Ferretti 960By Capt. Richard Thiel
The Ferretti 960 is the first new model since the company’s reorganization and reflects both its traditional values and a refreshing new attitude.
Back in the boom days, the introduction of a new boat by the Ferretti Group was a distinctly singular event. A typical press conference began at least a half-hour late and ran at least a half-hour over, and in between there was lots of hype and plenty of splashy video but not always a lot of substantive information about the boat. If you were a marine journalist looking to do a story on the new launch, you usually had to wait until the hoo-ha died down and then try to corner an engineer—if you could find one amidst all the marketing and sales types.
The press conference that the Ferretti Group held in Santa Margherita, Italy, in June to introduce the largest Ferretti ever, the 960, was precisely the opposite. It started on time, and after a short introduction that presented the company’s views on various world markets, it got right to the boat. An hour later, I had amassed six pages of notes that were so comprehensive, I could almost have written a review without having stepped aboard. But I also got a two-hour run down the coast to La Spezia, accompanied by two project managers who made themselves available to answer any questions. It was a journalist’s dream come true.
The contrast is telling because it illustrates how much has changed with this builder. There’s a new attitude, one borne in the cauldron of near financial collapse and then redemption when the Chinese investment giant Weichai Group took a 75-percent stake. Today the Ferretti Group is not only on solid financial ground, it’s smarter, more focused, and all about the business at hand—building boats. The question nagging me as I left the presentation and headed for the boat was whether the 960 would reflect this newfound maturity.
Ferretti engineers certainly started off right by establishing clear design goals for the 960 from the beginning. The most basic one was to create a yacht small enough to be classed by the European Union authority (known as CE) as a pleasure boat, meaning a crew would not be mandated, yet offer features that would allow it to compete with vessels over 100 feet. These include a master stateroom forward on the main deck, four guest cabins of nearly identical size, and expansive outdoor areas both up top and aft that are entirely devoted to relaxation and leisure.
The first step in executing this brief was to begin with a proven hull form, the same one used by the Ferretti 881. Not only did this save time and money, it ensured success, for after some 56 launches, the hull design has proven itself. The vessel measures 78 feet 9 inches from the forward collision bulkhead to the aft engine-room bulkhead; fore and aft of these two points, all is new and stretches to 95 feet 10 inches—yet stays just under the CE limit requiring a crew. The engine room is a bit smaller as the familiar separate engineering room has been eliminated to accommodate a new garage.
And what a garage: The aft door features a series of sunpads, which turn it into a chaise longue with a lovely view of the water. Press a button to open this door, then press another to lower the swim platform to half depth, creating a bathing platform with easy access to the water. Since the platform module includes the aft garage bulkhead, water enters as it lowers, until the garage is partially flooded. Press another button, and the swim platform lowers to full depth and the garage sole/tender cradle tilts sufficiently to allow the tender, a Williams 455 jet RIB on our boat, to float off easily, assisted by a winching system. When the tender has been retrieved and stowed, the swim platform and garage door are back in place, and the vessel gets under way, gravity causes the water to empty automatically via four flapper valves—no pumps required.
When this was explained at the press conference, I was less than thrilled at the thought of water entering an interior compartment of the boat, no matter how well engineered it may be. My fears eased however when it was explained to me that the hull actually stops at the aft engine bulkhead, which is watertight; the garage is an entirely separate, self-contained module. A manual hydraulic pump is included to elevate the swim platform to the sunning position should the primary electrical system fail.
Later, after one of the engineers onboard the 960 put the garage through all of its various paces, I was completely won over. This is the coolest garage and tender system I’ve ever seen on a boat under 100 feet. But then, that’s the whole motivation behind the 960: to include features normally found only on a boat 10 or 15 feet longer.
The garage is clearly the star of this show, but the 960 sports plenty of other appealing, if not so revolutionary, features. At more than 29 feet long, the bridgedeck has proportions that are what you’d expect on a much larger boat. The principal tender stowage is, of course, in the garage, but PWC stowage and an attending davit can be fitted without intruding on the sun-lounge area. Those not so focused on acquiring a tan will opt for a spot at the ten-person sofa, which is shaded by the standard hardtop. A separate service area here includes a standard wet bar and electric grill, while a Jacuzzi tub (not on our test boat) is an option. All the way forward there’s plenty of seating for those who want to keep the captain company at his portside station.
The saloon is just 6½ feet shorter than the bridge and includes a separate forward dining area with an impressive Bonaldo glass-top table (extendable to accommodate 12). This area and indeed the entire saloon are bathed in light thanks to sole-to-overhead windows that also provide lovely water views, especially amidships where the gunwales have been cut down, although not enough to compromise security. The principal saloon furniture consists of facing lounges, creating what Ferretti calls “a lobby area.” While the arrangement certainly invites conviviality, I felt it inhibited traffic flow for those entering from the cockpit. A fully equipped bar resides in the aft port corner, easily accessible from the nearly 15-foot-long cockpit.
The galley is forward, along the port side, and in true big-yacht fashion, is directly connected to the crew’s quarters, which are down and fully forward, so that the owner and guests need not be disturbed during food prep. Besides direct access to the dining area and saloon, the galley also opens onto the port side deck, a convenience for both guests and crew. On the starboard side directly opposite, a companionway provides access first to the pilothouse, and farther forward, to the large master stateroom, which has been acoustically insulated from the galley by a series of multilayer composite bulkheads.
The four guest cabins on the lower deck are accessed from a lobby that is also reached from the starboard side. While virtually identical in size the cabins have two layouts: The two forward offer single berths that can slide together to form doubles, while the two aft offer conventional queen-size beds. Here too, multilayer bulkheads have been employed to reduce transference of sound.
Three variations of the MTU 16V 2000 are offered, with 2,218, 2,435, and 2,638 metric horsepower. Our boat was equipped with the last, which Ferretti expects to be the overwhelming favorite. With nine people and 890 gallons of fuel aboard, I recorded a one-way top speed of 31.7 knots at 2450 rpm, exceeding the builder’s prediction by 0.7 knots. On two more practical notes, 1800 rpm yielded 21.6 knots while burning just under 131 gallons per hour and 2000 rpm produced 25.6 knots with a fuel burn of just over 165 gallons per hour. Sound levels were impressively low: at 2000 rpm, 66 decibels in the pilothouse, 75 decibels in the saloon, and just 66 decibels in the master, thanks in part no doubt to those acoustical bulkheads.
Despite following seas running to 4 feet and occasional squalls, the passage from Santa Margherita to La Spezia provided no real challenge to the 960. Even with swells on the aft starboard quarter the autopilot never had to tax itself, and when it wasn’t raining, the windshield remained dry even as the wind shifted. All in all, a solid performance from a proven hullform.
While fresh and innovative, the 960 retains all of the qualities that have made Ferretti successful, including top-notch engineering, excellent build quality, and admirable performance. And just as the engineers and designers intended, it has the look, feel, and amenities of a much larger boat. As the first product of Ferretti’s new era, the 960 promises good things for the future.
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This article originally appeared in the October 2013 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.