Something Wild Page 2
Wally Yachts’ Wallypower
118 — By Alan Harper —
|Part 2: I found the speed readings on the GPS unreal: 54.4 knots on our best run.|
With such complexity down below, you might imagine that the Wallypower is an intimidating technological challenge for the helmsman. Admittedly Bassani did not let journalists take the wheel during the demonstration at the Monaco Yacht Show (“It’s a bit tricky,” he said with a charming smile), but he made it look easy. Both turbines and diesels are electronically controlled, and simple “clutch in” and “clutch out” buttons take care of gearbox transfer from one to the other. The same control units also operate the waterjets. In fact the helm station looks almost conventional—until you notice the separate engineer’s console on the port side dedicated to the turbines.
There is a two-minute, computer-controlled startup procedure, and at the Monaco Yacht Show Wally’s technical team had trouble with an air lock in the fuel supply to the center engine. While they worked below trying to persuade the third turbine to light, the yacht sat patiently in the middle of a gray, rain-lashed Monaco harbor. While journalists kicked their heels and poked around, Bassani exhibited the kind of charm and candor that has made him one of the most popular and respected entrepreneurs on the European yachting scene.
Bassani is well known as an exceptional helmsman and passionate sailor. With skilled marketing, ineffably stylish looks, and good sailing qualities, Wally sailboats have carved a niche at the top end of the market. But certain questions needed answers. Why a motoryacht? And why such a complex one?
Bassani met them all with a smile. “I liked the challenge of this project,” he said. Yes, it would have been more practical to build the simpler twin-diesel version first, but that would have been “too easy.” It is not just the look of the Wallypower that is unique. With her fully enclosed wheelhouse and deck saloon, Bassani is aiming her at a wholly different style of life onboard. “This is an open,” he said firmly, “the new type of open. They started it ten years ago,” pointing out the window at a Mangusta 108—also drifting, perhaps also having trouble with its gas turbines. The Mangusta style of hardtop “open” sport cruisers, contends Bassani, while hugely influential during the 1990’s, has had its day.
Even on a day when too much sun would have been a nice problem to have, it was as clear as the sides of the superstructure what he meant: The main deck of the Wallypower is a wonderful living space, protected from sun and wind (and rain) yet affording spectacular views of the sea and sky for guests, owners, and helmsmen alike. This style of enclosed, open-air living could catch on. Bassani is confident that it will.
The engineers reappeared, and a thin whistle announced the startup of the third turbine as we headed out to sea for a speed trial. “With each ton of fuel we use, we gain a knot,” said Bassani, adding that we had full tanks that day. The slight chop in the bay also made it unlikely that she’d set a personal best: Waterjets prefer solid water, and with the hull lifting, they cannot be at their most efficient. Still, when the acceleration came, it was impressive. Below the waterline the hull is a conventional deep V, 22 degrees at the transom, and the 118 sliced through the chop with great panache, slamming only when the waves slapped the huge chine flats—which are deliberately outsized to keep spray out of the giant engine intakes.
Being insulated from the wind, I found the speed readings on the GPS unreal: 54.4 knots on our best run, an extraordinary figure for a boat of this size, and she is capable of more: “Between St. Tropez and Porto Cervo, we averaged 57 knots,” said Bassani with some pride. “That’s 220 miles.” But there was still work to do: Tweaks to the impeller pitch of the waterjets, he said confidently, would produce a little more. She’ll never do the 65 and even 70 knots that were claimed before launch, but 60 looks realistic.
The man who once declared, “I don’t like to follow the market, I like to drive the market,” is also confident that the biggest risk of his career will pay off in the end. The gestation between drawing the plans and drawing the crowds has been long and, at times, arduous. But the Wallypower 118 is more than a weird-looking motoryacht, she’s Luca Bassani’s vision of the future. And it works.
Wally Yachts Phone: (37) 7 93100090. www.wally.com.
This article originally appeared in the January 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.