68S — By Alan Harper —
It’s Hip to be Square
Azimut re-enters the express market with a strikingly different 68-footer.
Okay, let’s talk about those windows first—the square ones in the topsides. They’re real, and they work: You can actually see out of them. They’re clever, too, because while the area of each panel is relatively small, arranging them in a tight three-by-three rectangle actually fools the eye into seeing them as one big picture window with a view. They make quite an impression. Looking out from the owner’s amidships stateroom, you feel you’re part of the seascape.
They also create an utterly distinctive external signature for the Azimut 68S, and for this builder that was almost more important than giving the owner a nice view. Azimut, after all, doesn’t want you to forget that it was the one to come up with the idea of topside windows in the first place, in its 68 Plus flying-bridge cruiser a few years ago. Far from being flattered that virtually every other boatbuilder in the world now has its own variation on this excellent theme, the Italian yard is actually rather miffed at being copied. So the square windows in the 68S are a challenge: Copy these, if you dare.
Of course, this may not be the most tactful moment to consider the design relationship between those flat, eye-shape wheelhouse side windows and the curved windshield (a stylistic theme pioneered by Pershing) or the 68S’s clever electro-hydraulic bathing platform, which slides down into the water (like the Sealine S48’s), or even the circular “beam me up” shower stalls, which are now used by nearly everyone but were originally thought up by Ferretti. Instead, let’s look at some of the other great ideas to be found in this boat. There are lots of them.
Take the sunroof, for example. The 68S may be technically a hardtop, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it, because an enormous area of roof slides away to open up some 65 square feet of sky—an effect that has been achieved by simply dividing the sliding section into folding panels that stack, accordion-style, and tuck in neatly behind that spaceship radar arch.
Then there are the high-tech flourishes that Azimut prides itself on, particularly the maneuvering and mooring technology. Computer-controlled joysticks that interface thrusters with main engines have been around for a few years now, but to find such a system in a boat this size, even as an option, is still a rarity. And that’s not all: There are two acoustic mooring sensors mounted on both the swim platform and the taffrail to cope with different heights of seawall, giving the helmsman an audible proximity warning when mooring stern-to. Then there are the automatic engine room vent flaps in the hull sides that pop open when the revs exceed 1200 rpm for more than 20 seconds. When it comes to gizmos, this boat is loaded.
And in a way, she has to be. This 68S is Azimut’s first new express in more than 20 years. Although a dominant force in flying-bridge motoryachts, the company nevertheless knew it would be regarded as a newcomer in the competitive sport-yacht sector and realized it had to produce something dramatic: a boat that would not only perform and function properly but also command attention.
So there are clever new ideas in the accommodation layout, too, one of which hits you as soon as you step aboard. The galley is down on the lower deck, on the starboard side, but separated from the main companionway and central corridor by a longitudinal bulkhead and open to the sky along much of its length. You could criticize it for size, but it definitely works.
Next page > Part 2: Azimut’s designers were able to start the 68S with a clean sheet of paper. > Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
This article originally appeared in the August 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.