The 70-90ft semi-custom superyachts sector is booming. Toby Hodges explores some of the hottest new designs bridging the gap between production yachts and superyachts
A bubble has appeared, the rise of a buoyant large yacht market sector that’s proving difficult to label. It typically caters for those who are looking for extra size, space and speed, who are happy to sail with a professional crew, but who don’t want the risk or expense associated with going to a full custom/superyacht size (just yet). It has resulted in a surge in the 70-90ft semi-custom yacht scene.
From the big production yards, Nautor Swan and Oyster are perhaps the most successful longterm players in this area with model sizes across a wide range. And while some brands solely specialise in this sector, such as Michael Schmidt’s Y Yachts and CNB, look at the rise of the Italian 70-something-footers. From Grand Soleil, Solaris, Ice Yachts, Advanced Yachts and Mylius, these are performance cruisers with serious pin-up appeal.
Those seeking large multihulls have an equal surfeit of choice, with Lagoon’s Seventy7, the new Fountaine Pajot 80 due to launch, and a stream of 60 to 80-footers from Sunreef. At the top end of the performance and quality scale Gunboat is launching its first 80 this season, while HH splashes its flagship 88. These are big boats for big bucks and seriously big appeal – we will look at these catamarans in more detail next month in our Multihull special.
The following pages explore some of the latest, supremely cool monohull designs in this… let’s call them ‘grand touring’… size bracket.
Grand soleil 72 Pantarei
Grand Soleil’s new flagship, which we toured during its debut last autumn, is a stunner – as shown photographed here off the Amalfi coast. The aim of the 50-year-old Cantiere del Pardo yard was to offer a high level of accommodation and quality in an attractive performance package. This 72 heralds its new approach to large semi-custom yachts from 60ft up, which are being built in a separate facility in Fano.
These are powerful hulls that are available in a Performance guise with near flush coachroof or Long Cruise (LC) raised saloon styles. The specialist all-Italian team behind the 72 project includes Matteo Polli (hull lines), Marco Lostuzzi (structural engineering) and Nauta (styling), together with Franco Corazza for the project management. Corazza, a successful racing sailor, yacht dealer and builder, joined Grand Soleil three years ago, and his experience in this project has been pivotal.
Corazza found previous success with Polli when they produced winning models for Italia Yachts and this is now the third Grand Soleil project from the hand of the in-demand designer. He has drawn an exceedingly cool, modern and radically beamy (6.2m) shape.
“Increasing beam has a lot of advantages on a fast cruiser because it allows a much larger deck area, but most importantly much more interior volume,” Polli explains. The narrow waterline equates to low drag when light wind sailing (see our test of his GS40 on page 50); the waterline beam and stability then increases with heel, with optimal heel angle around 20°, Polli tells me.
The additional construction weight involved with such a shape can be removed from the ballast, thanks to the larger form stability. “So, summarising, we have increased the usable space (inside and outside) for a given length without reducing performances or increasing price – good value for money.”
Polli also wanted a large headsail foretriangle to make sails more balanced, easy to manage and efficient in light to medium winds, and calculated that a single rudder has more practical benefits over twin rudders for the yacht’s purpose. Either a 3.7m fixed keel or a 3.2m-4.2m telescopic keel can be chosen.
The 72 is built in vacuum-infused vinylester with carbon reinforced structures. Panels are in sandwich foam with teak veneer added by the yard. Every element is weighed before being installed – impressively, the build came out 300kg below designed weight.
First to launch is a Performance model, specified for fast cruising only with in-boom mainsail and a self-tacking jib, however there are multiple headsail and inner forestay options. As it stands the mainsail cum mooring winches are positioned aft, but a racing spec sees the addition of a central mainsheet plinth.
“When you look from the outside, it’s a sportsboat, but inside it’s like an 80-footer,” Corazza exclaimed when we ventured below decks. The beam helps it feel enormous, and the sole is on one level from the companionway forward and only a small step down aft from the saloon. There is a choice of a forward or aft galley, the latter (on the first boat) uses the space optimally and gives most segregation between guests and crew. It includes a proper crew cabin linking to the galley with the potential to add an escape hatch to the cockpit.
The owner’s suite is vast, the offset en-suite at the entrance helping to increase the sense of space around the low berth. The LC version puts the genset and watermaker below the saloon. That said, engine space below the companionway is adequate for a performance boat, and I like the easy access hatch for daily checks.
Four 72s have already been sold, with the first LC edition due to launch this year – as is the brand new smaller sister GS65 – in time for Cantiere del Pardo’s 50th anniversary celebrations in June. The 72 starts at around €3.3m, equipped.
YYachts Y9 Bella
In many ways, YYachts exemplifies this trend for large, semi-custom yachts. The German yard builds small series at the largest size before customers would need to turn to fully bespoke superyachts. Founded by veteran racing sailor and boatbuilder Michael Schmidt to produce high-end lightweight carbon composite yachts, YYachts specialises in modern, appealing, luxury performance designs that are enjoyable to sail yet are, crucially, easy to handle.
These are deliberately minimalist yachts that put a focus on the purity of sailing, yet can offer the comfort of a bespoke superyacht for significantly less cost. The hulls are laminated in carbon epoxy in Poland before being fitted out across the border in YYachts’ Greifswald yard. Large parts of the interior are built outside of the boat, usually by top quality subcontractors, which allows for a flexible use of space.
The Y9 is YYachts’ new flagship, the first of which, Bella, was presented at the Cannes boat show last year. It boasts the volume of a 100-footer, together with the privacy and space an owner’s suite might afford at such a size, including office and dressing room, yet it can be managed by minimal crew.
The Bill Tripp hull shape is offered with a pilothouse, five different layouts, or as a custom version, which we saw in the bold Andrew Winch-styled Prevail in 2021. Bella’s owner wants to sail long distances, hence a hard bimini covers the extensive cockpit and can support 4.5kW of solar panels. An Oceanvolt hydrogenerating drive also feeds enough power to the battery bank to run a silent ship at night.
Deck space is vast, including a massive guest cockpit free from sheets. Sailing is a sporty yet push button affair. The 43m carbon Axxon mast supports over 240m2 of mainsail, the mainsheet of which attaches to a block on the hard top and is hidden in the park avenue boom. This together with a self-tacking jib, hydraulic furling Code sail and staysail, are designed to make it easy to manage.
Twin rudders and the optional telescopic keel avoids draught constraints (to 3.2m), while two engines, a bow and stern thruster make manoeuvring under power a joystick-controlled affair. It also means two permanent crew can run the yacht, with two more for longer passages. The delivery crew recounted that it only took them 11 days from Germany to Cannes and they hit 25 knots.
“I have no interest in designing boats that are cluttered or slow,” Tripp explains. “The flared topsides allow for great deck spaces and added stability, a win-win that leads to a better boat.” The hull shape is optimised for 15° of heel, “most typical when globe-trotting”, Tripp says.
Bella’s interior is the collaboration of two design houses, the UK’s Design Unlimited and Danish firm Norm Architects. The contemporary Scandinavian effect has echoes of the owner’s first Y7, which Norm also worked on and it includes the smart leather sliding handrails on the deckhead and shoelace-style door pullers we liked on Schmidt’s first YYacht Cool Breeze. The dark woodwork creates a noticeably peaceful and calming effect below decks.
The TV snug forward of the saloon is a quiet cabin or office, the type of which you’d only normally find on a yacht 10ft longer. It links to a guest cabin and the owner’s suite forward, the latter with a walk-in closet.
There is a real impression of quality throughout, and I particularly appreciated the fiddles and grabrails around the worktops. The other guest cabin is located aft through a tight companionway, which has been kept narrow to give max space to the galley. The galley helps divide crew and guest areas, but with no hull window it feels a little dark. Good attention to space, privacy and comfort has been paid to the crew area, which has separate access onto the aft deck.
The wide but low engine room below the saloon houses the twin engines mounted centrally with the genset further aft, while sea chests and manifolds are well positioned for easy maintenance.
Tripp describes the Y9 as a “balanced combination of speed, reliability and comfort… at a price point that is unbeatable in today’s market,” [around €6m for this size]. YYachts has a Y8 ready to launch, plus two Y7s and the next Y9 in production.
Solaris may specialise in the 40-65ft fast cruising yacht sector these days, but the yard established in Aquileia (at the top of the Venetian lagoon) in 1974 is no stranger to this mid-70ft size either.
It also now offers Solaris custom from 80ft+ from its separate Performance Boats yard in Forli.
The 74RS has very cool, powerful looking lines from Javier Soto Acebal. A chine starts at the full forward sections leading to beamy rounded after sections, controlled by twin rudders.
The first model is being built for a British owner for bluewater sailing. He previously had a 64RS but wanted larger tanks (1,200lt-1,400lt for water and fuel) and cruising capacity, and a step up in size and privacy/comfort when sailing with a professional crew.
This design sees popular features retained from Solaris’ latest smaller models, including a shallow transom and easy side deck access in front of the pedestals, with wheels positioned right outboard for maximum visibility.
An offset companionway in the cockpit helps create a clear passage through to the aft deck, where a longitudinal dinghy garage is lengthy enough to swallow a 4m Williams jet tender.
Acebal has nailed the coachroof design, keeping the styling smooth but allowing space for a raised saloon with engineering underneath. The layout also looks clever, with a crew cabin aft linking to the galley and having its own deck access.
The interior is designed and tastefully styled in oak by the ever popular Lorenzo Argento, the former Brenta and Wally designer who has more recently worked with a broad scope of brands from YYachts to Beneteau.
The boat is offered with three or four guest cabins and options for a galley fore or aft of the saloon.
The launch of the first 74RS is predicted to be towards the end of this year.
CNB 78 and CNB 88
At the Düsseldorf boat show in January CNB had a mock up of its new 78, a whalebone-like structure which showed the impressive size of the hull, with graphics on the floor showing the interior layout. Having not even seen a rendered image of the new model by that point, I was amazed to learn that CNB has already sold four boats and has an 88 in the pipeline!
This comes just 18 months after Groupe Beneteau sold CNB to Solaris, a transition phase, which has involved moving production from Monfalcone to a new facility at Solaris’ Aquileia home.
Of course the heritage French brand is no stranger to this market and size. It sold 32 CNB 76s, including the model we reviewed in 2014. Vincent Arnaud, the brand manager who has remained through the transition, explained that their challenge was finding where to improve on this design – it’s popular for being a small superyacht-style bluewater cruiser that can be managed by minimal crew.
Maintaining its recognised style was paramount – CNB will still focus on bluewater, where Solaris specialises in the more flush deck sporty Med designs, says Arnaud. Hence CNB kept the same design team in Philppe Briand and Jean-Marc Piaton to create its new range.
The 78 has a powerful hull shape with upper and lower chines. It’s wider than the 76, especially aft, with more volume through the boat. The signature coachroof is retained to give good protection to a large cockpit and create the adjoining deck saloon, while a glazed companionway helps give near surround views.
“The goal was to turn the Beneteau page and start a new chapter,” explains Arnaud. The process of construction is totally different now, he says, with bulkheads laminated into the hull in a more traditional manner (rather than using Groupe Beneteau’s innovation of building full interior modules outside of the boat).
The interior also has a more modern style, with less wood and more fabrics and lacquered parts. The main interior layout improvements the team wanted to make were with the guest accommodation. Niggles with the 76 centred on the aft guest bunk cabin. From the saloon forward on the 78 is all guest space, with two near equal sized guest cabins and a huge owner’s suite, the latter of which monopolises the volume forward of the mast base. The chart table is now aft, connecting with the galley and crew cabin, and giving more privacy to the saloon.
“Solaris is the perfect tool for improved quality,” thinks Arnaud. “It’ll be stiffer for sure (thanks to laminated bulkheads) and 5-10% lighter. The finish quality will be incomparable, and now only in natural wood.”
Of the four orders to date, three are to repeat clients. The first boat is planned to launch in June and be on display at the Cannes boat show in September at a cost of around €4m.
CNB is targeting a four model range, with the 88 likely to be the next model. This flagship will be in the style of the 78 but with the volume for an extra guest cabin and second crew cabin.
Oyster 885 SII & GT
In terms of yachts sold and their subsequent miles sailed, Oyster is a leader in this size sector.
Having signed off nine of its 745 model and a phenomenal 16 of the 885, it has, together with long term design partner Humphreys, given its flagship a makeover.
The SII version of the 885 has a new deck, with sleeker saloon windows, while the helm positions have moved aft to create a larger cockpit area. The tender well has also been extended to allow for larger RIBs.
Marketing director James Parsons says that typical changes owners are asking for at this size range include a surge in home office/multifunction cabin requests, along with demands for more flexible/convertible guest cabins; minimising a need for crew and maximising separation of owner and crew; and sun protection on deck.
The six cabin (four en-suite) interior of the 885 SII is available with a lower or raised saloon now too.
And for those after a bit more performance, the GT model features a taller carbon mast, T-keel, extended bowsprit, upgraded winches and 3Di sails.
Oyster has five 885SIIs in build and one GT close to handover.
For those who appreciate timeless lines and the smell of varnish, Spirit Yachts continues to provide something different yet with enduring appeal. Clearly, the 21m/70ft sector is of particular appeal at the moment. Spirit launched its first 72DH Anima II last year and has numbers two and three in build along with a hybrid powered 68DH.
All three 72DHs, deckhouse designs, have very different layouts and programmes: the first is in charter and includes a crew cabin forward, the second, launching in May is spec’d for regattas and ocean racing, and the third, due in September, is for bluewater cruising.
“It’s an exciting time to be designing and building boats,” said Spirit’s co-founder and designer Sean McMillan – the electric 52 also in build is his 100th wooden boat.
Anima II is due to be exhibited at the Palma Yacht Show in April and will enter several regattas this summer.
ICE 70rs & ICE 80rs
Ice Yachts’ Crema-based shipyard near Milan is no stranger to building large designs. The former CN Yacht 2000 yard has produced over 20 yachts between 60ft-80ft since the turn of the century. And now under Marco Malgara’s Ice Yachts branding it is ramping up its series of large yacht production with five orders for its 70, plus an 80 in production.
The Ice 70rs Bandido, shown at Cannes last year, is a racier version than the first 70 Thalassa, which we reviewed in 2021. The yard has stripped 1,500kg by using a full carbon deck as well as the infused carbon structures and an epoxy infused hull.
In fact it’s hard to tell it’s the same hull shape as below decks sees a completely different layout including two large identical aft cabins, a forward U-shaped galley and forward owner’s suite. It’s a full Felci design, from the lines to the modern light interior and the lift keel system.
The new Ice 80 meanwhile is perhaps the most contemporary appearance yacht in this market sector. Again from Felci, this formidable looking design carries the style and lines of Ice’s recent rs (Racing Sport) models into this full carbon 35-tonne cruiser racer. The upper chine and chamfer give a mean reverse sheer look, which, together with the angled stem, long bowsprit, flared aft sections and futuristic wraparound coachroof windows, all shouts Italian cool. A furling boom, self-tacking jib and furling Code 0 are suggested to ease handling by minimal crew, while the interior looks bright and modern with a king size berth in the owner’s suite.
Ice 70 numbers three and four will launch this spring/summer, with the fifth to follow next year along with the first of the 80s.
Formed in 1966 and with over 2,350 yachts now bearing its iconic arrowhead coveline, Nautor Swan can be considered a leader at the semi-custom end of the production scene. This year sees its largest ever order portfolio, totalling €180m – it has eight maxis (80ft+) in production and is due to deliver 30 yachts in 2023. And with a 78, ClubSwan 80 and now this 88 in its line, it presents a dominant lineup in the 70-90ft sector.
The 88 takes many of the best bits of the 78 (10 ordered) and 98 (four delivered) and adds its own touch with the design of the beach terrace aft sections – it’s patently aimed at those who like to sail fast before sunbathing by the sea. The scooped-out transom is reminiscent of early Wally designs, the way it cascades down over various levels. The huge opening swim platform is a serious piece of engineering, hinged to really maximise real estate.
Hull lines are from the legendary German Frers, with styling by the flamboyant Lucio Micheletti. Other than the central mainsheet plinth, there’s a clear passage from companionway to beach terrace, via the separate guest and sailing cockpits. The mast has been brought aft and stepped centrally through the coachroof and saloon, to give a greater foretriangle area and balance to the sails. This is a 54 tonne lightship yacht, but with a square-top mainsail helping to set over 430m2 of upwind sail area, it should be a powerful contender.
Working with its favoured interior designer Misa Poggi, Swan has mastered the ability to offer a large variety of ‘off the shelf’ styles to their layouts. The choice of which of the four ‘moods’ is selected and variations of timbers and fabrics can make for a completely different look and feel. There are three guest cabins plus an owner’s forward suite, while the galley, mess and crew accommodation aft helps provide max privacy between guests and crew.
The first 88 to launch is due in 2024.
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