98 Leonardo — By Richard Thiel
— January 2003
|Azimut’s new 98 Leonardo dissolves the boundaries between interior and exterior.|
Boat designers have always faced a thorny paradox. Many owners define the ideal boat as one that offers an interior as comfortable and insulated from outside noise and temperature extremes as a luxury apartment. Yet a large portion of those same people also demand a boat that offers maximum access to the outside via seating and sunning areas and plenty of opening windows to let in light and fresh air. As designers well know, trying to maximize one part of this duality usually means a corresponding decline in the other.
In September Azimut unveiled the yacht that may at last pay equal tribute to both sides of this coin, thanks to the design wizardry of Stefano Righini. The 98 Leonardo blurs the line between inside and out, thanks largely to a semicircular sliding glass door--it's actually the entire aft saloon bulkhead--that opens at the touch of a button, transforming the enclosed aft dining area into an alfresco one and seamlessly blending the saloon and aft deck into one uninterrupted space. The feeling is enhanced by the fact that the entire space--nearly 1,300 square feet--is on one level and devoid of bulkheads.
Because the saloon is so wide open, the retractable flat-screen television in the entertainment center is visible from just about anywhere on this level, from the four-person port-side couch to the eight-person couch to starboard. You can even watch it from the dining table, although who would want to when you have a 180-degree panorama with the sliding door open or closed? Enhancing the blending of inside and out, the bar is aft and to port in the saloon, where it can serve guests in both spaces. Even the teak cockpit sole contributes to this blurring of boundaries, intruding well into the saloon, and meeting the ivory Berber carpet part of the way forward. Coarse-fabric shades give the saloon the feeling of an outdoor patio, especially when there's a gentle breeze from the two-panel sunroof over the helm.
Even the helm, forward of the entertainment center, is open to the saloon on either side, but it can be closed off by port and starboard doors, insulating guests from crew and giving the helmsman the privacy he sometimes needs to do his job. With the doors open, he has a fine view aft that will be appreciated during docking, especially Mediterranean-style. Port and starboard doors lead from this station to the walkaround side decks, further ensuring crew won't disturb the owners and guests during docking maneuvers.
The helm is striking, perhaps the most stylishly well-integrated space I've seen. A large centerline touch-screen flat panel, which offers an unusually logical and easily navigated menu, dominates. From its main screen you're never more than two steps from even arcane data, and should you become confused, it's easy to find your way back to the home screen. Battery voltage, power sources, fans, nav lights, fluid levels, fluid transfers, alarms, bilge pumps, lighting control--they're all readily available, and not only can you monitor everything, you can also activate and deactivate systems. Thus the requisite row upon row of toggle switches is absent, freeing space for two MTU engine displays, a Raymarine RL80C multifunction monitor, and a small flat-screen display for the remote cameras.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.