The distance covered in a journey is not always that one you can measure through miles or steps. Sometimes, it is determined by the flowing images that even a simple tell can evoke. As when you read a book or listen to a piece of music.
That one we experienced at the last Boot Dusseldorf with Brunello Acampora, one of the top yacht designers of the hour, had the same evocative force as a sea tale. Hulls, cockpits, bows and deck plans become, within a morning spent walking around amongst the boats on display, the words used by Acampora to interpret a wide, varied world.
” Mine – Brunello told me when we met under the bulwarks of the Gozzo Apreamare, which has recently won the “Boat of the year 2018” prize in the 25-35 feet category – is a humanistic approach, which doesn’t conflict with the various branches of the planning activity yet uses a comprehensive view of the boat universe. Well, boats are the fruit of my thoughts: I design and consider them as a whole”.
When I asked him a practical example which could let me understand the real meaning of this comprehensive view, he immediately focused on an essential boat component: the hull. ” It’s an essential part – said the designer – which cannot be considered as just a combination of technical aspects. It has, for example, a commercial value because its design affects fuel efficiency. In short, unless it is designed by an amateur, no hull cannot be seen as a wrong aspect of planning. It depends on what is built above it”.
Against this background, we started our voyage from the last Brunello Acampora’s work, the Apreamare Gozzo. ” In this case, Cataldo Aprea‘s desire was perfectly clear in my mind: something innovative yet inspired by traditional gozzo. This idea was quite convincing; however, I could not confine my work to a simple round stern-equipped motorboat. So, I imagined something completely new: a motorboat equipped with a sail functioning as an additional propeller. This was the original concept. The traditional layout of the gozzo welcomed the challenge, transforming it into something never seen before. So, the dream of a mast-equipped gozzo became true. It might be a little early to make the market understand that but I believe that a recreational motorboat with auxiliary sails, and not the reverse, can soon become reality”.
Our itinerary had no predetermined course. Our stops were dictated by the curiosity of Acampora who suddenly stopped and looked at a wonderful boat, the San Lorenzo SX 88. “That’s obvious”, you might say, ” How can you not associate the concept of beauty with a San Lorenzo boat?”. But Acampora went further. ” She is a wonderful boat, of course. But, above all, she is a boat with a highly innovative concept. This boat celebrates the idea of a strongly functional design. It takes a real courage, for example, to conceive such an open bow or offer all this volume to the outdoor space, providing guests with a real beach club. Meanwhile, the left gunwale has a very important role since it serves as a crane for tender and water toys launching. Here, the innovative effort has combined functionality with beauty and innovation. This creative action has positive effects and engenders additional novelties even inside, where, for example, the helm station disappears to the benefit of a wide flybridge. Moreover, the boatyard makes us accept the idea that speed, even if intended to support movement, can be low and guarantee, at just 16 knots, absolute comfort and great fuel efficiency”.
While we were going out of the San Lorenzo’s booth to look for some other interesting boats, we ran into a beautiful Sirena 64. ” Well, in a time characterized by a product contamination whose results are not always brilliant, realizing that German Frers, which has been designing sailboats since always, starts building motorboats is a very interesting thing. Because it is not just a marketing operation yet a bidirectional dialogue between two different worlds. I think that this dialogue is the only way to create more mature products. The Sirena 64 features a very long skeg stretching from the bow to the stern. It’s a design choice that Frers has probably imported from its long experience as sailboat manufacturer which aims to guarantee great directional stability at all speeds, especially when sailing in following seas. Is it questionable? We will see that at sea. What matters is that the two worlds go on talking to each other and that designers keep on experimenting with courage”.
Cultural contamination and inspiration.
This is the key that my guide used when he stopped in front of the Fjord 42 Open. ” This boat showsall the traits of an evolution which has resulted from the joint work of many designers. Look at this vertical bow, for example; it clearly reflects the contribution that Luca Bressani has given to this aesthetical result. However, we should go back to the ’90s, when I designed the first Tender Wally, whose concept is clearly visible is in this open boat. Fjord was inspired by that model and was able to combine both Bassani and Wally’s visions, giving a new interpretation of day cruisers, now seen as bigger boats, and introducing the concept of walk around thanks to this open bow“.
But, in front of the Riva Yachts Rivamare, Brunello Acampora seemed to abandon all technical judgements to lose himself into pure emotions. “Here, we are dealing with excellence, there’s nothing more to say. Mauro Micheli of Officina Italiana Design is a highly talented designer, whose pencil totally identifies with Riva boatyard. Micheli acted as a real business who has deeply understood the importance of client loyalty. Moreover, Riva has the great merit of having accepted the sterndrive, once thought to be offered for the exclusive use of more affordable boats”.
Brunello Acampora is, first of all, a motorboat designer but he has been sailing for a long time, too. It was therefore not difficult to convince him to accompany me in the pavilions dedicated to sailboats. ” Let’s look at some boats and then we leave”, he told me.
With the typical attitude of a sailor looking for a boat, he stopped under the new Bavaria C45. ” I speak as a potential buyer – he told me. This boatyard is not famous for building boats characterized by elegant details and high-quality woodwork. However, as well as the important progress achieved over the last few years, it offers lower prices than its competitors. After all, if the hull is well-made and sturdy, it doesn’t matter if interiors are not particularly sophisticated. Is the hull good? Is the price affordable? Well, thanks, you’re enabling me to buy a boat“.
Well, maybe such a round hull is a little old-fashioned and more can be done.
As in the case of the new Oceanis 51.1. ” Yes, it is a very interesting hull, with this chine stretching from the stern to the bow which is certainly able to open flows. I therefore expect a more performing hull. And I think that this chine can also support the bow better against the pressure exerted by the mast when sailing fast”.
” So full, this bow is a great guarantee of course stability and seaworthiness. Here, we’re facing a precise idea: that one of a very safe boat destined to pure cruising.
Of course, even this wonderful sea of boats and pavilions hid something questionable, if not inappropriate. However, our designer seemed to be unimpressed.
” I don’t like criticizing boats without a contradictory opinion. What I can say is that, in my opinion, some things should be changed. What? First of all, designers should be braver and let engineers do their work and follow their ideas. Designers should imagine, experiment and change things. However, this doesn’t mean that any idea can be eligible.
For example, I don’t agree with the current trend to build increasingly larger windows because they are a point of vulnerability located too close to the waterline. I think that boatyards are building boats with exaggerated closed living volumes, with excessively high centers of gravity and excessively narrow exterior passages. Secondarily, yachting industry needs enlightened businessmen. Today, boats are offered at a very high price but their value reduces rapidly. I think that boatyards should reduce their production costs, by achieving economies of scale and accepting lower profit margins which, however, would result into higher figures“.
We could have gone on for hours. Everything around us brought us before something to comment: foils, ” very useful and recommended”, motor catamarans, “mah!”, motorsailers, “to develop” and so on. For every waterline, every bow or boat concept, Brunello Acampora suggests a consideration. Maybe, there’s something more than his yacht design degree from the University of Southampton. Probably, the undertow that makes his thoughts move comes from far-off oceans, from his long sailing experience on board his Drago Italcraft on the Naples-Capri route, from his love for sailing or from his friendship with the legendary Renato “Sonny” Levi that “still inspires my work today”.