Superyacht brands are re-creating all the rules by expanding their brands at both ends, building enormous superyachts together with sporty craft and classic prestige, writes LARA OLADUNNI
Something new is happening in the world of superyacht. Boat makers around the world are keeping it elegant yet simple by creating a new brand for the bigger boats to improve quality and raise the price.
Bayliner, one of the most successful boatbuilders in history in Chicago, which, it seemed, had recently lost its way; introduced America to cheap and cheerful speedboats had been building ever bigger craft that nobody wanted to buy.
Also, Azimut-Benetti used this approach in 1980s when two different brands Paolo Vitelli of Azimut, builder of fibreglass family cruisers, bought the sick Benetti shipyard, constructor of lavish steel superyachts. Vitelli has navigated the companies on similar courses ever since.
Benetti’s designs start with a huge mini superyacht, the 29m Delfino, with its dislodgment hull, modest horsepower and long range, and proceed through various stock models up to the 43m Crystal, before opening into the world of fully bespoke megayachts like the 63m 11.11 or 90m Lionheart, both launched in 2016.
At Azimut the emphasis has been on lighter, faster, planning boats, subdivided according to size and type, from the sporty and affordable Atlantis collection, which starts with a fun, family 10m model, appropriately named Grande fast motor yachts that top out with the 35 Metri. While it may be right to say there is some overlap in size between the smallest Benettis and the largest Azimuts, there is no mixing the identities and characteristics of the two brands.
The posh Italian boatbuilder Riva, that recently put its name to a leather-upholstered and mahogany-trimmed edition of the humble Fiat 500, has a strong brand equity that makes it the darling of classy yacht. Beyond the brand equity, its array of designs offers clients plenty of choice. At 37m overall, the yard’s current flagship is the Riva 122 Mythos, with three to five cabins on two decks, 7,000 horsepower. It would seem to have little in common with the Iseo, a diminutive, single-engine but undeniably splendid open launch, which at 8m is the baby of the Riva range.
These boats embody two elements of the company product range – smaller designs, intended to reflect the aura of the classic wooden boats, and big, powerful motor yachts with a more aggressive profile and a technological mien. A third strand has lately been added, but in the meantime the company cannot be accused of neglecting its heritage.
There is also the newly launched Rivamare, an open 12m model that has all the classic style of its mahogany forebears, but combines this with modern engineering courtesy of Volvo Penta’s superb DPH Duoprop drives. It also has a beautifully fitted-out interior that makes it a perfect getaway boat.
Whether Riva’s new flagship will pass the wave test remains to be seen, but it will certainly be noticed. Also, the shipyard’s production of the new Riva Superyacht Division (which has absorbed the 122 Mythos), where the first 50m Riva 50 MT is currently under construction – a true bespoke displacement superyacht, which, with its steel hull, aluminium superstructure, three decks and 14-knot cruising speed, is unlike anything the company has attempted before.
It is a venture that is driven, to some extent at least, by external forces. No other yacht builder attempts to bridge such a gap between entry level and ultimate luxury under the same name, but if it has occurred to anyone at the yard that this is something of a high-wire act, they’re not giving anything away.
Perhaps, Sunseeker is perhaps the only other global yachting brand that can rival the recognition achieved by Riva. So it may be no coincidence that the British shipyard has a similarly open-minded approach to brand management. As the Italian boatbuilder was launching its gorgeous Rivamare at the Cannes Yachting Festival, the UK yard was also unveiling a new model down towards the bottom of its product range. The new Sunseeker Manhattan 52 can only claim a distant kinship to the rapid, ravishing sportboats with which the company made its name, but it handles well enough, goes fast enough and looks sharp enough to live up to the brand promise. It also has some very cool design touches, such as the nifty seat, shower and barbecue that unfold from the transom – although they’re best not all used at the same time.