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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Aicon 72

Truthfully, I was a tad amazed by the formal introduction of Aicon's 72 in Taormina, Sicily. While the big, muscular performance cruiser's exterior was pretty much finished, her interior was only about 90 percent done. Not that I'm a stranger to this sort of thing. I've tested plenty of yachts that were officially a couple days away from completion, mostly because the test had to accommodate a fast and frenetic boat-show preparation schedule. But flying all the way to Europe to view an unfinished model was something new to me.

The boat ride that capped the event was a splendid one, nevertheless. Sea conditions on the deep-blue Mediterranean south of the dramatic rock outcroppings that stud Isola Bella were sporty, with long, six- to eight-foot rollers white-capping down the coast. The sun was out, and the 72 carried the sort of party-hearty cargo she was born and bred for, a contingent of 20 or so convivial passengers, all totally committed to giving their expensive sunglasses a serious workout while enjoying the high seas in what appeared to be the most high-fashioned marine conveyance to hit town in months.

I stood alongside Capt. Francesco Carlo Bonaccorsi during the ride, watching him spin the sport-type wheel at the port-side helm station as he worked the 72 through fast-paced turns and figure eights. It was a spirited performance. Top speed, as measured by the handheld GPS Bonaccorsi had propped on the dashboard, seemed to run something like 40 mph, maybe a tad more. And the smoothness and dryness of the ride was phenomenal—the solid, unflinching directionality we experienced while zooming the straight stretches was reminiscent of the old, comparatively heavy but exceptionally seaworthy and fast high-performance deep-Vs I used to test-drive stateside in the early '90's.

And the turns were a trip—the 72 simply hunkered into them, came 'round quick, and returned to the beeline-mode with the sort of power that has a visceral component to it. And we experienced virtually no side slip, no propeller blowout, and nary a drop of spray on the windshield, even from blasting head seas.

We returned to Taormina not long before the sun dissolved like a giant red Alka-Seltzer tablet into the horizon, a happenstance that allowed me to spend some time onboard looking around. Of course, with the interior being incomplete, I wasn't able to accurately gauge the level of fit and finish. But I was able to check out the intricacies of the layout and examine the engine room.

First the layout. The 72 is designated as an open for an excellent reason. The side windows of the superstructure power down in automobile fashion, a moonroof-type panel overhead retracts hydraulically, and the huge sliding door aft, fabricated in stainless steel and safety glass by Aicon's artisans, opens wide. The result? A long, bulkheadless upper deck (with a teak-planked, wet-bar-equipped BBQ area aft, a dining/lounging/navigating space forward, and a sunken port-side galley in between, with crew's quarters opposite) that can be opened to the wiles of sun and sea. Blonde oak joinery, polished chrome fitments, and the appropriate color-coordinated fabrics bolster the outdoorsy theme.

The more conventional bottom deck is about stretch-out comfort. There's a whopping full-beam master amidships with a double berth and round Nemo ports with hinged opening segments port and starboard, an equally impressive VIP forward (also with a double berth), and a generous guest stateroom to starboard abaft the VIP with two single berths. En suite heads, Techma MSDs, separate shower stalls of Plexiglas with high-end faucets and fixtures, dressing tables, and high-fashion fabrics and wall coverings are the order of the day. As with the upper deck, the arrangement is decidedly linear, with a hallway on centerline.

By contrast, the engine room seemed jam-packed with machinery, a condition partly due to the intrusion of the garage for the tender from overhead and partly attributable to the fact that to achieve high speeds with a heavy vessel, plenty of oomph is called for: a set of V-drive-configured, 1,550-hp Caterpillar C30s. Accessing the area abaft the engines, which is chocka block with soundshielded gensets, batteries, fuel-water separators, and other paraphernalia, didn't look to me like it was going to be easy.

A couple of days after the formal introduction, I had a chance to do a wringout. And while I was able to record all the normal test data, a hydraulic failure just before I was to take the wheel precluded me actually test driving the boat.

I can vouch for the 72's close-quarters maneuvering prowess, however, as well as the boat-handling prowess of Capt. Bonaccorsi. He delicately backed our test boat through an incredibly tight and serpentine little channel, with yachts on either side and docked alongside, with another vessel's bow pulpit hanging a good three feet over our transom. Nothing boosts docksmanship like a bow thruster and a stern thruster.

So what's my take on Aicon's outdoorsy new performance cruiser? Although, in my book, the construction of the 72 is robust enough to qualify for a unique status among her peers and her on-the-water capabilities seemed impressive, I'm waiting to take a look at a completed model stateside before passing final judgement on fit and finish. But judging from what I saw at the factory (see "Rock Solid," this story), I am expecting to be impressed.

Aicon Yachts

This article originally appeared in the November 2005 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.