The Italian flair of the Solaris 44 Open meshes well with an all-American style of boating, says Kevin Koenig
There is a minor trend afoot in the tender market, an aria if you will, that may soon reach a crescendo. I use the Italian language to describe this movement, because that country is where its roots lie. It seems the Italians have been watching the robust American centre-console market with great interest, and have begun to mimic the muscular and versatile boats, but, of course, with a flair all of their own. The Solaris Power 44 Open is the perfect example.
Docked stern-to outside the chic waterfront Fort Lauderdale eatery Boatyard, this 44 Open looks like she may as well have been born here in this slip. With a high plumb bow, black carbon-fiber T-top, and sleek but masculine contours in her exterior lines drawn up by Italy’s Victory Design, she is nothing if not striking. And she can be painted nearly any color you can think of – one client has his matched to the color of his light-blue Aston Martin.
The first impression is one of a very Euro-styled vessel yet with a little more heft than some competitive models. Her sturdy presence is owed to a combination of that imposingly high, almost naval-looking forward section, and a beam that registers at 14 feet and three inches, and which carries well forward. That beam does not include two terraces that fold out from the cockpit and greatly supplement this model’s party-boat bona fides.
For Victory Design’s Brunello Acampora, width is key to this boat. “We have the vertical bow, which helps us obtain maximum waterline length, making this boat very efficient,” he says. “But, of course, a golden rule for any boat design is that widths must be adequate for the waterline. So with the 44 Open we have achieved not only the right balance between beam and waterline length, but also we have more interior volume and the stability that boaters crave. Gyroscopic stabilisers are available, of course, but in my opinion, for this boat, they are not compulsory.”
The interior volume Acampora mentions is on full display in the cabin, which fairly impresses me. Italian boats of this size often have cabins that might best be described as oversized stowage lockers. But the cabin on the Solaris is actually livable, with excellent headroom and space for real maneuverability.
The layouts on the accommodations level are customisable. This test boat has a full-size king berth in the forepeak, a feat made possible by that well-forward beam. The head has a shower with six-feet and three inches of headroom and enough space for me to pivot my considerable shoulders. A second berth, queen-sized and amidships, makes the Solaris an option for cruising couples or – perhaps more likely – a nuclear family. The cabin also hosts a Vitrifrigo fridge and ice-maker, to help fuel the party up top, which is this boat’s true raison d’être.Read More/Wild Water: Test driving the 18m flagship chase boat from Windy
The after section of the boat’s console acts as a wet bar and main service station for the guests, who will mostly congregate at the convertible couch just aft of it, and the sunpad aft of that. Cupholders and JL Audio speakers dot the boat like slices of pepperoni on a pizza. Wide side decks lead forward to a bow lounge, which to my tastes is the preferred seating when under way. Carbon-fiber poles can be stowed neatly there, and prop up a canvas for shade when the boat’s parked at a steaming-hot Biscayne Bay sandbar.
And yet for all these niceties, maybe the most impressive part about the Solaris 44 Open is her performance. The Forli, Italy-based builder is on point in this regard. “We were the first in Italy to design using IPS,” Acampora says. “We have been using them for 20 years, and we continue to use them because we feel they are excellent.”
The Volvo Penta IPS650s on this boat have her coming out of the hole cleanly and quickly, and on to plane with steady power that is reassuring at the helm. Outside the seas are not angry exactly but they probably got out of bed on the wrong side that morning. Earlier in the day, these blustering three-footers had knocked me around in a similar type of boat. So when the Solaris 44 slices cleanly, quietly and solidly through the slop at a 30-knot fast cruise, it is both impressive and a little bit surprising.Read More/Wild Water: On board the adventure chaser 53zi MJM
Such solid performance seems almost unlikely from such a snazzy-looking boat. Good looks usually come at a price, and you might assume that the credit of the slick dayboat styling would mean a debit for her rough-water performance. But happily, that turns out not to be the case. Hardover turns are tight and exhibit little heel, while smooth S-turns leave an impression of responsiveness and easy control that is very desirable in boats of this type.
The 44 Open’s whole package – the enticing lines, the loads of volume and deck space, and sporty yet resolute performance – leave me one word in mind as I step back onto the docks. Bravo!
First published in the May 2022 US edition of BOAT International. Get this magazine sent straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issue.SHOP NOW