SEA CENTRIC

The natural, organic and discreet elegance of Arcadia's A96

Wide shot of Arcadia A96

Sam Fortescue explores the open, outward-looking Arcadia A96, which prioritises relaxed and airy living spaces

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There’s nothing new under the sun, or so the saying goes. And in some respects, Arcadia’s new A96 yacht, launched to acclaim at the 2023 Cannes Yachting Festival, bears that out. Fans of the niche Italian brand’s edgy Sherpa line of yachts will instantly recognise the high bow and stylised explorer looks. There’s the same use of solar panels that the brand debuted 15 years ago. But looks can be deceiving. Although Arcadia says it is still right behind the slow yachting movement, which its debut A85 yacht helped to define, the A96 has some serious muscle in the engine room. It can pack in up to four Volvo IPS 1350 drives for a total of 4,000 horsepower that will propel the yacht to 24 knots (the previous A-line yachts contented themselves with top speeds of 16 to 17 knots). “It’s not a step away from slow yachting, it just gives you the option of escaping a storm or making an appointment,” says Arcadia’s chief marketing officer, Francesco Ansalone. “Fifteen knots is our suggested cruising speed.”

ALESSANDRO GUERRIERI

ALESSANDRO GUERRIERI

To achieve this sort of speed from a semi-displacement hull, the yacht is lightly built in fibreglass, using vacuum infusion for the upper deck to minimise weight. Key areas are also reinforced with carbon fibre, although the material is not widely employed. “We used FEM analysis to control weight, taking care of even the smallest detail such as wiring and piping,” says Ansalone. “With kilometres of cables on board, that has an impact on the final weight. The boat is 125 tonnes deadweight – that means 1.7GT per tonne.”

We shouldn’t get too carried away by the lightweight angle, though, because this is actually a very well-equipped yacht. It boasts fold-down balconies, lots of sliding exterior windows and a big crane for a tender or toys weighing up to 600 kilograms. A huge section of the superstructure is glass, with seven-metre-long sliding panels on both sides of the main deck.

View of the sun deck

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Like the yard’s other designs, the A96 is roomy. The high bow and eight-metre beam create big volumes and high deckheads throughout. Across three decks, it offers 400 square metres of space – much of it spread across the open fore and aft decks. It’s an impressive tally for a 30-metre yacht. “The liveable surface is almost 30 per cent more if compared with a traditional semi-displacement navetta in the 90- to 100ft [27- to 30-metre] segment,” continues Ansalone. “Also in terms of volume, with 214GT, this yacht is amazing.”

A quick look online confirms that the A96 is certainly towards the bigger end of the spectrum for gross tonnage, although it is in good company with the likes of Numarine and Sanlorenzo. Staking its claim to a place at the big yacht table, the A96 is configured with an owner’s suite forward on the main deck, comprising a narrow walk-in wardrobe, a study area with a small desk and a full-beam bedroom and bathroom. Four goodsized guest cabins are arrayed around the central stairs on the lower deck, offering two twins and two VIP doubles.

Outdoor seating area

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Stairs leading to deck

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Alternative view of outdoor soft seating

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View of boat from side

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Outdoor seating area

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Stairs leading to deck

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Alternative view of outdoor soft seating

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View of boat from side

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Fold-down balconies off the aft deck and either side of the main deck at amidships, plus lots of full-height, windows add to the feeling of space and bring the outside in

The interior by Lobanov Design is deceptively simple: white gloss wall panels, headboards in grey leather by Lelièvre and textured carpets in hand-tufted bamboo silk. It feels restrained but relaxed, enlivened by the incredible natural light that pours in through the large windows. Even close to the waterline on the lower deck, these feel as big as you could decently make them, and they pull your gaze out to sea.

Fold the doors back and just two slim black pillars remain- the rooms merge into the side and aft decks, transforming the boat into a vast, shady veranda

But the effect is really brought to its highest pitch in the two saloons, one on the main deck and one more intimate on the deck above. Here, the ceilings seem practically to float on the glass that runs around three sides of the rooms. Slide and fold the doors back, and just two slim, black pillars remain – the rooms merge into the side and aft decks, transforming the boat into a vast, shady veranda. And that’s without deploying the fold-down balconies on either side of the main saloon, which bring the seascape to your dinner plate.

Semi-outdoor soft seating area

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Indoor lit staircase

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Sink area with large window

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Indoor lounge area

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Exterior shot of dining table

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Semi-outdoor soft seating area

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Indoor lit staircase

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Sink area with large window

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Indoor lounge area

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Exterior shot of dining table

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All in all, with a 7.9m beam and high bow, there is 400m2 of living space and 214GT of volume, which is impressive in a sub-30-metre boat. Arcadia says the liveable surface is almost 30 per cent more than other boats in its class

On the upper deck, solar cells set into the glass overhead cast dappled shadows that feel a little like leaves. It is an impressive feat by Arcadia, creating ambience using 4.5kW of solar generation. In the heat of a Mediterranean summer, some 20kWh of energy could be harvested in the course of a day. As an optional add-on, it could be stored in a massive 120kWh lithium battery bank until needed. “Everything is thought out to prevent the owner needing to use the air con,” says Ansalone.

Exterior side view of Arcadia A96

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Now, why does a boat with 4.5kW of solar panels need so much battery capacity, you might reasonably ask? Well, it’s all about the yacht’s other secret weapon: it has been designed to overnight in silence. Even with the 250,000BTU air con running full blast and the CMC stabilisers keeping you level all night long, there should be no need to fire up the twin 35kW generators for eight hours. A less power-hungry use profile would naturally extend that period dramatically.

STATE OF SOLAR
A dive into the details of the A96

The A96's solar panels from above

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Arcadia makes a virtue of its energy-harvesting solar sunroofs (and they were early with them), but others are doing so now. Sunreef catamarans take solar to extremes, with panels built into the topsides, mast and even the sails. None of this would have been possible until recently, with advances in flexible solar panel technology. Monocrystalline silicon is still the agent of choice in most panels, but its energy yield is limited. For the average 1,000W of solar energy falling on every square metre, a maximum 320W of electricity can be generated. Practical considerations mean that around 250W is the best we can manage at the moment. Complex cells with multiple junctions that use concentrated sunlight have managed 476W per square metre, but only in a laboratory.

Research into thin-film technology has seen the efficiency of copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) cells leap from around five per cent in the 1980s to 22 per cent today. And this technology has a major advantage, because it can be literally glued to an irregular surface. More disruptive still are so-called Perovskite cells, which have the potential to be 60 per cent efficient, according to some scientists. They can be printed or painted onto a surface at very low cost, but currently have a short lifespan. If researchers can crack the durability issue, Perovskite technology would be a massive step up for solar.

Arcadia has made a calculated gamble with the launch of the A96. It is the first time it has worked with Lobanov Design, after switching from long-time partner Francesco Guida. And for Igor Lobanov, there was a change of gear required to get into the project. “We stepped into this project after doing the fuel burners from Mangusta, so it was the exact opposite challenge: lots of openings and a different philosophy,” says Lobanov. “I’ve always found the Arcadia brand fascinating, because it’s such a bold statement. They gave much more meaning to a more compact yacht.”

Steering wheel and navigation system

ARCADIAA Garmin plotter offers a bird’s eye view of the boat’s surroundings by combining images from cameras around the hull

ARCADIAA Garmin plotter offers a bird’s eye view of the boat’s surroundings by combining images from cameras around the hull

Lobanov is perhaps best known as the exterior designer behind the 110-metre Kaos (ex-Jubilee), delivered in 2017 by Oceanco, but for this project his team focused on the interior design. The studio had to bulk up its capacity by taking on an extra designer, but the approach was always clear and drawn from Arcadia’s focus on open-air living. “That’s what we wanted; it’s less about the interior and more about the nature,” Lobanov says. “We tried to transmit natural, organic and discreet elegance… smooth shapes, to create a less symmetrical layout – fluent and natural, the way you draw the furniture to your house. It emphasises the connection to the sea first of all, which is why you can enjoy three open sides in every saloon.”

“It's less about the interior and more about the nature. We tried to transmit natural, organic and discreet elegance”

Indoor soft seating area

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Arcadia calls it “art deco-inspired”, and to some extent I see its point: simple, geometric forms and industrial black metal frames are in evidence. But for me, the interior has a holistic, calming feel to it – comfortable and elegant but not showy. It is dominated by oak planking with a tatami rice-straw finish underfoot, rough, matt sandstone vanity units in the bathrooms and neutral leather panelling on the walls.

Bathroom mirror and taps with leather-pannelled wall

ARCADIABathrooms feature matt sandstone vanity units and neutral leather panelling on the walls

ARCADIABathrooms feature matt sandstone vanity units and neutral leather panelling on the walls

“When we selected the materials, we focused on natural integrity,” says Lobanov. “We picked out stones and gave them very little craftsmanship – you will see in the bathrooms lots of natural-finish stone, wood with three-dimensional feeling, and we used the carpets to look like sand dunes or ripples. There are lots of natural and organic elements on this interior.”

Indoor curved sofa

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Chairs on balcony

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Brown bookshelf with vase and books

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Leather chairs, curved sofa and TV

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Soft furnishings on chair

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Indoor curved sofa

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Chairs on balcony

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Brown bookshelf with vase and books

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Leather chairs, curved sofa and TV

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Soft furnishings on chair

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Loose furniture is sourced from high-end brands, such as Minotti, Poltrona Frau and Poliform, while Lelièvre of Paris supplies the eco faux leather used on the wall panels

But not all the features that mark out the A96 immediately meet the guest’s eye. For a boat that operates with a maximum of five crew, the designers put a lot of emphasis on privacy. Clever layout means that the crew area forward on the lower deck connects via its own staircase to the galley and pantry behind the main saloon, and again on up to the deck above. The bridge also connects directly to the upper deck pantry.

View of bedroom in neutral colours

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“We fell in love at first sight with the enormous spaces... and the comfort of the spacious rooms”

As is often the case, the bridge does dual service as a technical area and a place where guests or the owner might spend time. “It could even be an owner-operator model – it’s not impossible,” says Ansalone. So there is a dark sofa built into the middle of the rear bulkhead of the bridge, for looking at the instrument read-outs and admiring the view ahead.