For Luca Brenta, who absorbed the art of boatbuilding as a child, fun is the major reason to go yachting, while he views the luxury end of the market as a means to finance research
Luca Brenta was always intent on becoming a yacht designer. As a child he accompanied his father to oversee the construction of the family boat, and recalls: ‘It was a special rapport between father and son and I became fascinated with it all: the construction, the smell of the wood, the people who worked on the boats…’
His father, passionate about boats, kept a drafting table at home so that he could sketch his ideas. Luca would return from school and promptly erase them in favour of his own designs. The passion passed from father to son.
But while the initiation from his father may have planted the seed, it was building the first boat, Babaloo, that nurtured the growth. It was constructed of C-flex – a ‘first’ in Italy – and Brenta gained hands-on experience working alongside the masters in the shipyard.
Like Luca Bassani, with whom he has worked on Wally projects and who shares his aesthetic sense, Brenta has a joy for his profession. Devertire – fun – is a word that crops up often in conversation. Babaloo was named after the girl in a Mel Brooks film who pops out of a birthday cake singing ‘babaloo’ – clearly Brenta has a keen sense of humour.
Brenta complains that often the external architecture of a boat has no connection with the interior’s
Brenta immerses himself in technical research, reducing every aspect to the simplest detail. ‘I am known for my handling of the essentials, the fundamentals and the simplicity of the boats we design,’ he says. ‘Few details but very well made – that has been our guide. I have tried to reduce it to its simplest form: a hull, a deck and a coachroof. All the rest is too much and not needed.’
Well maybe it’s not always that simple. Take, for example,_ Ghost_, created for a client who wanted speed and comfort for Atlantic crossings. One of the prominent features was a deckhouse of glass, which, surprisingly, the client initially balked at despite living in a house that Brenta describes as an enormous box of glass. ‘It was designed to create vertical illumination and tie in the outside with the inside.’
Brenta complains that often the external architecture of a boat has no connection with the interior’s, created by an interior decorator. ‘This really annoys me,’ he says. ‘We have worked with interior designers and architects of houses and it was very interesting because they have an approach for the interior typical of a house, while we have a nautical approach. These disputes over design were the most fun. I don’t think it was an imposition for them because it was always work with four hands, a group effort, but the result was it had to be a new interior for a boat, not a house.’
Luca Brenta on board Ghost during sea trials. At first the client disliked the all-glass deckhouse.
Brenta was given the green light for research on the Wallygator – ‘It was 100 per cent research; we designed new technological solutions in every aspect’ – and it is the continuation of that research into interiors, light construction, diminishing the number of winches, uses for automatic and hydraulic systems that has established his reputation in the yachting world. And it is research that has been funded by the luxury market.
‘The luxury market of today offers so many grand possibilities,’ he says. ‘Technology developed for superyachts with large budgets for research can be transferred to smaller boats and production boats. This is a positive thing. Luxury for show-off doesn’t interest me.’
He is, however, interested in pleasure and fun, and created the B38 (‘It’s not a racer, it’s not a cruiser, it’s a B’, as the marketing slogan goes) with those desires in mind. The boat has all the sophisticated systems found on a maxi yacht, but Brenta realised that owners often use their yachts as daysailers, and describes the B38 as a toy.
‘It is solely for the pleasure of going out sailing for a little while in the company of friends, to have fun,’ he says. ‘It is intimate and comfortable and handles easily because it has the technology of a maxi yacht.’ Mission accomplished.
For me, luxury is an evolution. The luxury of tomorrow should be not to degrade or pollute
Luca Brenta, yacht designer
Looking back over the last 25 years, Brenta derives most satisfaction from having achieved his objectives. ‘I have occupied myself always with research in naval architecture and not just the technical aspects. One of the things that fascinates me in my work is that I design everything, and once it is finished I have complete knowledge of the boat, which is a beautiful feeling for me.’
Reflecting further on the luxury market of today, he says: ‘It is a difficult question. What is luxury? For me, luxury is an evolution. The luxury of tomorrow should be not to degrade or pollute, and not just ecologically speaking, but in all the senses.
‘Be respectful in your relationships with the world and with those around you who are dear to you. Luxury for me would be to permit grand boats without putting the world around us at risk.
‘In the future I see grand powerboats that would consume a glass of gasoil, grand sailboats that travel the sea in tranquillity. In a certain sense I try to be very sober, very responsible, in my approach to the world.’
Originally published: Boat International Jubilee Special 2008.