A champion powerboat racer embraced a change of pace with Rebeca, the first Benetti Oasis 40M. Cecile Gauert discovers a laid-back, light-filled and whisper-quiet delight.
"This boat gets more eyes than an optician,” says Tim Ciasulli, owner of Rebeca, Benetti’s first Oasis. He took delivery of the 40.8-metre yacht, the first in a series developed with exterior designer RWD and interior designer Bonetti/Kozerski Architecture, in the autumn of 2020. He enjoyed cruising along the Italian coast – a reduced itinerary owing to travel restrictions and mandated quarantine – and feted the delivery with builder Benetti in colourful Portofino.
At dinner, he told everyone: “If I get one euro for every picture that people take of this boat, I can buy a 50 metre tonight.” He might do just that, someday – but he isn’t ready to trade up just yet. As we catch up by phone in late December, he is hoping for more Mediterranean adventures, starting with the Balearics in the spring. Rebeca will also be available for charter and he’s quite happy with the number of enquiries that charter manager Burgess has received to date.
The American former offshore powerboat racing champion has enjoyed boats for a long time. He started with a Boston Whaler, which he sank. He had one of the first Sunseekers to turn heads in the US, a fast Camargue 55 that he rode hard. He had a few more go-fast boats and, by his own admission, broke a few things while indulging his need for speed. On the offshore circuit, what he mainly broke were speed records, flying at 157 knots. He seems like an unlikely first client for a yacht Benetti describes as “for people who are not in a rush”.
“I learned you can’t have a fast boat and a yacht at the same time,” he says. “Yachting has taught me this. This is the place for me to get away and to unwind and totally get comfortable and take in all of the things that I might be missing because I’m going too fast, especially nature.”
He marvels at the quiet efficiency of his new yacht, which is equipped with parsimonious 1,400hp MAN engines. He saw a fuel burn of 60 litres an hour (at around 11 knots). “That was a big wow,” he says. The hull performance exceeded everyone’s expectations. Project manager Stefano Torri is handling the construction of five of the 14 Oasis 40Ms sold (as of late December) and is enthused about it. This full-displacement hull features naval architecture by Benetti and PLANA and is made of vinylester resin composite with just a few pieces made in carbon fibre – it topped out at around 22 knots during sea trials. Being conservative in its specifications for what was still a prototype, the builder had initially disclosed the top speed as 17 knots, expecting they could reach 19 – but the added knots were unforeseen.
As a bonus, up to 17 knots Torri says the yacht is “totally silent” and vibration-free. The builder did not do anything more than it usually does in terms of insulation. The “floating floor”, a construction technique that elevates the flooring on sound-damping material (to mitigate the potential transfer of mechanical vibrations through the interior on superyachts), is used only above the engine block.
Used to much noisier boats, Ciasulli appreciates that Rebeca is “incredibly quiet”, even on the main aft deck, an open terraced space that kisses the ocean at the transom and extends below the water surface with an additional articulated bathing platform. This terrace, with its foldable wings, is the yacht’s defining feature and one of the owner’s favourite spots. “It’s just so cool to sit back there because there’s no wind, it’s super quiet. You and I could have a conversation like we’re having now, we wouldn’t have to yell – it’s heaven,” he says. “You are one with the ocean.”
When he gets out of bed in the morning, the first things he notices are light streaming through large windows and the feel of teak on his feet. “I feel like I am already outside,” he says. “I’m not in some contrived classic yacht master stateroom. [My cabin has] huge windows and a great amount of light.” The Oasis has significant space dedicated to outdoor living, and the interior layout and design do everything to enhance a connection with the environment. Benetti says this semi-custom series appeals to young at heart, active owners. The atmosphere on board is more casual and the crew more integral to the experience.
Equipped with efficient and quiet CMC electric stabilisers, the Oasis 40M is designed to spend more time at a mooring than docked Med-style in a marina – although there is a lovely lounge forward and a huge private sundeck which can only be accessed from an internal staircase.
To develop this new series, Benetti turned to RWD, giving the UK studio, says designer and project manager Andrew Collett, a “blank sheet of paper” – the ultimate goal was symbiosis with nature. Rather than a cocooning a wraparound transom with a lounge facing inwards and a bathing platform below, the Oasis’s aft deck is an open space with a lounge facing out to the pool and the sea beyond. Near the stern, when the bulwarks fencing the terrace unfold to expand the playground at water level, they create two small niches protected by the hull sides. “You are disconnected from everything sitting there with a blanket or a bottle of champagne. It’s a little bit of magic,” Collett says.
If it were a car, the Oasis would be a Range Rover, capable of going off the beaten track but without the utilitarian look of a basic jeep. “It’s been called an adventure yacht,” says Collett. The design does have a few automotive touches, such as chrome around the portholes. RWD favours a two-tone paint scheme, as on Rebeca, which is painted two shades of silver. It helps to visually “lift” the design of what is a voluminous 40 metre with four decks.
To develop the interior of the Oasis, Azimut-Benetti’s vice-president, Giovanna Vitelli, chose a well-known New York design firm with a portfolio of chic residential, retail and hospitality projects. The two architects behind Bonetti/Kozerski Architecture, British-born Dominic Kozerski and Italian-born Enrico Bonetti, were excited at the prospect of applying their diverse skills to the yacht’s interior. “For us it was interesting,” Bonetti says. “We went to see a lot of boats at different boat shows. Looking at them was good to figure out what was missing in the offer. We tried to make [the interior] less formal, more of a flow.”
Although the design firm’s style has sometimes been described as minimalist, “it’s more an orientation than a dogma”, Kozerski says. “[We focus on] good proportions, light and a refined use of materials and details. We don’t start with the idea of making a minimalist space, which we think results in kind of an austere feeling.” An interesting challenge for the two architects who normally work closely with their clients, especially when it comes to private residences, was to imagine the end user on this floating home. So, they invented one: “A relatively younger boat owner,” Kozerski says. They imagined the lifestyle of this young client and designed the interior around that.
When Ciasulli and his wife, Rebeca, became the first buyers of the Oasis 40M, the designers worked with them on their specific requests, but the yacht’s interior is very close to their original concept. From the beginning, Ciasulli liked the boat’s design. It was the renderings that first caught his eye but when he had a chance to see the scale model and evaluate the spaces in 3D, he got it immediately.
The interior has an inviting natural flow. On the main deck, the saloon’s wide windows are full height. The doors open wide on to the infinity terrace and the space goes uninterrupted to about the midpoint of the main deck, so it is conceivably large enough to entertain a group of 40 people. The saloon’s focal point is a bar on the far inside wall, which draws the eye past a couple of curvy sofas and low cocktail tables. The upper saloon, which on several future hulls will be the owner’s cabin, is another bright space used on Rebeca as the TV lounge.
Taking advantage of the light and space was a must. For the walls of the main and upper saloon, the designers chose a piano-quality white lacquer that reflects the light and scenery, accents in rosewood and teak flooring for continuity. Beautiful materials, such as pleated leather, used on the headboard and the ceiling, enhance the comfort of the full-beam master cabin. While the colours are on the lighter side throughout, for the wheelhouse they chose midnight blue matt lacquer for the walls, dark blue leather for a banquette, rosewood for the desk and cognac-toned leather for the captain’s chair. The amazing space has floor-to-ceiling windows and a high-tech helm station by Fincantieri affiliate Seastema.
The captain operates the yacht from a central “light bridge captain chair” made of carbon with built-in commands and two touchscreens that face an open panorama. The integrated system pulls information from computers hidden away in cupboards and transmits it via cables hidden beneath the sole. These inviting features created an engineering challenge. The infinity terrace, for instance, adds to the guests’ pleasure but it does reduce the space usually available for storage and equipment. However, it’s all there, even a full-beam garage for a tender of nearly eight metres.
Rebeca also has a very special 13-metre tender – a five-engine, 87 knot, carbon fibre Midnight Express finished with the same livery as the mothership. That uninhabited island 30 kilometres away, says Ciasulli, “I can be there in 15 minutes and have a lot of fun in getting there and coming back,” adding that it’s a great addition to the charter programme. With her modern, laid-back combination of attributes, there is little doubt that Rebeca will continue to attract admiring looks.
This feature is taken from the March 2021 issue of BOAT International. Get this magazine sent straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issue.