Out of This World
The latest project to emerge from Luca Bassani’s fertile mind, the WHY 200 is a truly original spacecraft that will surely inspire more than a few double takes.
The venerable studio of Laurent Giles has designed some of the most beautiful motoryachts of the 20th century. Woodpecker of Poole was a particular favorite of mine, a gracefully understated 70-footer from 1948, with perfect proportions and an endless sheer. She was a celebrity in the British Solent. I once saw her emerging from Cowes during a full-blooded northerly gale against an outgoing tide. The seas were huge. I couldn’t stop to think why she would be coming out on such a day, as I had my hands full trying to get in—but she looked magnificent.
It was surprising to discover that the latest chapter in the Wally story—a very different yacht without a sheer, endless or otherwise, and for which the words graceful and understated could hardly be less appropriate—was also designed by the same English naval architects. The yacht is 88 feet long, but feels bigger. A lot bigger.
“It’s a concept for a new kind of semi-displacement yacht,” Luca Bassani, the 65-year-old founder and president of Wally Yachts, told me during the Cannes boat show. “The hull was the starting point, and trim was critical. We worked with Laurent Giles and Ferretti Group Engineering.” A level running angle was key, which meant a high bow was necessary, so the yacht could slice through the seas at any speed. “But a high bow also gives you volume!” he said. “So, we put the master there. It’s the ideal place, a long way from the machinery.”
It’s been two years since Bassani sold his company to Ferretti, and while he has never been one to show the strain, there’s something about his relaxed demeanor since the takeover that suggests life is less complicated while sheltering beneath the umbrella of Ferretti’s parent company, the Weichai Group. “It’s a lot more fun spending someone else’s money,” he laughs. “The corporate cultures were very different, but there’s trust now. They’re very motivated about Wally and what we can achieve.”
Bassani was never afraid of spending money, and his exploits have never been far from the headlines. Who can forget 2003’s astounding gas-turbine Wallypower 118, of which only one was built, or the jaw-dropping WHY 53 that came along six years later, a 190-foot “floating island” with a beam of 125 feet? That never got past the full-size mock-up stage, but the press launch alone would have bankrupted most boatbuilders. I seem to remember there was a private jet.
“Now we are financially sound,” he says with satisfaction. So there probably won’t be any more private jets, but there won’t be any one-offs either, or press presentations of plywood mock-ups. Instead, Bassani can utilize Ferretti’s engineering expertise and boatbuilding know-how, and rely on the deep pockets of the parent company to carry his creativity through to fruition. The Italian shipyard’s high-level quality control has led to significant improvements in Wally’s manufacturing, Bassani is happy to admit, while this first WHY 200 was built at the Pershing plant in Mondolfo. “They really brought substantial quality to the fit-out of the engine room,” he says.
We were sitting on the yacht’s expansive upper deck, looking aft along the wake as we cruised slowly back towards Cannes. There had been a short sea trial and a brief halt at anchor to demonstrate various external features of the 200, such as the two side garages for the tenders, and the hydraulic aft platform. It is full of clever details and innovative design ideas. But its most notable attribute is its generous 25-foot beam, and the fact that there are no side decks.
“If you don’t see the inside, you can’t understand the outside,” Wally managing director Stefano de Vivo said at the initial briefing, and the company’s claim that the 200’s interior has the feel of a 110-footer is an understatement. A more telling statistic, perhaps, is Bassani’s assertion that the salon, at 23 feet across, is the same width as a 164-footer. The glass-sided central stairwell, with its eye-catching carbon steps, is a true full-size superyacht feature that looks right at home running through the middle of this 88-footer. In fact it helps break up the salon into manageable living areas, such is the size of the space.
And then, of course, there is that master cabin, which sits right over the bow. The windows curve around the stem and provide a 180-degree, forward-facing panorama which proved utterly hypnotizing during the sea trial, as the bow rose and fell beneath our feet, slicing through the waves. It was like a silent movie, but in Technicolor. The lower deck, inevitably, feels much more conventional but still pretty roomy, with three- and four-cabin layouts to choose from. The crew spaces, amidships, are unusually generous.
The 200’s interior is a triumph. Stefano was right—you can’t appreciate it until you have been inside. But there is no escaping the fact that this is a pretty different-looking yacht. Luca Bassani has a track record of designing boats that are way out there, but now that he’s no longer working for himself, surely he must feel under some obligation to translate ideas into sales. Who, I wondered, did he imagine would buy one of these?
“The buyer of this one,” he said, “was a Pershing owner. I was thinking not of owners who are looking to down-size, but down-speed, people who had fast boats and wanted something more comfortable, more sociable, more sensible. But not 10 knots; that is too slow for them. Sixteen is OK.” In the strictest confidence, therefore, the owner and his wife were sent preliminary plans and drawings of this new Wally concept and invited to share their thoughts.
“I told them, ‘Give it time—it will grow on you,’” laughs Bassani. Meanwhile, the first 200 was under construction, and the prospective couple were intrigued enough to attend its sea trials, one choppy day off Monaco. That decided it.
The 200 does indeed offer an extraordinarily smooth and quiet ride. We were fortunate to have some reasonable waves to reckon with on the day of our test, but the hull sliced through them with no fuss at all, and pretty much everywhere on board you could hold a conversation in a normal tone.
It’s somewhat heavier than rival yachts of similar length, because there is so much more of it—the 200 moniker references the gross tons of its huge internal volume. So, the four 1,000-hp motors arranged in a neat row across the immaculate engine room don’t offer quite the top speed you might expect in a planing boat, but with no “hump” and a remarkably flat running angle, fine-tuned by the interceptors on their auto setting, the 200 can cruise fairly efficiently at any speed from a full-displacement 9 knots all the way up to the low 20s. “I actually thought that the propulsion system was going to be our biggest headache,” remarks Bassani. “I assumed IPS was just for fast boats. But Volvo said it would be fine, and they were right.” The captain said 15 knots was pretty optimal in terms of range, ride and comfort, which with these engines—you can request smaller 900s if you want—is achieved at an easy 1,850 rpm. He had a point. Even on a choppy day, it was very restful.
All eyes were upon us as we rounded the lighthouse into the Vieux Port. The frowns of puzzlement ashore at the 200’s outlandish looks must have matched my own frown of concentration as I watched the captain carefully back the 200 into its awkward show berth. There was absolutely no way it was going to fit. Then I remembered—this thing is only 88 feet long.
Wally WHY 200 Layout Diagrams
Wally WHY 200 Test Report
Wally WHY 200 Specifications:
Displ.: 376,000 lbs.
Fuel: 3,170 gal.
Water: 581 gal.
Power: 4/1,000-hp Volvo D13-IPS1360
Price: $4.6 million