering precise control. Malia is equipped with cutting-edge propulsion engineered for fuel efficiency, reduced emissions and lower noise levels

GUILLAUME PLISSON The yacht features advanced hydraulics for steering and stabilisers, offering precise control. Malia is equipped with cutting-edge propulsion engineered for fuel efficiency, reduced emissions and lower noise levels

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In the upper saloon designer Alessandro Massari’s ceiling mini-beams undulate like sand dunes. Supported by an anchoring structure behind and interspersed with LED lighting, they seem as if they are floating. Top: The beach club’s sofa can pivot to face the ocean views or a television on the forward bulkhead

The yacht’s generous beam gave Massari plenty of room to concentrate the main and dining saloon furniture in the centre of the space, anchored on a huge area rug floating on a hardwood floor. The arrangement honours the floor-to-ceiling windows port and starboard and the views they endow. Massari mirrored the mullions, making them seem to disappear into the outdoors,  especially since they do not touch the glass. The walkways on either side of the saloon focus a visitor’s attention on one of the yacht’s signature design features, an undulating overhead made of wooden slats. The curved shape of these slats advances just a little bit from piece to piece, and viewed from the ends, gives the overall idea of an undulating, three-dimensional mass or an upside-down dune shaped by a sea breeze entering through the enormous windows. They look as though they are floating; the yard explained that a reinforced structure behind them anchors them tightly and invisibly supports the LED lighting that is applied in narrow spaces between them. The overhead height requirement for the main and upper decks meant a complex engineering task for the yard because it reduced the areas where ducting and conduits usually run out of sight above a suspended ceiling and was made especially challenging by Massari’s undulating mini-beams.