Astondoa 72 GLXBy Kevin Koenig
A Spanish Custom
The Astondoa 72 GLX shows off the custom work this venerable Spanish builder can do. Senior Editor Kevin Koenig takes a closer look at how she goes together.
One typically bright and sunny afternoon in Coconut Grove, Florida, Rafael Barca walked the decks of the Astondoa 72 GLX with a barely perceptible limp, making droll and insightful comments here and there with a voice that rumbled like a big diesel engine. As president of Flagship Marine Group, Barca was in charge of my tour of the boat, and frankly, I couldn’t think of a better person to do it. The man is large and well built without being bulky, rugged without being graceless. It’s clear from his carriage and demeanor that Barca has some stories to tell—and he’d tell all of them in a rolling Spanish accent. Indeed, in more ways than one, Rafael Barca seems to be the human embodiment of the Astondoa 72.
Astondoa Yachts is a Spanish company that was founded nearly a century ago, in 1916, which means that by the time man set foot on the moon, the company was about the same age as Power & Motoryacht’s average reader. Over the years, nearly 4,000 Astondoa boats, some up to about 200 feet long, have splashed happily into the water, and yet you could be forgiven if you’ve never heard of the company. They are not as common a name as some of their competitors—the Sunseekers and Azimuts of the world. And that’s because traditionally they haven’t spent a heck of a lot of money on marketing and advertising, particularly in the U.S., instead opting to put the money back into the boatbuilding process. But that’s about to change, as the company is gearing up to make a push into the American market, and your consciousness. What’s more, though Astondoas are commensurately priced with vessels from Sunseeker and Azimut, the company doesn’t really see those brands as competitors. Astondoa believes they build a higher-quality boat for the same price as those companies, and they say they can do that because they don’t use any middlemen for their components.
For example, Astondoa owns the largest furniture company in Europe. They build a lot of furniture for custom homes … like castles. Really. That same furniture goes into their boats. They own their own 5-axis CNC router, and can build a 90-foot mold in-factory. They have been stockpiling Burmese teak for more than 20 years. Astondoa, in effect, has figured out how to control the means of production.
What’s more, Astondoas are fully custom. For every Astondoa built, the designer Cristiano Gatto will sit down with the owner and go through every aspect of the boat with him. If the owner isn’t quite sure what he wants—paralysis of choice is common among buyers of custom boats—Gatto is happy to offer some expert guidance. Once a plan is agreed upon, Astondoa produces a rendering in photographic detail, and soon the Astondoa workforce, which averages about 25 years on the job mind you, gets to work.
So … venerable company, owns all their stuff, experienced workforce, fully custom, promises a good bargain. This is well and good. But it means exactly jack squat if the end product isn’t up to snuff. So how about that 72 GLX?
She looks solid at first glance, I’ll say that. She’s not going to be confused with a sleek, low-profile runabout any time soon, I don’t think. But that aesthetic tradeoff manifests itself in other areas that, for my money, more than makes up for anything lost. Like, for instance, the 6 foot 10 inches of headroom that pervades the main deck.
Another area with a surprising amount of space was the engine room, which I accessed through a fairly tight entryway beneath the bridgedeck stairs. Once I popped through that little rabbit hole though, I found myself in a true engine room, to the tune of about 6 feet 3 inches of headroom. It certainly gave the beastly twin 1,224-metric-horsepower MAN V12 common rails enough space to breathe. Plus the area was ventilated with big blowers, so if you happened to find yourself down there doing some repairs, you could breathe too.
Above that engine room is a cockpit that is fully shaded by the flying bridge (more on that in a moment). Moving forward I noticed the cockpit sole is fully flush with the sole of the saloon, which is a nice aesthetic and a design touch that’s becoming more and more common among the high-end cruising set. You’d maybe want a coaming there if you were going to try to circumnavigate the earth or some fool thing like that, but hey, for this kind of a boat, a flush deck is nice. I should note there’s a large, 14-inch wide, 9-inch deep scupper grate just aft of the saloon so there’s virtually no chance of water getting into the interior. And that’s a good thing, you wouldn’t want to hurt all that castle-ready furniture or ruin any aspect of the seamless fit and finish with warping. (A drawer in the ebony coffee table was so expertly fit that I didn’t even see it until Barca pulled it out to show me.)
A galley forward and to starboard had a giant AEG refrigerator and freezer. When Barca opened it to offer me a soda, I at first thought the Coke was in a pony can, the interior was so voluminous. Or maybe I got too much sun that day.
The lower helm was notable for a nice, big windshield with only one central mullion, sharp-looking carbon-fiber accents on the dash, and in-house leather work with exemplary stitching. However, when I cranked up the engines and scooted the boat out into Biscayne Bay, I couldn’t help but notice the sightlines were obstructed by extra cabinetry aft and to starboard. When I noted this to Barca, he pointed out that the owners asked specifically for the extra cabinets and weren’t overly concerned with the tight sightlines. “Plus,” he smiled, “nobody drives down here anyway.” And as I was about to find out, there’s good reason for that.
The aforementioned bridgedeck is enormous, and actually bigger than Astondoa’s discontinued 82-foot model’s bridge, since it extends all the way aft to shade the cockpit. The space is covered by a T-top with a canvas sheet that can roll back to let in sunlight as guests see fit. Layouts up top are fully customizable. Mine featured a sunpad forward, two lounges aft, and a barbecue and sink. And the helm, well, that really was the place to be. It was an absolutely freaking gorgeous day in South Florida, and as I cruised through S-turns at 22 knots, I couldn’t help but smile at the boat’s surprising agility, not to mention the way she skimmed over her not-insignificant wake as I checked out how she might perform in rougher seas than the one footers in the bay. She hit a two-way average of 25.4 knots, which is respectable for a boat of this size and type. (With optional MAN 1360s she reportedly cruises at 28 knots and does 32 at WOT. Choo! Choo!) And her acceleration, particularly from 1500 to 2000 rpm, was on point. She jumped from 10.7 to 20.8 knots with enough giddyup to remind you you’re alive. It’s enough to make you smile. And it was enough to make me not want to hand over the wheel when we were done.
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This article originally appeared in the September 2013 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.