Tradition — By Richard Thiel —
|The first Benetti Tradition was designed to please one of the world’s most demanding CEOs.|
They say you can tell a lot about a man by looking at his yacht. If that’s true, then the first Benetti Tradition should have been a high-speed tugboat. For this 30-meter (99-foot), semidisplacement composite creation is the property of none other than Paolo Vitelli, president and CEO of Azimut-Benetti, a man who is considered, even by his competitors, to work harder, longer, and with more intensity than just about anyone in the business.
It was Vitelli who, barely out of university, started Azimut from scratch in 1969 and who enjoyed a degree of success that allowed him to purchase the famed Fratelli Benetti shipyard in Viareggio, Italy, in 1985. It is Vitelli who today ultimately oversees both concerns, plus the recently acquired Gobbi yard and serves as president of UCINA, the Italian boatbuilding organization. And it is Vitelli who is ultimately responsible for the newest Benetti.
Despite his personality, Vitelli’s yacht is hardly a workboat. She’s an elegant, finely fitted trideck motoryacht that can accommodate her owners, eight guests, and five crew. Yet she is also the smallest Benetti. The yard still builds the fully custom, steel-hull-and-aluminum-superstructure creations that made it famous (it has 43 launches under Vitelli’s stewardship), these typically starting at around 50 meters (155 feet). But five years ago Vitelli saw the need for smaller yachts that would be less costly and, equally important, could be built in less time. (He once revealed to me that often it’s not the cost of a steel Benetti that stops a buyer in his or her tracks, but the minimum two-year build time.)
In response, Benetti introduced three lines of composite yachts: the 45-meter (145-foot) Vision, the 35-meter (115-foot) Classic, and the Tradition, which debuted last fall. Because all are laid up in molds, they can be constructed in about half the time of an all-metal vessel, which must be painstakingly cut, welded, and faired. And because they are semicustom, it’s practical for Benetti to begin construction—and indeed carry it along to a fair degree of completion—without waiting for actual buyers, while still allowing them the opportunity to make modifications to suit their tastes.
In this particular Tradition, Vitelli’s personality comes through not so much in the exterior style or plan—although, as is his nature, he was involved in both—but rather in the selection of wood, marble, fabrics, and artwork, the latter of which wasn’t in place when these pictures were taken. To those who know him, it is not at all surprising to discover that the interior of Hull No. 1 is, well, traditional. Showcasing once again for Azimut-Benetti the work of François Zuretti, it’s an amalgam of dark, rich mahogany with comparatively dark fabrics (i.e., dark blue saloon carpet), white Carrara marble, and three different shades of onyx. The exterior, the work of another Azimut-Benetti veteran, Stefano Righini, is equally conservative. This is the way yachts used to look and the way traditionalists like Vitelli believe they still should.
When Vitelli laid out his vision (no pun intended) for the four-stateroom Tradition, he told Zuretti and Righini that he wanted a yacht that, although smaller than the five-stateroom Classic, nevertheless felt big to her owner and the guests. That’s certainly the impression I got when I stepped into the owner’s stateroom on the main deck, all the way forward. Access is to port, just forward of the entrance foyer and day head. I first walked into a separate dressing area from which I could turn left and pass through a large walk-in closet into the master bath, which has a large corner tub, double sinks, and, in a separate compartment, a bidet and toilet. Or I could have proceeded straight into the large (but not full-beam) bedroom area, surrounded on three sides (forward, port, and starboard) by windows that offer superb views and plenty of light.
Next page > Part 2: The Tradition bristles with features seen before on Benettis and Azimuts. > Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
This article originally appeared in the January 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.