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Baia Italia 70

The Neapolitan shipyard of Baia has always been known for its boats' distinctive styling. Wraparound windscreens and long, convex foredecks were a design signature, which still gives the older boats in the range an unmistakable look.

But then two years ago came nearly 43 feet of spiky, new-edge attitude, in the shape of the Baia One. Something was changing—and now we have the spectacular Baia 70 Italia. Gone are the sweeping curves, replaced by planes, arcs, and angles. She is aggressive, sleek, ultra-modern, yet at the same time utterly distinctive. Will that Z-shape superstructure molding, like a three-dimensional mark of Zorro, become the new Baia signature?

Even more than its bold approach to styling, Baia has a reputation as a builder of no-compromise, high-performance sportboats. The shipyard pioneered the use of Arneson drives in Europe. Indeed, sales manager Mario Borselli was taught to use them by the inventor, Howard Arneson himself. While the rest of the industry in Europe was looking suspiciously at this specialized American hardware, with its jagged propellers and bizarre, ball-jointed shafts, Baia was demonstrating that surface drives were not just a fringe technology for the leisure sector, but a practical propulsion alternative—one with exponential advantages in performance and efficiency.

In spite of its radical new looks, the Italia 70 is every inch a Baia when it comes to power and performance. The hull and deck are molded in Aramat, a tough, weight-saving Kevlar-glass hybrid. Fitted with two Caterpillar C32s rated at 1,800 hp each, the 70 nearly achieved 58 mph during our sea trial off Cannes, France, giving a firm ride in a two- to three-foot chop with more than three tons of fuel and water onboard. (Baia claims to have seen 60 mph in more favorable conditions.) Once on plane, her straight-line acceleration was nothing short of phenomenal, zipping between 23 mph and 46 mph in 15 seconds.

The trim tabs are large and effective—you can even use them to change course without touching the wheel. On this first boat, which had shown a tendency in trials to porpoise, both tabs were oversized and had been set with a permanent bow-down offset of 1 degree—which perhaps contributed to the bow's slight tendency to dig in during turns.

Of course most surface-drive boats benefit from careful trim adjustments to both drives and tabs during acceleration. But on the Baia, after accelerating through 34.5 mph or so, it is important to get the tabs up again before attempting any maneuvers—as I discovered in a starboard turn at around 40 mph, when the stern spun out suddenly and with such force that one of the satcom domes broke free of its mounting.

Needless to say, this did not make me popular with the 70's captain. It was the day before the Cannes boat show—not the best time to start thinking about making repairs. But Baia has conceded that perhaps the 29.5"x23.6" longitudinal tabs are too big, and Borselli told me that they are to be replaced by smaller ones, which should prevent any repeat of that situation. In the meantime, I'm not exactly holding my breath for a Christmas card this year.

Fortunately, no one would have suspected anything when the show opened the following morning. The 70 was in pride of place among the Baia moorings, her dangling dome repaired and the focus of much admiration. The yacht's high-quality interior was designed by Carlo Galeazzi, and apart from its bold use of an unusually pale and deeply grained wenge hardwood, along with expansive panels of moabe veneer, it is particularly noticeable for having a two-berth crew cabin as part of the main accommodation. This is found to port, on the same side as the small galley, with access from the central lobby—although if you really insist, the shipyard can fit an access hatch from the main deck. It hardly seems worth it—as Baia's marketing director Roy Capasso remarked, "On a boat this size, the captain is your friend."

The two guest cabins, each with en suite heads, are well lit by generous side windows and deck hatches, with plenty of breathing space and headroom throughout of at least 6'4". The forepeak VIP is not especially large, but with a big hanging locker on each side as well as under-berth stowage, it makes practical use of the available space. The head is rather impeded by the radius of the opening door, but it's probably better this way than having the door opening out into the corridor. A twin cabin is on the starboard side, with en suite head access.

The layout of the master cabin is particularly successful, with a diagonally offset double berth and useful quantities of stowage space—under the berth, in drawers in the small sideboard, and in the large hanging locker to starboard. Much of the volume on the port side has been necessarily sacrificed to the crew cabin, but Galeazzi has made a clever feature out of this diagonal bulkhead, using it to lead the eye towards the dressing table, which is set up high in its own little alcove. The owner's head is also a good size—although anything left on the shelves in the shower compartment seems destined to get wet.

Unusual for a vessel of this size, the soles in the forward accommodation areas are all on one level. There aren't even any thresholds to trip over in the doorways. The same luxurious big-boat feature is also found on the main deck, which is on a single level all the way from the stern to the helm station. This is displayed to particular advantage by the layout, with its long, unimpeded central walkway, and by the amazing Plexiglas cockpit bulkhead, which is hinged along its upper edge and disappears into the hardtop. Opened up, the entire main-deck area becomes one daytime living space, with a sliding sunroof as well as opening side windows to keep everyone cool. There is a big hi-lo TV to port—you can watch it in either position—and with the three folding fabric stools deployed, the dining table seats six in comfort.

Farther aft, the cockpit opens out towards the transom, the sofas curving away on each side to accentuate the uninterrupted expanse of floor. The cockpit table can be lowered to turn the aft sofa into a sunlounging area. The way the seat back provides support on three sides makes this especially versatile and comfortable. In the stern the center section of the transom and swim platform lifts up in one piece to reveal the tender garage, which is big enough for an 11-foot Zodiac jetRIB.

Clever design touches are a particular feature of the 70. There are the side table lamps, with hi-fi speakers built in. On the foredeck an innocuous-looking hatch opens up to reveal a pair of speakers and an iPod docking station. The decked walkway around the front of the windscreen is practical as well as distinctive. Teak grill side tables in the cockpit add a touch of superyacht style, while the bespoke, angular deck hardware emphasizes individuality.

And perhaps that is the point: How better to express your individuality than aboard a 40-ton, 50-knot rocketship?

For more information on Baia Yachts, including contact information, click here.

What could be neater than this foldaway iPod locker on the 70's foredeck? It comes complete with a pair of waterproof speakers and a power supply, and because it sits at the aft end of the sunpad, right on the centerline, both sun-worshippers up here will be able to enjoy the music. But while everything is buttoned up nice and tight when the locker is closed and latched, your iPod will be exposed to the elements when the locker is open. So definitely don't try to listen to it underway—especially at the Italia's top speed of just under 50 knots—for while the 70 is a dry boat, you'll still probably eventually end up with one rusted-out iPod.

Is this the neatest feature on the Baia Italia 70, or does the nod go to that sexy curved cockpit-saloon bulkhead that disappears slowly into the cockpit overhang at the touch of a button? Now that's a tough call.—A.H.

This article originally appeared in the December 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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