The creme de la creme of boatmakers are ambitiously growing their brands at both ends, building mightier superyachts alongside sportier and more nimble crafts. In today’s summer special, we turn our focus to some of the greatest boating brands out there – where they’re heading as companies – and the best places to actually steer their boats.
Three Boating Legends Expanding Their Brand
To understand where the world of boating is heading, a good place to start is Bayliner – one of the most successful boatbuilders in history, and one which, during the 70s and 80s had seemingly lost its way. The company that introduced America to cheap and cheerful speedboats had started building ever bigger craft that nobody wanted to buy. They were bigger, but still cheap, boats – and very few people want a $300,000 Ford Escort. When Brunswick (and legend George Buckley) stepped in as owners in 1986, the solution was simple: create a new brand for the bigger boats, improve quality – and raise the price.
It might be obvious, but there are only certain places a brand will go. You probably wouldn’t buy a Rolex fridge, for instance. Within the boating world, the textbook example of this approach is perhaps Azimut-Benetti; marrying two distinct brands formed back in the 1980s when Paolo Vitelli of Azimut, builder of fibreglass family cruisers, bought the sailing Benetti shipyard, constructor of lavish steel superyachts. Ever since, the companies have sailed the companies on parallel courses – dividing and conquering on both a brand and product level.
Benetti’s designs begin with a spacious mini superyacht, the 29 meter Delfino, and proceeds through various stock models up to the 43 meter Crystal. After that, the world of fully bespoke megayachts opens up, including the 63 or 90 meter Lionheart, both launched last year. Azimut, on the other hand, emphasises lighter, faster, planing boats, subdivided according to size and type, from the sporty affordable Atlantis collection, starting with a nifty family 10 meter model, to the appropriately named Grande fast motor yachts that top out with the 35 Metri. Whilst sizes sometimes overlap, there is zero chance of mistaking the identities and characteristics of the two brands.
Now, when talking boats of the better kind, it’s impossible not to mention Riva. And attentive readers will probably make a point of the Rolex fridge example above, as the swanky Italian boatbuilder indeed put its name to a leather and mahogany trimmed edition of the Fiat 500. Either way, neither brand seems to have suffered any obvious ill effects, and, in fact, perhaps the rules of branding don’t really apply to a prestigious company like Riva.
At 37 meters overall, the yard’s current flagship is the Riva 122 Mythos, featuring three to five cabins on two decks, 7000 horsepower and a price tag of €16.8m. It would seem to have little in common with the Iseo, for example, a diminutive single-engined but undeniably splendid open boat, which at 8 meters is the baby of the Riva range and yours for a mere (cough) €342,000. A more recent addition is the new Rivamere, introduced at last autumn’s boat shows. This open 12 meter model costs €936,000 and combines the classic style of its mahogany forebears with modern engineering courtesy of Volvos Pentas superb DPH Duoprop drives. It’s very much the perfect getaway boat.These boats represent two parts of the company product range, smaller classic wooden boats and big powerful motor yachts with a more aggressive (and technological) approach. The third strand in the shipyards production, a result of a more demanding crowd than ever, is the new Riva Superyacht Division (which now includes the 122 Mythos) where the first 50 meter Riva 50 MT are currently being built – 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.
Now, the thing with Riva is that people that own one often wants another, and it’s not uncommon for an owner to have a Riva tender for his Riva yacht. The cool things is that these boats, regardless of size and price, all bear the same badge on their side. And this is a confidence that very few brands can match today, the exception probably being Sunseeker.
In fact, as the Italian boatbuilder was launching the Rivamere, the British shipyard was busy unveiling a new model of their own: the Sunseeker Manhattan 52. It can only claim a distant kinship to the rapid, ravishing sportboats with which the company made its name – but it handles well enough and has some very cool design touches. The stretch between top and bottom might not be quite as extreme as with Riva, but the fact that Sunseeker’s range now starts at the 16 meter mark only helps prove the shift upmarket that many boatbuilders have made in recent years. Brands are simply evolving with their customers and their needs.
When talking about companies like these, sometimes it’s not so much a question of whether brands need permission to go places, it’s more that they don’t need to ask.
… So Where To Steer Them?
From the Greek island of Ithaca to Nantucket and the Brazilian Amazon, there are plentiful of places that still show their best side from the water.
In the crowded Mediterranean summer, special delights await those who travel by sea. Once the realm of Odysseus, one of the biggest treats is the lovely little island of Ithaca. There’s no airport here, meaning that its coves and bays remain unspoilt – perfect for yachties looking for seclusion and beauty. And if you’re looking to rent a house, most of them come with boats – from fast RIB speedboats with waterskis to sailing boats and pontoons. Whatever the vessel, from Ithaca you can easily float around the archipelago that surrounds it (of which large parts belong to the Emir of Qatar). The best beaches are reachable by boat, in fact more often than not it’s the only way. There’s Afales, with its blue water and white cliffs, or the Aegean island of Hydra which avoids cars, favouring beach access by foot, mule or taxi-boat.
To book villas on Ithaca and Hydra (with boats) contact Five Star Greece.
If you happened to spend your Easter holidays in some of the lesser known parts of the Colombian Caribbean this year, you might have been somewhat surprised to find Bill Gates floating by aboard one of his two megayachts, Romea and Global. Had you chosen to follow in his wake, you would have discovered the lush Tayrona National Park – sailing all the way up the coast where verdant forest segues into golden sand dunes and the remote desert of La Guajira peninsula, before reaching Punta Gallinas, where Colombia touches Venezuela. Here, interacting with the local Wayuu tribe, Bill himself got well off the beaten path – but if you’re on the less adventurous side, there’s plenty of options: from exploring coffee farms to tearing across the vast sand-dune desert of La Guajira. Always with a fully-stocked comfortable yacht nearby, of course.
Colombian luxury bespoke organiser Amakuna can organise amazing experiences, with four day trips starting at £1,000 per person.
Not only is it one of the places we’re dying to go to (in general) but New England’s historic ports and islands, with their gorgeous villages and heritage hotels, also seem to have been made for understated yachting fun. The new thing here is to pick up a yacht (for a week or two) in Newport and then drift towards Martha’s Vineyard, on to Nantucket, and then up to Cape Cod. Along the way, hotel icons such as Ocean House Hotel offer stylish yachting excursions featuring sweeping Atlantic views. The hotels most elegant boat, the Aphrodite, once ferried around Hollywood stars like Fred Astaire, Laurence Olivier and Katharine Hepburn. There are also less ambitious choices, including a range of understated stylish Hinckley yachts, perfect for crossing the Long Island Sound to Montauk. The elite island of Nantucket features picket fences, historic wharves and old handsome clapboard second homes. Nantucket Island Resorts, with five hotels, boats guests back and forth from the waterfront White Elephant Hotel to sister property The Wauwinet, so that they can mix and match restaurants. Having a boat here is a blessing, as it will help you discover places like the deserted trance of Coatue, Nantucket’s north coast wilderness (just make sure to watch out for Moby Dick).
Ocean House arranges days on Aphrodite and its fleet of boats, whilst Nantucket Island Resorts runs five hotels on the island.
Oh, and if you haven’t had enough, make sure to check out some of our previous posts on the coolest boats out there.