It took a while to sell the 150: is Wider still convinced that diesel-electric is the way to go?
I would say 100 per cent. Attitudes are changing fast in terms of knowledge and acceptance. When I joined the Wider team two years ago, people were still confused by the concept and the first hour of conversation was spent explaining what it is and the advantages in terms of flexibility and silent cruising. Now just about everyone comes to us because we build yachts with diesel-electric propulsion. We still have discussions about the difference between hybrid and diesel-electric, because ‘hybrid’ is – wrongly – a catch-all term.
I notice the 150 (M/Y Bartali) is back on the hard in Ancona… is that just for warranty and maintenance work?
And to carry out some modifications requested by the owners, who wanted a larger galley and a walk-in wardrobe in the master suite. We already had contingency plans for these changes and they are part of layout of the I65. Bartali will be back in the water in May.
Beyond the extra LOA, what has changed on the 165 in build (pictured) and what stays the same with respect to the 150?
The diesel-electric propulsion system is virtually identical with the same gensets, electric motors, battery banks and pods, but the layout of the technical spaces has changed. On the 150 we had an electrical room amidships where you would expect to find a conventional engine room, with another space forward in the bow. On the 165 all the power generation equipment is housed in the forward technical compartment. In part, this was dictated by the owner’s wish to carry a U-Boat Worx Superyacht Sub in the drive-in tender garage. Because of the sub’s draft, we can’t float it in and out like the tender, so there’s a gantry crane for launch and retrieval. In the standard arrangement this 10-sqm compartment can serve multiple purposes as a dive room, sauna, or as an extra storage space.
The foredeck is completely different. Like the 150, the 165 is under 500GT and the extra 5m in length was to provide a helipad for private use, rather than more interior volume. Besides the forward lounge area [that does not have the hydraulic canopy as on the 150] there’s a Jacuzzi in front of the wheelhouse and another on the sundeck, which is appreciably larger than on the 150.
The interior has also changed, especially the master suite, which has two fold-down balconies, in the gym and study [alternatively, the gym can function as a sixth cabin]. The interior design is again by Ideaitalia and the style is similar, but the materials and finishes have changed with limed oak cabinetry and brushed bronze detailing.
Comfort in terms of sound and vibration is something else we’ve looked at closely. In the master suite on the 150, sound levels are just 44dB at 10 knots. We’re working to reduce that still further on the 165. But it’s not just a question of more sound damping: you have to look at all the moving parts on the yacht, such as the AC, toilets and electric motors for the blinds, which all produce noise.
The drive-in tender bay relies on some quite complex engineering to open and close the transom door and aft platform: how has that performed on the 150?
Flawlessly. During the boats shows last year we have brought the tender in and out over 150 times without any issues. With practice, the crew can now launch in under 10 minutes. Of course, sea conditions are a factor, but they are with any tender operations. We are, however, aiming to speed up the closing cycle of the transom door to under 45 seconds as a precaution in bad weather.
Commissioning the 150 was a lengthy process: are you looking to reduce that with the 165?
Significantly. Commissioning the 150 took around six months, mostly because we had to configure the power management system from scratch. We now have a lot of prior knowledge, so after the boat goes into the water in July we’re expecting a much shorter commissioning time.
What stage are you at with the 125 project?
Based on discussions with the owner, the 125 has now grown to 130 feet and the gross tonnage from 320GT to around 365GT. It is still full diesel-electric propulsion, but the gensets, electric motors and battery output will be downsized to suit the yacht’s specific power needs. Given her size, a drive-in tender bay wasn't feasible, so she will have a forward garage under deck hatches. Our founder and CEO, Tilli Antonelli, has an expression: “measure twice, cut once,” so we’re still defining the specs and GA with a view to cutting metal in April for delivery in June 2019.
At the start of a new year, how do you view the superyacht market?
We’re focussed on selling our own boats, so I’m not sure how our experience relates to the market at large. But I can say that we had a good end to 2016 and a positive start to 2017. Last year, January was pretty quiet, but we’ve already had some serious enquiries this year.