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Azimut 64 Flybridge

High Flyer

This 64-foot Italian Import offers owners a blend of speed, grace, and class.

Set firmly at the midpoint of its flying-bridge range, Azimut’s new 64 bears the hopes of an entire shipyard on its elegant shoulders. This yacht was launched at last fall’s European boat shows and is a crucial component of the Italian boatbuilding giant’s balance sheet. She follows the well-regarded 62—some 200 examples were constructed in nine years—and while it may be true that some of those years were the best and busiest in the history of yacht construction, few rival designs can claim such success. To justify the faith of her creators, not to mention their investment, this new model needs to perform—in more ways than one.

Sticking with the reliably innovative design partnership of Carlo Galeazzi for the interiors and Stefano Righini’s sleek, ground-breaking exterior styling is perhaps less a sign of Azimut’s conservatism than of its confidence. These two designers have, after all, been responsible for some of the most influential motoryachts of recent years, many of them created for Azimut or its sister company Benetti. It is a partnership with an impressive back catalogue of boats that work well and look good, straight-out-of-the-box. These yachts are full of eye-catching details and clever ideas that cause rival designers to reach for their camera phones but which are ultimately safe, sensible, and useable designs intended for long production runs.

The 64 is a three-cabin boat with an amidships master suite, forward VIP, and a twin-berth guest cabin on the starboard side with its own access to the day head. The master gets the lion’s share of space below decks, but once below it’s difficult to complain: it is a superb cabin with its own breakfast dinette and walk-in wardrobe, and a spacious head and shower. Both double beds are 6'7" long by 5'4" at their widest. The twin berths in the guest cabin are a generous 30" across. There is excellent stowage under the double mattresses, which lift up and are supported by gas struts. Headroom over most of the downstairs area is 6'4" but slightly less in the twin cabin.

A big, open, bar-style galley sets a sociable tone on the main deck. Its extendable amidships dining table’s forward seat can be electrically adjusted to serve either the table or the helm, saving a significant amount of space. In a typically thoughtful detail, the long bar top on the galley only covers half the width of the cooking range. When folded down it is plenty wide enough to do its job, and it remains unobtrusive when hinged up during cooking.

Five discrete air-conditioning zones in the interior give guests maximum control over their own comfort, and the windows at both helm and galley open electrically for cool fresh air. Down in the saloon seating area there is the optional sofabed on the port side, and you can also have a two-seat sofa to starboard in place of the sideboard.

There are a variety of interior finishes to choose from though this first boat’s characteristically cool and high-contrast Galeazzi scheme of limed-oak, dark-brown lacquer, and pale leather and linings looked the part to me. In customary Azimut style, the fit and finish throughout are well up to the yard’s high standards.

The two crew berths in the stern—or just one if you specify the Seakeeper gyro stabilizer system—are reached through the transom door. The tender can either be stowed on the standard hydraulic platform or on the flying bridge, where a crane can be installed. Placing the tender up top wouldn’t detract much from the large and well-designed flying bridge, with its flexible layout of sunpads, seating, and single helm seat on the port side.

She’s a well-thought out cruising machine, designed to cosset the cruising family in considerable style. But how does the Azimut 64 perform? We don’t yet know if the yacht’s trajectory on the sales department’s graph will push her into the same stratosphere of her predecessor—although at the Cannes boat show the reception accorded to this fine-looking craft, with her streamlined superstructure and pale blue, resin-infused hull, seemed pretty positive—but out on the water the new 64 is a rocket ship.

Just the one engine option is available—twin 1,150-mhp Caterpillar C18s—and the engineers have matched the hull geometry, weight distribution, and horsepower with notable success. Not only is the yacht remarkably well balanced underway, and pretty damn quick, but the marriage of the Cats’ considerable torque to a pair of perfectly pitched propellers produce a boat with quite extraordinary acceleration and poise, right through the rev range. I tend to introduce the acceleration tests a little sheepishly on boats of this size and type because while it’s interesting to know how quick a yacht is off the blocks, that’s hardly the point of a 30-ton family cruiser. But the shipyard crews usually go along with the idea graciously enough and are always pleased when their boat performs well.

On the Azimut 64 we had to do the two-way run several times to check and re-check the numbers. They just didn’t seem right. I thought my stopwatch technique was off. In a class of vessel where anything under 20 seconds from a standing start to 20 knots is generally reckoned to be fine, repeated measurements showed the 64 Flybridge blasting through that speed in half the time reaching 30 knots in 16 seconds.

Empirical evidence alone ought to have been enough to confirm this boat was something special. Not only was she quick out of the hole, but just pushing the throttles forward from 2000 rpm toward WOT was enough to make anyone standing up take an involuntary step backwards. That just doesn’t happen on boats of this size.

The real-world effect of such performance is that the 64 offers a rewarding helm experience, with instant throttle response at all speeds and crisp handling. And such muscular reserves of torque give the hull an assured willingness at sea that will not only pay off when hauling up the back of a big swell but in flat, long-distance cruise conditions too, when the 64 will stay on plane with minimal trim as low as 1300 rpm. That means efficiency and, with generous fuel capacity, extended range.

It would seem that Azimut got this half of the equation right—its new 64 certainly performs at sea. And with the level of onboard comfort she offers, from the superb master suite to the quality interior design and thoughtful detailing, she is equally accomplished in port. Whether the 64 will also perform in the showroom, and on that sales graph, it’s too early to say—but Azimut can probably afford to be quietly confident that it has another winner on its hands.

Azimut

This article originally appeared in the April 2011 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.