Treated to a Venetian tour and insight into the new wallypower58, Simon de Burton reports on the new Wally’s innovations and enduring power to seduce
Everyone loves Venice for its romantic atmosphere, prodigious palazzos, faded grandeur and remarkable history – but what gives me a real buzz is the fact that boating around the canals and lagoons isn’t only done for fun, it’s a way of life.
The boats of Venice come in all shapes and sizes, perhaps the most common ones being the public vaporettos that ply the waters between the city’s many islands. They are practical, spacious, workmanlike vessels of a form most certainly dictated by function.
So when the new Wallypower58 hove into view outside our hotel during the week of the Serenissima boat show, it was no surprise to see the jaws of fellow guests suddenly drop. They could almost be heard thinking: “Is that really our water taxi…?”
Disappointingly for them, they had to wait for one of Venice’s more typical aquatic Ubers, because the Wallypower was most definitely for us – leading to mixed feelings of self-consciousness and excitement as we apologetically squeezed past the queue to climb aboard our sleek and luxurious ride.
But the embarrassment soon faded once the captain gunned the twin Volvo Penta D8s. The Wallypower’s admirers were left looking puzzled on the soon-distant jetty as the mystery craft disappeared as suddenly as it had arrived.
Steering such a boat around the lagoon is not something to be undertaken lightly. While the average depth is a comfortable 10 metres, there are endless opportunities for running aground in the area’s numerous shallows.
Sensibly, Wally’s managing director Stefano de Vivo had enlisted the services of a Venetian pilot to be sure of avoiding any sticky situations – and to give us ample opportunity to take in what the Wallypower58 has to offer.
And, while it looks a little different from the typical profile of previous Wallypowers, it doesn’t take long to spot a clear design lineage that can be traced from the unique and legendary Wallypower118 of almost 20 years ago to the 52 that this boat replaces.
The previous evening, Wally’s affable founder and chief designer Luca Bassani (who is clearly revelling in the chance to focus solely on creativity following the Ferretti Group’s 2019 investment into the company he founded) opined that we would quickly spot two features on the 58 that would almost certainly be adopted by rival manufacturers.
That’s something Bassani has become well used to, as evinced by the many “Wally wannabes” that have sprung up during the past couple of decades, often shamelessly mimicking the innovative hull profiles and sleek decks free of guard rails. “In the old days, it was annoying. Now I have come to accept it and take it as a compliment,” he told me.
While there are plenty of Wally-like features in evidence on the outside – such as the generous walkways that link bow and aft, plentiful shaded guest areas and striking pillar-less curved windows that are as practical in terms of visibility as they are aesthetically attractive – it’s inside the boat where Bassani’s “two new features” are found.
The first I spot instantly: the seats before the helm take the form of carbon-fibre exoskeletons that are lightweight and comfortable while also being far less obtrusive than regular, solid items. Around them, light floods in from a huge expanse of glass, illuminating the air-conditioned cockpit and main deck seating/dining area that leads back to the large sunpad.
There’s more of Wally’s trademark innovation here, too, in the form of an optional hydraulic platform that lowers into and under the water to facilitate the launch and retrieval of jet skis and the like, as well as to provide safe and easy access for swimmers of all ages and abilities. There’s also a hydraulic passerelle to make getting on and off the boat easier, and folding bulwark wings that add 25 square metres of usable area to the aft deck space and 12 square metres in the cockpit.
It is down below, however, that Bassani’s second innovation reveals itself. By eschewing portholes, he’s kept the Wallypower58’s exterior lines ultra clean while also increasing the available surface area for internal storage and so on. Since so much light from the cockpit finds its way down below, there’s no sense of gloom – but because people like to see out, the Wallypower58 has been equipped with two “magic portholes”.
The ingenious technology takes the form of a pair of cameras linked to interior screens mounted port and starboard in the saloon to provide a crystal-clear 4K resolution image of the world outside. The perfect view is remarkable to behold – and the innovation also does away with the need for porthole maintenance.
“For next year, we’re looking into ways of using the magic portholes as an interactive interface so they can be used to display maps or artwork, or even reflect certain moods,” says de Vivo.
Each magic porthole sits above a seating area flanking the stairway (which, due to being fixed, intrudes somewhat on what is otherwise a generous space) providing access to the deck. The packaging of the lower deck is impressive, with the boat we are aboard being configured to feature an owner’s cabin with its own bathroom plus a separate guest dayhead and shower.
“As always with a Wally, the main aim is to have fun – but I would go away for a month on this boat,” says de Vivo, pointing out the soft fabric finishes on all interior surfaces that lend a comfortable, homely feel. “We see it being kept at a beautiful villa in somewhere such as Sardinia – it’s not a tender and not a yacht, but something in between on which it’s possible to entertain up to 16 guests.”
Other layout options include a “flexi-guest” set-up with a guest cabin to port amidships and the saloon to starboard, or the installation of a single, en suite crew berth.
But, as de Vivo recognises, a Wallypower is as much about performance as it is about design, innovation and practicality, so it was good to discover that, after some extremely enjoyable lagoon pottering and an excellent lunch on the island of Burano, we were able to head out to open water to test the 58’s performance.
Unsurprisingly, it didn’t disappoint. The small-block, triple IPS system fitted to the 58 offers an impressive long range, 30-knot cruise and a maximum speed of 36 knots with the IPS700 configuration (32 and 38 knots with the more powerful IPS800 units).
With a dozen or so people aboard, the captain had to exercise a certain degree of restraint, but the boat provided thrilling performance even in a straight line, while the marque’s typically deep V hull kept it incredibly steady.
I couldn’t help thinking that the Wally58 would make a fabulous high-speed luxury water taxi around the parts. After all, it’s far more fun than poling a gondola…
First published in the October 2022 of BOAT International. Get this magazine sent straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issue.