The Tradition Continues
Bennetti taps its fully custom experience to fulfill the requirements of an avid adventurer.
If you place an order for a semi-custom yacht from a shipyard that’s known for full-custom builds, you can be pretty confident you’ll get what you want. The owner of this new Benetti 108 Tradition Supreme knew what he wanted, and he knew who he wanted to build it for him. Even though Benetti practically invented the modern semi-custom motor-yacht concept—made with fiberglass construction, limited propulsion options, and a variety of layout and décor combinations—there seems to be something in the yard’s DNA that won’t let them say no.
Ever since the Classic 115 was introduced back in the late ’90s, Benetti has been showing that you can have a personalized superyacht built without having to wait three years, or pay a million dollars a meter for it. The Classic design proved so popular that it was soon joined by others in an ever-increasing range of sizes, and the latest incarnation of the successful Tradition line, which began at 100 feet and has grown to 108, exemplifies the yard’s approach. Her profile is distinctive rather than radical, with a carbon-fiber radar arch and hardtop, and a fully extended sun deck which not only adds more relaxation space but also shelters the upper deck more effectively.
The 108 is the first in the Tradition Supreme series, and it was built for an experienced owner moving up from a 100-foot Benetti Tradition whose ideas didn’t stop at the color of the throw pillows.
Typically, he is also an owner-operator. He cruises with his family, and they do hire crew, but not a full complement, being qualified and capable of taking on most tasks themselves. While the Tradition’s exterior styling comes unmistakably from the Stefano Righini studio, the interior of this first 108 was designed by the shipyard under the owner’s direction, with mosaic tiling in the showers contrasting with pale striped marble, for example, and dominant, heavy-grained limed oak on the bulkheads offset by areas of darker veneers, and brightened by colorful fabrics. Cutaway bulwarks, meanwhile, match the main deck’s window shapes, to maximize both the daylight and the spectacular views from the saloon and owner’s suite. Longitudinal overhead lighting is a theme found throughout the main deck. There is a Turkish bath upstairs, and with no formal dining table—making the saloon seem vast—most meals will be taken while enjoying the views from the upper deck, served from the galley via a dumbwaiter.
Apart from the owner’s changes to the saloon, the yacht is built according to Benetti’s standard layout, with four en suite guest staterooms below in addition to a palatial owner’s suite on the main deck. There are also six crew berths forward, in three cabins. The full, rounded sections of the displacement hull help give the interior spaces pleasingly comfortable proportions, along with plenty of useful stowage in the sleeping areas, full-size beds, and a minimum of 6 feet 4 inches of headroom throughout. Displacement yachts are of course less weight-critical than their faster counterparts, and the 108’s interior fit-out has a reassuringly solid feel.
The owner’s ideas for the Tradition Supreme’s accommodations must have kept the shipyard’s interior designers pretty busy, but their task pales into insignificance compared to what the engineers were asked to do down in the engine room. This is no ordinary yacht to start with, the complex machinery installation on this first Tradition 108 sets her even further apart. Benetti describes the vessel as a hybrid, although not the type with vast battery capacity and a temporary “zero-emissions” mode. In one sense this 108 is a traditional, displacement yacht with a traditional twin-diesel powerplant, but look more closely and you’ll also see a diesel-electric propulsion system: two electric motors powered by two diesel generators.
With its low-drag, round-bilge underwater shape, the Benetti 108 is a yacht that would suit a diesel-electric system as its sole mode of propulsion. But the advantages of fitting both diesel and diesel-electric powertrains are not immediately obvious. Extraordinarily complicated and expensive, this is a yacht with two 16-liter MAN V-8 diesels, two 80-kilowatt generators powered by 4.5-liter John Deere diesels, and two 35-kilowatt electric motors, plus gearboxes capable of dealing with both power sources.
So it was an interesting sea trial. Our own quick check on fuel consumption under electric power, with a boatload of people aboard and probably every light and television on, gave us figures of 10.57 gph at a maximum speed of 5.5 knots. This did not compare particularly well with the main engines at the same speed. Benetti’s own data is more scientific than ours perhaps, with careful note taken of domestic as well as propulsion demand for electrical power, but it still suggests a fuel consumption of 8.4 gph in “daytime” mode and 7.1 gph in “night” mode, at six knots. Again, that is no better than the MANs—although as Benetti points out, the MANs wouldn’t be happy to run that slowly for extended periods of time.
The true advantage of this 108’s diesel-electric system is not the fuel economy, as it turns out, but the silence—although even under conventional power, the yacht proved to be remarkably quiet. At 14 knots on the main engines we could not only hear the air conditioner in the wheelhouse, but also the low hum of a battery charger buried in one of the lockers. Having switched those off we recorded a remarkably low 58 decibels in the wheelhouse. But then we switched off the MANs and transferred to electric power, and the sound meter’s needle dropped to a barely-registrable 47 decibels. A good rain is louder than that. On a walk-through of the living areas, on both the main and lower decks, the needle never flicked above 50 decibels.
The owner and his family had a relaxed first cruise on their new yacht, breaking it in gently. They spent their first season in Sardinia, and plan to head east this summer, making for the classical cruising grounds of Greece and Turkey. After that, things look set to get even more adventurous, with some ambitious passages in the cards, including a voyage around to northern Europe.
“Hybrid propulsion allows for completely silent sailing, whenever there’s the need to travel without haste—lengthy deliveries, relaxed coastwise cruising where you want to enjoy the panorama, night-time sailing,” the owner explained.
Using the yacht in electric mode, particularly at night under the stars, promises the sort of unforgettable passagemaking experience hitherto only possible on a sailboat, whispering along on a zephyr. It’s quite extraordinary. And it’s exactly what the owner wanted.
Brokerage Listings Powered by BoatQuest.com
Click to see listings of Benetti Yachts currently for sale on BoatQuest.com.
Electric Power: 2/80-kW Kilo-Pak gensets and 2/35-kW electric motors, Stabilizers: CMC electric zero-speed fins, Classification: C HULL • MACH “Y” LY2
Conditions During Boat Test
Air temperature: 73°F; humidity: 48%; seas: 1'; wind: 5-7 knots
Load During Boat Test
6,340 gal. fuel; 925 gal. water; 20+ persons.
Test Boat Specifications
- Props: 49 x 47 5-blade
This article originally appeared in the June 2015 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.