Photography by Jim Raycroft
Local Customs And Global Style
Sanlorenzo introduces the SL78, a flying bridge cruiser with the panache of her larger siblings and a surprise or two of her own.
It may seem slightly disingenuous to describe anything costing $5 million as entry-level, but if you want to get on the Sanlorenzo ladder, the brand-new SL78, unveiled at the Cannes boat show last fall, represents the first rung. Of course, being able to afford even a budget Sanlorenzo model brings certain perks that are generally denied to lesser mortals. With her sleek yet classic exterior styling, excellent engineering and a designer interior tailored to your tastes, the SL78 is nothing if not a thoroughbred Italian motoryacht.
Two powerful V-10 engine options are available for the SL78, both from MTU; the test boat had the more powerful 1,622-horsepower engines. With CNC fin stabilizers set to auto mode, the yacht accelerated briskly to just over 28 knots on a calm sea, turning easily with hardly any heel, and proved relaxed and comfortable at a range of fast cruising speeds from 20 knots all the way up. Our sea trial was a welcome, breezy, late afternoon foray far from the stifling heat of the show docks, and I wasn’t too surprised to find, on doing a quick head-count, that we had 14 people on board. Very few of them seemed to have anything especially pressing to do except enjoy the ride.
More surprising was the fact that the yacht also had a tender on board, a full-size Williams 385 weighing in at something like 800 pounds. My surprise stemmed from the fact that the presence of such a bulky object stowed far aft seemed to have so little effect on the yacht’s performance. I was also amazed that the tender was there at all. Not too many 78-foot flying bridge boats have a garage that can accommodate a tender of this size: 12 feet, 6 inches. And that’s a selling point of which Sanlorenzo is justly proud. The RIB stows athwartships and completely fills the stern, emerging on a wheeled cradle that is then lowered into the water on the hydraulic platform, which, with its 1,200-pound lift capacity, could also accommodate a personal watercraft. One drawback: The transom steps have to be raised to let the tender in and out, which struck me as less than ideal from a safety point of view, although it all seemed to function very well.
There are three lower-deck layouts available for the SL78 featuring three or four cabins, with consequent variations in the size of the generous midships master suite. The show boat’s four-cabin layout was fairly conventional, with a pair of twin-berth guest cabins, one to port, the other to starboard. Opting for a smaller fourth cabin on the starboard side allows the VIP suite’s head to be moved, which, in turn, creates more space for the crew. Because the SL78’s stern is chock-full of tender, the crew’s quarters share the bows with the VIP suite in all three layouts.
Dialing in a model for the American market is nothing new, to be sure, but there are a few ways Hull No. 2 of the Sanlorenzo SL78 differs from its European-specific forebear. As mentioned, the open floor plan puts the galley in plain sight, rather than hiding the crew away as on the European model. Another difference: The furniture arrangement on the flying bridge is more to the American taste. Some modifications go unseen, including amped-up genset capacity and air-conditioning power. And perhaps most specific of all for the American market is a mast that folds down to reduce the air draft, so that this boat is ready to transit the channel to pass safely beneath the Sag Harbor Bridge on New York’s Long Island.
The idea comes from the Sanlorenzo SL86, where it seems to work successfully. But that boat is significantly longer and a full 2 feet wider than the SL78. As a result, the SL78’s forward suite seems small for a VIP—the bed is just 6 feet 2 inches long. Great as it is, that tender garage comes with some compromises.
Individual owners will decide for themselves whether the benefit of being able to carry a substantial RIB in a garage outweighs these shortcomings, if that’s what they are. Sanlorenzo’s people were certainly in no doubt. “The key is the big garage,” explained Andrea Mottino, VP of sales and marketing, “which enables the flybridge to be clear of cranes and tenders. All the compromises relate to this feature. If someone says, ‘My VIP cabin is bigger than yours,’ then the SL78 owner can reply, ‘But have you got a garage?’ It is unique in this size of yacht.” Almost unique, anyway—a short way down the docks in Cannes, Canados used the same show to launch its new Oceanic 76 (“One Step in the Right Direction,” March, 2017), a vessel of quite different concept than the Sanlorenzo but similar in overall size, and with an equally capable garage.
Along with three variations on the lower-deck layout, the main deck offers significant choices, too. Few owners, I imagine, would choose to be without the most dramatic design feature: the flybridge companionway on the starboard side of the saloon. Its floating treads are contained between transparent glass panels that are virtually invisible and thus barely obstruct the view through those big saloon windows, and yet it’s entirely practical. It is a tour de force.
The Sanlorenzo SL78 at the Cannes show, which was Hull No. 1, also had the enclosed galley and separate wheelhouse that the shipyard feels will appeal to European owners as it hides the crew away and provides a more formal ambience. It was functional enough, but felt a bit cramped. Far more successful is the layout designed for American buyers, which does away with these bulkheads and creates a pleasant and sociable area out of the open-plan forward section beneath the windshield. The galley communicates with the breakfast dinette as well as the small helm station on the starboard side, while access to the forward companionway is straight along to port, instead of winding tortuously through the helm area.
The good news for international customers is that you don’t have to apply for U.S. citizenship to qualify for this more democratic and practical layout—Sanlorenzo has always had an enlightened attitude towards customization. The show boat was beautifully fitted out in an appealing if minimalist scheme of gray and off-white tones, with contrasting textures of matte and high gloss, and luxurious fabrics by Ivano Redaelli. But this interior, it was explained, is merely an example of what the shipyard can do. Owners can start with a clean sheet, since Sanlorenzo builds custom yachts—as Hull No. 2, destined for the U.S., elegantly demonstrates in its décor and alternative main-deck design.
Most of those on board during our sea trial seemed to gravitate to the flying bridge—attracted, no doubt, by the appeal of that dramatic companionway, and then held captive, perhaps, by the restorative powers of the cooling breeze. It was the hottest Cannes boat show that most of us could remember.
With a dozen or so people roaming around up there, sampling the sunlounges, chatting across the huge teak table, or trying out the ingenious sunroof mechanism, the sheer size of the flying bridge, free from the clutter of cranes and boats, was indelibly underlined. That tender garage might involve compromise, but as Sanlorenzo has always been at pains to point out, ultimately it’s your choice.
Noteworthy Options: Hardtop with opening roof; zero-speed fin stabilizers; teak sole on flying bridge; electric stern thruster.
Generator: 2/21.5-kW Onan, Warranty: One year
Conditions During Boat Test
Air temperature: 81°F; humidity: 60%; winds: light and variable; seas: 2-3'.
Test Boat Specifications
- Test Engine: 2/1,622-hp MTU 10V 2000 M94s
- Transmission/Ratio: ZF BW 2050V, 2.467:1 gear ratio
- Props: 37 x 46, NiBrAl
This article originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.