68S — By Alan Harper —
It’s Hip to be Square
Part 2: Azimut’s designers were able to start the 68S with a clean sheet of paper.
It’s this kind of thinking that reminds you that there is one important advantage to having been out of the express yacht game for so long: Azimut’s designers were able to start the 68S with a clean sheet of paper. And they clearly enjoyed the challenge. Unlike rival boats from other European yards, there is no saloon on the lower deck. With the hardtop, optional four-piece glass doors across the cockpit, big retractable TV, and comfortable seating for six, the deck saloon serves perfectly well. The space saved by this decision has been put to excellent use not just in the owner’s stateroom, which occupies nearly half of the available lower-deck space—the raised dinette on the starboard side, right by the picture window, is a truly superb conception—but also in a usefully proportioned twin-berth guest suite on the port side and, of course, in the big, bright VIP suite in the bow. In the stern, meanwhile, there’s space for a 10'6" tender garage or optional crew cabin.
Then there’s the interior decor, which is also clearly intended to catch the eye. It has been carefully thought through, from the silk blinds to the naturally dark wenge wood used for the furniture and worktops as well as optionally on the floors. The overall effect, with so much emphasis on horizontal planes, stark right angles and a minimalist use of light, is fashionably cool and Asian and puts the 68S in the vanguard of current European boating style—up there with “signature” vessels like the Wallypower 118. But with cheerful upholstery and the funky use of glass in the head compartments, she’s not taking herself too seriously, either. It’s as if the designers wanted to remind their style-conscious customers that boating is meant to be fun. After all, this is a boat with a bright-red hull.
Performance is another area where Azimut had to go back to first principles and consider weight, power, and hull shape. The 68S’s hull is narrower than its 68-foot flying-bridge sistership as well as somewhat lighter. The hull sections are also noticeably deeper at the forefoot, even though the deadrise aft declines to just over 15 degrees. The basic power package of 2,300 total horsepower is good for speeds in the mid-30-knot range, but my test boat was the first to be fitted with the more powerful (2,600 total hp) MTU TE94s, which gave lively acceleration and a respectable top speed of more than 37 knots. V-drive gearboxes and hull tunnels keep the shafts at a reasonably shallow angle, and there seemed to be little of the penalty in turning circle that this arrangement often entails. The 68S handled as nimbly as you could expect of a boat displacing over 30 tons, and that fine forefoot sliced confidently through the wake of the 50-foot chase boat, which were the only waves of any size we managed to find. She may be Azimut’s first in 20 years, but she’s an express yacht all right, with poke and poise. It’s a fun drive.
From the dock to the open sea and back again, it is impossible not to be impressed by Azimut’s achievement with the 68S. In re-entering the express market, the company knew it was taking on a difficult task. Corporate pride as well as the realities of the marketplace inevitably decreed that the new boat would have to be an attention-grabbing, stylistically original tour de force. And she is. But those same commercial realities also demand handling and performance qualities of a higher order than those of a high-end million-dollar motoryacht, which is Azimut’s stock in trade. Here, too, the 68S delivers.
Just one question remains in my mind: Will anyone take up that challenge, and actually start fitting square topsides windows on their boats? Somehow I doubt it.
Azimut Phone: (39) 011-93161. www.azimutyachts.com.
This article originally appeared in the August 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.