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Inside Benetti's modern revamp of the 1960s Motopanfilo yacht

19 April 2021• Written by Miranda Blazeby

Popular with celebrities and royals alike, Benetti’s original Motopanfilo yachts encapsulated the elegance and glamour of the 1960s. When the Italian shipyard decided to relaunch the iconic model redesigned for a modern owner, it knew it was facing a “once in a lifetime” challenge. “From the very beginning of the project, Benetti decided to do something special that was looking back to understand what it has created but also looking forward,” says Federico Lantero, Azimut Benetti product marketing and communication director. “The intention was to reinterpret tradition in a contemporary way, and so incorporate Benetti’s own nautical history.”

Despite this, there’s nothing retro about the design. The fibreglass yacht features “clean-cut” and “tapering forms”, with unbroken lines between the hull and superstructure. The Francesco Struglia-designed exterior also features a chamfered bulwark ‘ribbon’ aft, which is painted bronze and emphasises the full height glazing of the main saloon in a homage to the materials of the 1960s.

An original Motopanfilo yacht from the 1960s

Unlike the traditional Motopanfilos, the new model is a tri-deck yacht with an “intimate fourth deck” for star or sea gazing located above the hard top. Lantero describes this feature as “completely unexpected” in a boat this size. “The past Motopanfilos were not tri-deck boats but today’s yachts are searching for more volume, so the solution was to create a secret fourth deck to create a sense of intimacy”. This observation area, which is specifically designed for a maximum of two people, gives the owner an opportunity to “sip a coffee or read a book” away from the main guest party.

When it came to the interior, Benetti engaged design studio Lazzarini and Pickering. While the studio has worked on various yacht projects, including the interior of the 50 metre Benetti superyacht My Falcon, the Motopanfilo project represented something entirely new: a precise brief without an owner. “When Benetti came to us and said they’ve got this idea for the Motopanfilo, it was the first time we’ve worked with a builder first,” says studio co-founder Carl Pickering. Instead, Pickering and Lazzarini were tasked with satisfying the tastes of all future Motopanfilo owners.

The aim was not to recreate the nostalgia of the sixties but to interpret the same elegance and glamour into a contemporary-styled interior suitable for a modern owner. First of all though, Lazzarini and Pickering wanted the interior to be specific to the use and space of a yacht, rather than replicating residential interior design.

“Traditionally there’s been a trend for boats to look more like urban apartments, villas or houses,” says Pickering, “so we said let’s get back to how things were and ask ourselves what are the principals of the boats that we love?” One of the principals is a visible framing found throughout the interior which Pickering likens to the “ribs of a whale”. “The ribs give rhythm and manage the spaces,” says Pickering. “It’s an element from the history of nautical design that you recognise but has been incorporated in a way that is entirely new.” 

At the same time, the ribs have been designed to incorporate “purposeful function”, concealing both the air conditioning vents and part of the boat’s lighting system. At the same time, they cleverly accommodate mirrors that give the interior a greater sense of space.

The “use of reflections” is another integral column in the interior design concept, according to Pickering. “We believe ‘luxury’ is a sense of space, not golden taps,” he says. “We made this boat seem much larger with the use of reflections and placing of mirrors.” 

A sketch of the ribs

The inclusion of mirrors and full height glazing in the main saloon is also key to staying true to the yacht-specific interior design. “We wanted to create a boat where one knew that they were on a boat and not in an apartment,” Pickering says. “The reflections help celebrate the sky and sea.” As part of this, the cabin walls follow the gentle curves of the hull, embracing the design of the yacht.

When it comes to materials, the dark mahogany traditionally seen in 1960s yacht interiors has been replaced with lighter woods on the ceilings and floors. Touches of nautical whites and blues are found throughout, with “steely blues” replacing the traditional navy blues prevalent in classic yacht interiors.

The result is an interior which “reinterprets and creates a new classic of tomorrow,” according to Lantero, who says Benetti has received positive feedback from across the market in response to the revamped model. “I think everybody today feels fascinated by a story which this model does by looking back at the past,” he says. “It’s not a boat for showing off, it’s a contemporary interpretation of elegance.”

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