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Out of the Blue: How Custom Line's sporty new 38 metre breaks boundaries

Custom Line’s sporty new 38 metre has blurred the boundaries between inside and out like never before, says Cécile Gauert

The new Custom Line 120’s mate has picked me up from Bay Street Marina with a tricked-out 12 metre Nor-Tech centre console and she is hurrying along, the triple Mercury outboards disturbing deep blue water with a widening trail of white foam.

At 50 knots it doesn’t take much time for the 38.4 metre Vista Blue, at first a shiny spot on the horizon, to come into sharper focus: lean, sharp lines, a graceful nose, geometric features, slim buttresses and railings glistening in the sun – this is a handsome yacht. The Nor-Tech fendered by the efficient crew, I hop onto the bathing platform and step up to the main deck of the mothership. The effect from up here is very special. As I stand at the innovative threshold of the saloon (more on that later) the cerulean blue of the seascape pours into the space from every direction. “The whole design was focused on enhancing contact with the sea and attempting to overthrow boundaries between exterior and interior,” says Francesco Paszkowski, the yacht’s designer. Every builder is striving for this goal, but it’s never been done quite like this before.

A couple of business partners with a fondness for fast boats, modern design and Caribbean sunsets bought hull No 1 of this new series after seeing renderings and a 3D video. They had been looking for a yacht already under construction, something sporty in this size range, but wanted to work directly with the manufacturer. They zeroed in on the new Custom Line project. “It was still [at the] early stage, but the fact that we did not have to wait for the entire period of the build was very attractive,” one of the owners says. “The design, the styling, the performance of the boat seemed very interesting to us and I have always been a big fan of Ferretti and Riva. The result exceeded our expectations.”

It was especially sweet since they had done quite a bit of work to personalise their CL 120. The bulk of the custom work went into the external entertainment areas, the foredeck and in particular the flybridge deck, where a spa pool-cum-seating unit with built-in cooler for a bottle of champagne – or a few Kalik beers – enhances the sunny side of the convivial deck. The two families had the opportunity to enjoy the yacht in the Bahamas where “some of the best times have been on the bow watching the sun set at Staniel Cay”, says one of the owners.

The foredeck lounge – with twin tables, umbrellas and sofas –proved especially useful when another yacht pulling up next to them nearly deprived them of the solar spectacle. “That’s probably my favourite place on the boat. The second is on the flybridge next to the Jacuzzi. We spent a lot of time on that built-in structure with the tub, the beds around it and storage underneath, which is useful for the boat.”

A key member of the build team was broker Jason Wood, who for a few months lived in La Spezia where hull No 1 was built and worked closely with the Custom Line team until the handover in Miami in early 2018. He knows the yacht inside out. “He was instrumental in making decisions in real time and was a trusted adviser on site,” the owner says. “Early on he helped design little things like the misting system, and so many other design elements that were not originally in the plan.”

Wood likes to say that he started in yachting 20 years ago at the very bottom, detailing boats and scrubbing decks. “Because I worked on boats, I understand a lot of what’s missing,” he says. He recommended a number of practical solutions, from plugs to storage. He points to a feature on the pilothouse roof, which identifies hull No 1 like a birthmark. Dark grey like the domes and radar, a raised section of the surface is shaped a little like the Batman signal. What led to this particular feature was a suggestion Wood made to relocate the compass from the front of the dash to the ceiling. In doing so he cleared the captain’s view, but the mechanism protruded a bit outside, and he wanted it concealed with a stylish design in keeping with the yacht’s sporty looks. It took a few days of trial and error, some foam, fibreglass and creativity, but the craftsmen got it right. “They were fantastic,” he says. One custom touch no one will see is behind the instrument panels and leather of the bridge, where the workers signed their names, at Wood’s request, on the flat panel of fibreglass beneath it all.

The raised pilothouse is neatly organised around the modern dash by Simrad and Naviop. It’s all digital, with large touchscreens and multiple redundancies built in. The yacht’s captain runs the boat at either 12 or 21 knots (the yacht’s cruising speed). “The boat runs really, really well at 21 knots and burns 10 to 15 per cent less fuel than other boats of this category with [MTU] 2000s; these are the 96 series, so the boat is a bit more efficient,” he says. The consumption is around 180 gallons per hour at that speed. “Typically, when I run from Nassau to Florida, I like to arrive there in the morning. At 12 knots we burn so much less fuel, it’s easy on the boat and we tow the Nor-Tech wherever we go.” The burn at 12 knots is just over 20 gallons per hour per engine, a solid argument to slow things down. A 20-year veteran of the Bahamas to Florida yacht circuit, Captain Mike says one of the “coolest” things about his new charge is the way people, including seasoned captains, react when they walk down the dock to take a closer look. “I hear three words: I get ‘wow’, I get ‘sexy’ and I get ‘spaceship’,” he says.

Beyond its undoubtedly attractive lines, Vista Blue packs a bag of tricks that are pretty extraordinary for her dimensions. To create its next generation planing yacht, Custom Line tapped an experienced Italian designer whose imprint is on countless fast boats built in Italy. Paszkowski, in turn, appreciated what appears to have been a challenge to convention. It’s no exaggeration to say that standing in the saloon feels like standing on an island. Nearly the entire aft section of the saloon is a door made of two inclined sections of glass. Floor-to-ceiling windows lining the saloon’s sides are convex, which becomes apparent only when walking along the side decks. The panes of glass, from Italian glassmaker Isoclima, act a bit like a magnifier without distorting the view. Missing are gunwales, generally the go-to solution to keep people in and water out. Instead, all along the side decks are sturdy square railings and safety lines, similar to those on sailing yachts, that vanish as soon as the eyes focus on the water beyond them. Finally, the superstructure floor is elevated, which not only enhances the panorama but has allowed the builder to add extra layers of insulation – while keeping headroom impressive. The term “floating floor” perfectly describes the sensation one has standing in the middle of the saloon. All these decisions were made “to enhance the feeling of a closer contact with the sea”, Paszkowski says.

A first is a massive door that lifts to open up the entire width of the saloon to the aft deck and pins overhead, flush with the overhang. It is one of Paszkowski’s favourite features and a new solution to the conundrum: how to make a door disappear when you don’t need it. The overhang itself, which shades the aft deck, seems suspended by nothing other than sheer engineering will – there are no columns, no poles, no visible support of any kind to interrupt the gaze. Among the ingredients of the engineers’ secret recipe for this amazing structure is carbon fibre.

Wood concedes that in spite of assurances by the Ferretti Group’s immensely experienced engineering team, he had some concerns about that large cantilevered section of carbon composite over the aft deck. “Vibrations were a major concern for us,” Wood says. They worked out a possible fix in case sea trials should reveal any trouble, but there was no need since the structure passed with flying colours. In addition to the head-turning Nor-Tech, the yacht carries a good-sized tender in the garage hidden behind its Dual Mode Transom door, which opens upwards or downwards. It gives one space two very useful functions: tender garage and beach club. With the tender launched (in this case a customised Williams 505), the space readily transforms into a beach club. All that’s left to do is fit the umbrellas in the sockets and plug in the stainless steel shower, a thin pole delivering a stream of cool water bliss to skin tightened by sun and salt.

With much fun to be had outdoors, the interior had to be pretty special. It is – open to the outside but also homely and elegant. Paszkowski, in collaboration with the designer Margherita Casprini, borrowed ideas and techniques from luxury residential design. For instance, the columns in the living area contain lighting, audio and air conditioning systems while flowing curtains can be pulled to partition the open space. A combination of parquet, wood and lacquered panels from Alpi keeps it contemporary. The broker worked with the shipyard on personalising the interior for the owners but went with many of their recommendations. Along with brands Hermès and Dedar, most of the furniture is from Italian companies, such as Minotti and Poltrona Frau. They even chose to keep the abstract artwork Paszkowski had suggested, which was pictured in the initial 3D renderings the shipyard showed them.

The layout is as expected, with a nice size master suite forward on the main deck (about 38 square metres). From it, the best views are from the bed or seated in the cosy saloon corners. Four guest cabins are on the lower deck, all en suites. The twin cabins have Pullman beds, cleverly covered with mirrors to expand the rooms visually. The crew mess, accessed via the modern galley, has room for up to six, including the captain, who enjoys a double cabin. It’s a layout that works well for charters, which the owners are planning on a limited basis. Accordingly, they asked Custom Line to build hull No 1 in compliance with MCA rules. One of the most obvious results of that extra MCA compliance is the handrails, about one metre taller than the designers envisioned. They catch the sun ever more readily, and that’s the gleam that caught my eye when I first spotted Vista Blue on the horizon. All that stainless steel makes the yacht shine even brighter. The CL 120 is a bit spaceship, yes, and definitely worthy of the wows lavished upon her.

Now you see me, now you don’t

Broker Jason Wood remembers the day the door to the saloon arrived. “I am standing by it and it is like a two-storey building. It’s the biggest piece of glass I have ever seen, and it weighs as much as a car.” At 2,300kg the door weighs about twice as much as a Mini Cooper. At four metres wide by more than two metres tall, the door comprises two panes of glass, installed at a 45 degree angle. The lifting mechanism includes electrified screw jacks, opening the structure slowly until it pins securely in its casing on the flybridge overhang. In the closed position, one pane slides over the other as more traditional doors do to allow entrance from the aft deck into the saloon. Whether the door is closed or open, the effect is stunning and, as Francesco Paszkowski envisioned, it creates the effect of a “glass lounge”.

But it’s one thing to dream it, quite another to make it happen. The Ferretti Group’s architects and engineers rose to the challenge, working with Mecaer Aviation Group to devise a door that is functional, safe and as fast and light as possible. This is, after all, a fast planing hull and any added weight has the potential to slow it down. Mecaer’s expertise in the aeronautical industry was especially valuable to keep the structure as lightweight as possible.

This article was first published in the August 2018 edition of Boat International. All photography by Alberto Cocchi.

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