Now under the ownership of the Italian conglomerate Ferretti Group, Luca Bassani and friends have launched a new breed of Wallytender.
It’s been a long time since I tested a boat from Wally. The last one was the Wallypower 118, which even in those far-gone days before the financial crash was seen as a totally outlandish piece of indulgent madness, with its gas turbines, Star Wars styling and minimalist interior design. It attracted a lot of press. Few boats have been as fun to write about. But it took a very long time to sell.
It was, needless to say, a one-off. A lot of diesel has gone under the bridge since then, as Wally’s founder, the charming and urbane Italian Luca Bassani, 63, is happy to admit. After 25 years at the helm, he has just sold his company to the Ferretti Group.
“I have spent all my money,” he chuckles. “Now it’s their turn.” He retains a minority shareholding.
Gallery: Wallytender 48
For all its well-earned headlines, the 118 was something of an outlier for the company, which is not a shipyard in the conventional sense, but a brand, based in Monaco. Aside from eight years building Wallytenders at its own shipyard in Tunisia, the actual boatbuilding has generally been contracted out to a variety of Italian yards. The company made its name with a line of elegant sailboats, fast cruiser-racers that gained serious respect from the sailing crowd and changed the design language of yachting.
Sail might be Bassani’s abiding passion, but he was a very willing convert to power. The first Wallytender appeared in 2001. His own Wallypower 47 was built in 2005 and has cruised some 35,000 nautical miles so far, with just one engine change, between Spain and Italy and all points in between—especially Corsica, which he says is his favorite place on the planet. Some 74 Wallytenders have been built since the concept’s introduction in 2001. The tally of the larger Wallypowers, which were launched in 2002, currently stands at 26—including the sole 118.
The company says seven of the new Wallytender 48s have been sold so far. It is based on the same Patrick Banfield hull design as the earlier 45, with some crucial changes: “It’s longer, wider and optimized for IPS drives,” Bassani explains. The company is well known as a pioneer in the use of carbon boat construction, and the 48 makes fitting use of the wonder material—the helm console and T-top are beautifully finished, with the console’s fiber weave proudly on display. The hull is built in conventional fiberglass.
The latest Wallytender is also the first to be built under new management, at the Ferretti yard in Forlì, where they know a thing or two about building luxury yachts. Bassani is impressed: “It is the best Wally yet for refinement and quality,” he confirms.
Among those refinements are the origami aft deck. Teak-clad bulwarks on both sides fold down aft to create a broad, single-level beach club that incorporates the already large swim platform, with the sunpad at its center. The clever pantograph steps of the extending passerelle can reach up to a high dock wall but also down into the water to create an unusually practical swim ladder.
A hint of reverse sheer has been introduced into the topsides of the Wallytender 48 as a means of increasing the freeboard and creating more internal volume. Two steps in the side decks also betray the fact that the 48 is no walkaround—the raised foredeck, placing the sunpad almost level with the gunwale, conceals a surprisingly spacious cabin, much more impressive than the accommodations of previous Wallytender models. Headroom at the door is a respectable 6 feet, 3 inches, and the head and shower compartment is worthy of the name. The broad double berth measures 6 feet, 5 inches long by 6 feet, 3 inches at its widest, and there is a small bench seat on the port side. The 48’s interior is fitted out in a restful and deceptively simple scheme of teak veneers, dark floors and a light headliner, and uses cleverly placed mirrors to make the best of the available light and space.
A pair of IPS 650s—they’re 480 hp, despite what Volvo Penta’s eccentric nomenclature might lead you to believe—is the standard installation on the 48, and the substantial 5.5-liter straight sixes sit rather aloof in a spacious engine compartment that reveals itself beneath the massive sunpad hatch. Only the housing for the hydraulic passerelle intrudes in an otherwise uncluttered space.
The simple ergonomic qualities of the 48’s rather stylish carbon fiber helm console lent themselves well to the driving experience, with two screens, intelligently placed throttles and joystick, and neatly labeled switches. The wheel and compass are offset slightly to port to make way for the cabin door, but they feel pretty central, and while the excellent paired helm seats look like something out of Starship Enterprise, they didn’t look quite as fun as standing up to drive. It’s that kind of boat.
Lightly laden with fuel but heavily weighed down by a boat show crowd of 10 people, our 48 didn’t make its published top speed of 38 knots, topping out at just over 34. There was also a Seakeeper installed on this particular boat, the second 48 to be completed, which didn’t help the weight problem.
But it was hard to be disappointed in such a competent, confidence-inspiring machine. Any open boat with plenty of horsepower and its helm placed almost dead amidships has a duty to be a bit of a blast, and the 48 fulfilled the brief admirably. The angle of deadrise aft is a comparatively moderate 17 degrees, but up forward it gets as fine as a knife blade, and the minimal buoyancy of the bow positively invites the waves to come and have a go.
Although the 48’s turning circle felt perhaps a little wider than you might expect for an IPS boat, it couldn’t be faulted in terms of heel, handling and helm response. It might not be as fast as it looks, but it is every bit as much fun. Adding to the fun will be an outboard-powered version set to launch in Miami this winter (2020).
So what now for Luca Bassani, one of the best-known faces in Mediterranean yachting? He reminds me a bit of Sir Christopher Wren. The architect of London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral is commemorated within its walls by the epitaph Lector, si monumentum requiris, circumspice—Reader, if you seek his monument, look around. You could stand in any yacht harbor on the Côte d’Azur and say the same of Bassani—the design influence of Wally has been that profound.
But although the company he founded is now part of a giant, Chinese-owned, Italian luxury yacht corporation, it seems unlikely that he’ll just take the money and go sailing. “R&D is expensive; it needs a lot of investment,” Bassani explains. “This is why the industry is increasingly dominated by big groups.” Now, finally, Wally has the money behind it to seriously invest in R&D.
“So that’s what I’m going to do: focus on R&D,” he says. “It’s what I love.”
Displ.: 25,353 lbs.
Fuel: 370 gal.
Water: 63 gal.
Power: 2/480-hp Volvo Penta IPS 650
Price: $1.15 million