The Wider 32 is a high-end little vessel for serious boaters. And though she may look unorthodox at first, there’s a method to her madness.
It sounds like a Robert Ludlum thriller, but the Hockney Conundrum is that uneasy sense I sometimes feel when looking at a painting by the legendary British artist: a sense that it doesn’t seem quite right. Is it really as good as people say? Did he mean it to look like that? So I turn for reassurance to the pencil drawings, where his draftsmanship makes it crystal clear that yes, he knows exactly what he’s doing. He did mean it. David Hockney is a genius, and if I don’t always quite get the paintings, maybe I just need to give them more time.
So, let’s take a minute. Here we have the Wider 32, a new Italian boat launched last fall at the Cannes boat show. Her appearance, I agree, does stray slightly beyond quirky and into the realm of the bizarre. But beneath the skin this is a surprisingly orthodox weekender, and the reason you need to give it a closer look is that it’s the brainchild of Tilli Antonelli, who was the founder of Pershing Yachts. Mr. Antonelli is another man who knows exactly what he is doing.
You might remember the Wider 42 that splashed in 2011 (see “All Eyes on Me,” June 2013), the first project to emerge from Antonelli’s post-Pershing venture, whose looks seemed outlandish even before the hydraulic gunwales slid outwards to double the area of the cockpit, while outriggers underneath kept everything on an even keel. The new 32 doesn’t offer quite that level of attention-seeking, but it’s still an intricately designed machine featuring a multitude of clever ideas, from an adjustable bimini and reversible helm seats to a concealed cooktop in the cabin, and hinged coamings at the stern to make it easier to board from the side.
Appearances can be deceptive, and the more time you spend aboard the Wider 32 the more she shows herself to be less bizarre than practical, and not so much quirky as capable. In fact it turns out that Fulvio di Simoni’s design is an essay in the pure principle of form following function: Although this might be a boat that thinks it’s a cruiser, with all the space and gear necessary to provide an adventurous couple with many a fun weekend, her primary function is as a tender, and her unusual looks reflect that.
The ax bow is obviously something of a fashion statement, but it’s more than that, maximizing the 32’s internal volume and waterline while keeping the boat compact. The anchor locker is concealed within the stem, superyacht-style, and the oddly retro profile, strangely reminiscent of a 1940s Chrysler Newport, has low-level windows and a folding windscreen to keep the height below 7 feet. Even so, you would need quite the mothership to have space for a 5-ton 32-footer, but it’s fair to say that the proposed Wider 165, a 164-foot aluminum yacht with diesel-electric propulsion and a flooding dock in the stern, fits that description.
To make sure the tender matches the main yacht, the 32 is available in numerous exterior color schemes, and with any number of more detailed combinations, including cockpit upholstery, trim, and the color of the window tint. There is no doubt she would make a terrific tender. However, the 32 is likely to find herself more in demand as a compact cruising weekender, for the very simple reason that it seems born to the role. It’s not so much your superyacht tender, more your own personal superyacht.
The cockpit is a versatile space, with cushions that can quickly convert the entire area into a large sunbed, while the seatbacks of the aft bench slide down and away. De Simoni has also squeezed stowage solutions into every available corner. The bimini folds back when not required and disappears into the void under the rear seats, while all the other cockpit seats also have lockers beneath. Additional bespoke lockers accommodate not only a life raft—a roll-up tender might be more useful for cruising—but also a full-size cockpit table and a full-length swimming ladder, while there is also a huge central locker under the cockpit sole which is big enough for heavy and unwieldy stuff like scuba gear.
Similar practical ingenuity can also be found down in the cabin, where the starboard cabinet conceals a microwave, a sink, and the electric cooktop powered by a 600-watt inverter, should you choose not to take up the generator option—plus a big locker, while over to port there is a useful-sized top-access fridge. At bedtime, the settee backrests can be lifted out of the way and stowed against the hull sides, while telescopic steel supports slide out under hinged extensions to create full berths. The head (and shower compartment) are forward, within the width of the boat’s “wide” bow making it feel as spacious as a guest head on any 40-footer.
The 32’s standard engine package is a pair of Mercury diesels, and not just any diesels but the new Volkswagen-based V6 TDIs—lightweight, efficient, silky-smooth, and better in all departments than their comparatively old-tech QSD predecessors. The Wider’s deep-V hull design proved well matched to the powerplant, accelerating instantly, planing easily, and providing the sort of precise, foolproof driving experience that makes everyone feel like Don Aronow.
For a boat this size the 38 knots we recorded felt pretty fast, but the 32 never seemed for a moment like she might bend herself out of shape. On a beautiful, calm day we simulated chop with bigger boats’ wakes, which there are always plenty of off Cannes. The 32 turned in a flawless performance, her acute deadrise slicing as efficiently as a celebrity chef and that fine entry doing a remarkable job of keeping the spray where it belongs. We didn’t get a drop on deck.
For all the Wider 32’s appeal as a compact cruiser, I doubt she will find a role as an entry-level boat. Her buyers are more likely to be experienced owners wanting to downsize, and are prepared to pay handsomely for the right kind of capable, well-thought-out, quality craft. After all, it’s not just her profile but also her price that will remind you that this is a boat conceived for the rarefied world of superyachting. She’s certainly not for everyone—she’s way too unconventional-looking for that—but if you don’t quite get her yet, maybe you just need to give her a little more time.
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NOTEWORTHY OPTIONS: Hull and trim paint; 2.8-kW Mase genset w/ starting battery; 6,000-BTU A/C; 7" touchscreen monitor; microwave oven; bow thruster; teak decking; bimini; antifouling. Prices upon request.
Conditions During Boat Test
Air temperature: 73°F; sea temperature: 73°F; humidity: 48%; air pressure: 1022 mb; seas: 1'; wind: 5-7 knots
Load During Boat Test
53 gal. fuel, 0 gal. water, 4 persons, 100 lb. gear.
This article originally appeared in the September 2015 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.