The newest addition to Mangusta’s GranSport line, the 45 is an innovative combination of luxury, space, performance and efficiency, as Sam Fortescue discovers.
Mangusta means “mongoose” in Italian. Cute, but not the most obvious name for a line of luxury yachts. You have to know the backstory. When Giuseppe Balducci established his company in 1985, the chief competition was from a brand called Cobra, by Tecnomarine. It has since faded from view, but Balducci’s choice of name was prescient: the “mangusta” is the only animal capable of slaying the feared serpent.
Back then, Balducci’s genius was to spot the market for a super-fast open boat – the sort of thing that would throw a rooster tail across the sun and keep your hair swept back for days. This is still very much in Mangusta’s DNA, but the brand is edging further and further into the domain of luxury, thanks to last year’s launch of the fast displacement GranSport line. “The idea was to combine speed, long range and comfort,” says commercial director Francesco Frediani. “While she looks sporty, she can cross the Atlantic Ocean and explore uncluttered anchorages.”
That’s no mere boast. The first boat out of the shipyard in Pisa was the 54, and hull No 1 has racked up 20,000 miles crossing the Atlantic, transiting the Panama Canal then turning north to the Arctic Circle. “Anywhere her owner’s dreams led her,” Frediani says. The yard recently sold a second 54, is planning a larger 65, and launched its smaller sister at the Cannes Yachting Festival, the rather beguiling 45. This boat, he says, shares all the features of the 54 and, “fully holds the right to be considered a flagship – if not for her length then for values and features.”
Exterior designer Alberto Mancini is spot on with his interpretation of Mangusta’s sleek, muscular lines. The low black curve of the bridge deck roof barely seems to rise above the bulwarks – it is a picture of aerodynamic design, which Mancini likens to an Aston Martin. And not without justification, because this boat has a top speed of 26 knots, despite her extensive accommodation.
“The GranSport line is clearly inspired by automotive design,” Mancini tells me. “When I drew the GS lines I had in mind a concept of fluid, harmonic and sleek proportions. The superstructure design reminds me of an exotic sports car, but the transparency and the light you get inside the upper deck saloon is impressive, compared to many other yachts that have an aggressive and sporty look but small windows that transmit an idea of claustrophobia, like in a supercar.”
At 440 gross tonnes, there’s plenty of volume to this yacht, so Mangusta hasn’t achieved that speed by paring everything back. The performance is a combination of smart hull design, creating a semi-displacement aluminium hull that allows a range of 3,500 nautical miles at 11 knots, yet is safe and exhilarating with the throttle down. “It’s a bulb-keel hull that cuts through the sea surface without planing. But maintaining the displacement mode even at high speed requires dynamic lift to control the longitudinal trim,” explains naval architect Pierluigi Ausonio, who designed it in collaboration with the technical department at Mangusta. It comes with plenty of power. Some 7,800hp of it, in fact, courtesy of three MTU 2000 M96L units.
This brings us to one of this yacht’s distinguishing features. While two of her engines drive standard prop shafts, the third, on the centreline, powers an innovative Kamewa water-jet pod, which can be used for fine manoeuvring or stealthy cruising. Yet this was something of an afterthought, according to Frediani. “You don’t have real balance with three propellers – the boat always goes in one direction. Initially, the water-jet was just meant to be a booster, then we thought we could make more of it.”
Splitting the power across three engines makes for smaller propellers and thus lower draught; at 2.2 metres it allows this boat to creep into the shallows of the Bahamas, for instance. But as skipper Manuel Battaglia tells me later, the real advantage of the system is its quietness. “During the night, you can choose to navigate at eight knots with the water-jet in complete silence,” he says. It makes for super efficiency and a good night’s sleep during shorter hops when speed is not of the essence. “Manoeuvrability is so good because the jet is right at the back where there are no skegs to get in the way.”
It says much about changing attitudes in yachting that a brand renowned for speed and aggressive, sporty styling is now embracing efficiency. And in another sign of the times, the GranSport 45 interprets luxury as offering simple, uncluttered spaces aboard. One of the first things that strikes you when you see the boat is her acres of teak.
Below the passerelle, a 75-square-metre beach club cantilevers off the transom and extends well inside the boat, down a couple of steps into an area that has the wood-lined feeling of a spa. There’s a transformer platform and two fold-down side terraces; little wings that cleverly connect with the main exterior beach club to create a walk-around space that is deep enough for a sun lounger or a couple of chairs. With the terraces down, natural light and a cool breeze freshen the interior. Importantly, the tender garage is in the bow, so this space never develops the smells, marks or damage associated with storing a wet boat.
Up on the aft deck, the sense of space grows. Here a 75-square-metre expanse of teak is scattered with off-the-shelf designer sofas, chairs and a table. “The furniture is from Italian brands such as Poltrona Frau, Minotti or Flexform, but you won’t find these colours in any catalogue,” says Mangusta’s Isabella Picco. “The owner’s wife wanted specific tones of green-grey and dove grey. She also asked for opaque black–painted steel for all metal finishing instead of chrome steel.”
The effect is understated and elegant, but really what hits you is the room. Move the loose furniture out of the way and you have a venue for a big party. The story is repeated on the upper deck terrace, which features a wet bar, grill and circular dining table. Combine that with the spa pool and infinity pool forward and you have an astonishingly large area for outside living. “If you want to turn it into a party deck, why not?” Frediani says. “We have already designed a table that lowers into the floor so you can dance.”
Each of these different spaces can be fitted with Multiplex carbon bimini poles and, on this yacht, a matching grey awning that can be extended over the pool. There is talk of rigging up a screen here to turn the sunpad and spa pool area into an outdoor cinema. And from the garage hidden under the pool, it is possible to launch the five-metre Williams Dieseljet in three minutes without creating so much as a ripple above. The 45 does everything it can to encourage you outdoors.
Just in case the weather turns during your expedition, there is plenty of interior space too. On this first hull, the main saloon has been turned over entirely to sofas and armchairs, with dining in the upper saloon on nearly five square metres of Kenya black marble. The sense of great volume comes not just from the 2.2-metre headroom, but its combination with floor-to-ceiling windows and mirrors.
To starboard, the window slides aside to create tantalising sight lines of the water, as well as providing natural ventilation. Other than the armchairs and sofas, there’s little clutter in here – no fussy cabinetry and no boxed-out technical areas. It feels very calming. “The study of natural and artificial light was an essential part in construction,” Frediani explains. “By using glass, both transparent and mirrored, to bounce light around the interior and reduce visual barriers to the outside world, Mangusta has succeeded in providing total immersion in the marine environment.” It’s what he sums up as the “fil rouge” that runs throughout the boat – connected spaces with no visual barriers.
But my favourite feature lies further forward, in the full-beam owner’s cabin. Here to starboard, a button sets a whole two-metre-wide section of the wall in motion to create a fold-down balcony. It’s the perfect breakfasting spot as you contemplate the anchorage and it showcases an impressive conjunction of interior design and engineering. As the balcony locks into its horizontal position, a gleaming stainless-steel handrail rises smoothly as if by magic. Cleverly articulated banisters extend up and click into place. When the balcony is closed, this is embedded flush in the balcony wall panel and looks like a piece of interior decor.
The owner’s suite also harbours another impressive feature. Its open-plan bathroom runs the full beam of the forward bulkhead, under the pool, and Mangusta has made the most of this by fitting skylights in the pool bottom. They shed a dappled blue light over the striations of the grey Nuova Lim marble below. It means you can lie in the double bath and enjoy the sun – almost like scuba but without the bulky equipment.
Four double guest cabins on the lower deck are arranged in a cluster at the end of a staircase whose steps appear to float on a cushion of indirect light. Although the volumes are predetermined by the layout, the configuration is flexible. This owner has put two double bunks in the children’s cabin, which is decorated with an original frieze of teddies. The facing cabin has been turned into a kids’ television room or playroom, with a sofa bed for a nanny. In the two VIP cabins, the design is simple. “There are always some small changes to the Minotti headboards and the lamps,” says Picco. The en suites are generous, and continue the grey marble theme with flamed ash cabinetry.
Nowhere is the sporty character of this boat clearer than in the spaceship-like wheelhouse, with double-stitched black leather seating, backlit red stripes and carbon fibre windscreen mullions. “It appeals to a range of owners who want to stand out from the mass of yachts that all look the same,” Mancini says. Some 35 years after Mangusta was established, its new GranSport 45 shows just the same speed and agility as its namesake, the mongoose. Or, as Frediani puts it: “A flawless combination that can be summarised as ‘pure versatility’.”
An artist’s touch
“It’s not easy at all to design for Mangusta, Azimut and Fairline,” says Alberto Mancini. “It’s like having three jealous wives! You can’t imagine the energies I spend to avoid any design contamination. I have a strong and creative team and we brainstorm each brand differently. Design research is a must, and it takes a lot of time when you work for several brands. When I approach any design task, I work always by hand. I usually produce thousands of hand sketches looking for the best balance of proportions. I like to work at night-time, when all I can hear is the graphite sketching on the blank sheets of paper – that’s pure adrenaline. Then of course after the first step that I identify as ‘the romantic stage’, it’s time to jump into the 3D [process] and push as much as possible what was just a sketch into an electronic file. I always do my best to prevent the computer from ruining my style. Technology advances and improves more and more, but without a sketch, a symbol of our ideas, nothing could be done.”
Photography Maurizio Paradisi