Let There Be Light!

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Let There Be Light!


Hull windows are here to stay thanks to Azimut and Ferretti, says Phil Draper.


This year’s key early autumn shows in the Mediterranean, namely the Festival de la Plaisance de Cannes 2004 in September and Genoa '04 a month later, convinced me more than ever that yacht design over the past year has taken a major leap forward. And it is all thanks to Italian power and motorcruiser builder Azimut Yachts, which unveiled so powerful a design statement aboard one of its new-model launches the previous autumn that the rest of boatbuilding industry has been busy copying it ever since; the model in question was the Azimut 68S Open, a simply stunning hardtop express.
The big deal with that one was the set of six square portlights set in to each side of the hull. That treatment worked on two levels. Externally it was intended as a defining style statement, one that would act as a signature for a whole new 'Open' range that will eventually extend across five or six models and run from 18m (60ft) to 32m (105ft). And it certainly works on that score as, sure enough, the second model of the proposed range, the 86S, debuted with the same feature just a few months later at the 2004 Boot Düsseldorf in late January.
The second and more important element to those portlight clusters, however, is the effect they have inside. What they do for the respective model’s owner’s cabins is quite amazing. For these features allow a whole new approach to be taken to how cabins are actually used. Instead of treating the cabin as merely a bedroom, those windows, and more importantly the massive amounts of natural light and stunning views that they afford, free up the space to a much more flexible purpose.

“Believe me when I say that what the likes of Azimut and Ferretti are doing at the moment is the future. It is not about copying each other. It is about recognizing real progress and acting on it.” 

Yes I know portlights have been getting bigger and bigger for sometime on all sorts of models, but it was that first Azimut 68S that really showed the way by creating an owner’s cabin that offered functionality beyond the bed. So this eulogy is simply credit where credit is due. Well done Azimut and its creative team, the builder's management team, in-house design department and the respective independent talents of yacht designer Stefano Righini and interior specialist Carlo Galeazzi.
And this autumn the concept of massive portlights and more encouraging cabin layouts was taken a step further, as was bound to happen, by Azimut competitor Ferretti Yachts. Its all-new flybridge models, the new Ferretti 830 that launched at Cannes ’04 and the 731 that premiered in Genoa ’04, both incorporate simply massive portlights and far more flexible cabin arrangements. Indeed so big are they that Ferretti Group’s Engineering Department had to do some major FEA (finite-element analysis) work of its hull structures to ensure structural strength was not compromised.
Similarly Azimut has adopted much the same approach for its new flybridge 75, which also unveiled at Genoa ’04. On that model it has made sure that both the owner’s cabin aft and VIP forward benefit from some very big hull windows.
What both these Italian giants have begun to appreciate, and what other builders will no doubt latch onto, is that, by encouraging more time to be spent in cabins, they are effectively increasing usable space aboard, not too mention improving the onboard experience.
Believe me when I say that what the likes of Azimut and Ferretti are doing at the moment is the future. It is not about copying. It is about recognizing real progress and acting on it. To delay would be idiotic, as we are not talking about some fad here. Big portlights will no more go out of fashion than electric lighting. And the broad concept will no doubt creep down to smaller motorboats and very probably to sailboats too.
Now that it has been shown that such things are technically possible — in that when properly engineered such installations of thick laminated glass and the appropriate bonding compound can actually prove stronger than the host hull would be without them — hull spaces will never go back to being merely dark dormitories.
Everyone concerned with the design, building and marketing of cruising boats should appreciate what is going on here!

© Phil Draper