Hearts went out to Pier Luigi Loro Piana when he lost his boat My Song in a fluke accident. But, as Laura Nicholls discovers, the tide has now turned in his favour, thanks to a bold new motor yacht named Masquenada
“I lost my love in a day,” says Pier Luigi Loro Piana, deputy chairman of luxury clothing brand Loro Piana and the man intrinsically woven into the company’s global success. He’s talking about the 39.6-metre My Song, his custom sailing yacht that was severely damaged after falling off a cargo ship in the spring of 2019. As a result of the incident, legal action was taken, and a court case ensued. Days and months passed with no sign of a conclusion, and Loro Piana started getting restless…
“Time was going on,” he says. “And time is definitely the most precious asset of my life now.” Loro Piana became determined to travel the world, but to do so, he needed a new yacht.
“I love spending up to six months a year at sea,” he tells me. “It’s a lot [of time], but there are so many places I haven’t been to yet. I was missing my boat, and so I put together two alternative new construction projects with Nauta Design: a motor yacht for cruising; and one for sailing and racing.”
What can be seen floating at sea today is the 51-metre explorer yacht Masquenada. “I wanted to get another boat,” Loro Piana recalls. But since time was of the essence, the two new-build plans were scrapped and Loro Piana’s friend of more than 40 years, and founder of Nauta, Mario Pedol, stepped in with an alternative option.
Having known each other for so long, the pair share the same opinions “98 per cent of the time”, says Loro Piana. “Mario knows what I like. I met him when I was 25, buying my first seven-metre boat.” Masquenada is not the first project they had worked on together, either: the duo have previously collaborated on all four of the elegant sailing yachts named My Song that were owned by Loro Piana.
“Pier Luigi came to us and said he couldn’t wait three years for a new construction,” explains Pedol. “A refit was a better option, and I recalled Etra, an intriguing explorer yacht I had come across a couple of years earlier during the Versilia Yachting Rendezvous. I put it to Pier Luigi as she was on the market, renamed Aspire, with a new owner, and soon after we flew to Athens to see her and test her at sea. Pier Luigi found she had all the potential he was looking for in view of his round-the-world plan, subject to one condition: that she could take a seven-tonne safe-working-load crane below the main deck aft.”
With Loro Piana on board with this idea, the project was soon in the hands of the Lusben shipyard in Livorno, part of the Azimut-Benetti Group. “We knew this yacht very well,” says Alessio Centelli, project manager at Lusben. “The previous Italian owner had brought the boat to Lusben for refit works, which helped us a lot when it came to transforming her into Masquenada.” The project was a golden opportunity for Lusben, allowing the shipyard to prove that it could deliver beautiful results in a third of the normal time.
“I made some calculations on how to refit Aspire,” Loro Piana says. “There was enough space and I could see how she could work as more of an explorer boat and less of a luxury superyacht, which is what I liked.” What he asked for was a reconfigured master suite, for two of the decks to be lengthened by 1.5 metres and for the yacht to operate silently. “And what was originally a 10-item specification ended up being around 200 items,” says Centelli. Astonishingly, Lusben completed the to-do list in just eight months – precisely the kind of time frame that Loro Piana was after.
Loro Piana’s confident vision went some way to helping the works progress so rapidly. “The whole time, the project was very clear in my mind,” he says. He was thoroughly inspired by the Damen Sea Axe yacht support vessels, he explains, loving their go-anywhere capabilities and plentiful outdoor space on board. It made him realise that, for what he wanted to do with his own new boat, he’d have to turn to motor, rather than sails. “Cruising with power gives you a great opportunity to travel at night, so every two days you can be somewhere new,” he explains. “Of course, you lose the fun of sailing, but you can go all over the world – with even more guests!”
In his switch to motor, he requested energy efficiency and the refit saw Masquenada gaining 1.5 knots in speed, as per predictions calculated by Francesco Rogantin, who acted as the owner’s technical consultant throughout the refit. Today, with 2,100 horsepower and two engines, she consumes around 140 litres of fuel an hour at 12 knots.
Not that Loro Piana has totally left behind his love of sailing. When Masquenada emerged from her shed on 24 June last year, it was clear that there were a few nods to her owner’s past buried within the design.
Firstly, the yacht was fitted with storage boxes for “two little sailing boats” on board. Hidden by sunpads, the boxes are placed on the bridge deck aft, “so you wouldn’t even notice”. Second is her recrafted stern. Sitting 1.2 metres above the sea, the deck allows those on board to be as close to the sea as possible. “We added this to the design, as a tribute to My Song,” Pedol says, and it certainly seems to work for Loro Piana. “Here you really feel like you are in a sailing boat, and I like it,” he says.
“We have made a nice beach club in order to stay on board all day and be comfortable.”
All of this was put to the test in Greece, where Loro Piana and his family took delivery of the completed superyacht. From 29 July, the family spent a summer cruising around the Greek islands, Cyprus and along the Amalfi Coast. “We really used her for what she was engineered for: happiness,” he declares. With only a few light winds during the summer months, Loro Piana reports that the yacht hasn’t quite been put through her paces yet, “but one of these days we will complete a big crossing where there might be some big waves, so I am curious to see how this boat works – especially as her hull was originally designed for offshore operations.” At the time of going to press she has completed her first Atlantic crossing with positive feedback from her captain, Clinton White.
From what he’s experienced so far, Loro Piana is impressed with the yacht’s ability. “At 51 metres LOA, we were able to go into any area,” he explains. “It is the perfect dimension for a small bay where we can sit and really take in the landscape.” And their summer days were spent doing exactly that.
“There are so many different outdoor areas that can be enjoyed,” says Pedol. “People have a lot of choices: all four decks have open-air lounges and seating.”
“What you can see of the main deck is in this seaside style – like being in Portofino or Capri – somewhere where you go to be by the sea,” Loro Piana points out. This version of the Italian seaside is one of red-and-white-striped chaises longues and sunbeds, wide and deep square seats, red deck chairs and tables to match. “And what we call the sundeck is where we can sleep in the day, taking in the sun, or have 14 people for dinner at night. Dinner here is great, as there is a kitchen area nearby where we can cook pizza or spaghetti – only the best!”
Another thing he and his guests enjoyed was the tender Iguana Jones, a 10-metre amphibious RIB. Built to be adventurous, the craft can cover all terrains thanks to her tank-like tracks. “I went crazy for this tender,” he laughs. His reasons for purchasing the Iguana X100 came down to two advantages: “Firstly, we can go anywhere, to any beach, any remote place with the whole family on board and will never be reliant on or stranded by the tide,” he says. “And secondly, I don’t need a cradle for her on board Masquenada. Her tracks keep her still.”
Iguana Jones spent the summer following the mothership as the family opted to keep the main deck free for themselves. “My tender uses more fuel than my boat!” he exclaims. Nevertheless, he is happy with the image of both boats side by side. The tender’s customised furniture and colourway matches Masquenada perfectly.
“I decided to make Masquenada dark grey because that was the colour I had on My Song,” he says. Some people may argue that the deep colour of the superstructure, which is offset by a paler grey hull, attracts the heat of the sun. “I know these disadvantages,” he admits, “but I always thought that the dark colour acts as a good camouflage and gives a perception of a lower and longer boat. I think that is a good look for a yacht.”
Even with his eye for style, Loro Piana left the interiors to his wife and their designer Misa Poggi. “My wife wanted to have a house on the sea, and I think she succeeded in her desire,” he says. Throughout the yacht, simple materials such as leather and wood have been used, with light wool carpets underfoot. “Poggi is so clever to always do something new for us. This is what I would call a contemporary interior. There is nothing rich, nothing expensive. It is soft and stylish. People might like it, or not, but it is how my wife likes it to feel at home.”
After the ordeal of My Song’s accident, Loro Piana’s reincarnation of Aspire into Masquenada seems to have gone reassuringly smoothly, and there is a sense that, with his unwavering passion for the ocean and exploration, he has at long last received the great yacht he was due. “I am never ever bored or unhappy on my boat,” he says with a smile. You can’t wish for fairer than that.
First published in the May 2022 edition of BOAT International. Get this magazine sent straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issueSHOP NOW