After 23 hours in the air, not even the torrential rain could dampen my spirits as my flying kangaroo 747 touched down at Rome airport. It’s supposed to be summer in the Northern Hemisphere, well almost anyway, so where’s the sun? It had been fine, albeit cool, when I flew out of Sydney two days ago and this deluge was definitely not how I envisaged my first Mediterranean summer to be.
Ah well! When in Rome…
It’s quite a hike from the international to the domestic terminal at Rome’s Leonardo Da Vinci airport, but with five hours to kill before my Alitalia flight took off I had plenty of time to negotiate the rabbit warren of tunnels that connects the two terminals.
My destination was the coastal town of Genoa, or to be more precise, Santa Margherita Ligure. This picturesque northern Italian town, on the Portofino coast, was chosen as the location for UCINA’s, the Italian version of the BIA, Convention – SATEC 2002 test day. The short hop from Rome was uneventful, but one good thing did come out of it. The rain stopped and the clouds gave way to glorious blues skies, giving me my first view of Italy’s magnificent east coast.
I was in Italy at the invitation of the Italian Trade Commission with around 20 other boating scribes from around the world. Our mission was to view the Italian’s latest offering during the convention before splitting up into five separate groups to tour shipyards in various regions around the country.
I know what you’re thinking “Jezzzz, that sounds like a tough job”, but it was. Why? Well, most Italians play hard and sleep late. So with all the obligatory gala dinners and cocktail party we were invited to attend, while our hosts got to sleep late we always seemed to be on the road early. Ah, the sacrifices we make.
The first morning had us sipping coffee at 10.30 am while we waited for UCINO’s President Paulo Vitelli to give the gathering an overview of Italy’s boat building industry. And from his address, we gathered things are looking pretty darn good for the Italian boat builders with a 2002 growth rate 18.5 per cent higher than the previous year. 80 per cent of all new boats are now exported and Italy continues to lead the megayacht sector with 170 megayachts presently under construction. These and the other boats being built are predicted to generate 1285 million Euros in sales during the 2002/2003 fiscal year.
With the opening address out of the way it was down to the marina to paw over Italy’s finest. My first port of call was one of the biggest on display, the magnificent Azimut 62. She’s 62 feet on unabashed luxury that would leave many of Europe’s five-star hotels wanting. Boarding the 62 is a simple affair via the narrow hydraulic passerelle. These are fitted to many European boats because most of the older Mediterranean harbours feature high rock wharves where the boats moor stern-to.
The roomy aft cockpit is uncluttered and large enough to house a sizable dining table. It’s an ideal place to relax with friends, over a couple of bottles of good vino as you watch the sun go down over the Mediterranean. Stepping through the sliding aft saloon door and I was blown away by the sumptuous surroundings. The spacious saloon features cherrywood furniture in a chequered veneer embellished with stainless steel details and burlwood shelves. There’s a double settee starboard with a smaller lounge and TV cabinet to port.
Two steps lead amidships where to starboard there’s another leather upholstered U-shaped lounge with a beautiful handcrafted oval table as its centrepiece. On the portside the fully featured galley focuses on style, comfort and entertaining. Any chef would feel at home cooking here, because it’s fitted with all the amenities including an open breakfast counter facing the dining area.
Unlike most Aussie-built cruisers – because we tend to drive from the from the flybridge – the 62 had an upper and lower helm station that is more suited to Europe’s extremes in climate. The lower station looks more like the flight deck on a 747, but it’s extremely well laid out, with easy to read gauges, even if the comprehensive electronics package will have her new owner spending hours reading operating manuals.
The cabinets in the galley on the portside of the saloon obscure the skipper’s view to port when seated at the lower helm station, but otherwise visibility is good. Situated amidships, one level down from the other cabins, the master suite gives her owners complete privacy, while taking advantage of the full beam of the boat – it’s enormous and beautiful. The large oval windows bathe the room in sunlight and its appointments include a seven-draw column, vanity, sofa and en suite.
The en suite amenities are exquisite and feature vanity tops in a shiny enamelled crystal, bidet and spacious shower cubicle. There are two guest cabins on the 62. The first is in the bow and features a double island bed, portholes, walk-in closet, en suite and a large hatch in the cabin’s roof. The second twin berth cabin is located on the lower deck. Unlike some vessels of this size, where the third cabin is more like an after-thought than a full-sized cabin, it offers guests plenty of room to move, hanging space and column draws. There’s also a crews’ cabin aft of the engine room with a separate head.
Stairs from the aft cockpit lead to the spacious flybridge. With its centrally positioned rollbar, a tender can be stored either aft on the flybridge, or on the swim platform, which allows for a second large sunpad on the bridge for those wishing to soak up a few rays. There’s also a table and comfortable settee for six to eight people, so the skipper doesn’t have to miss out on the conversation when driving topside.
On the day of the test the waters off the Portofino coast were like glass. The only rough water came courtesy of the wakes being made by the other boats being tested.
But some of the bigger boats did throw big wakes, especially the Pershing 55 with its twin surface drives, but even her large wash couldn’t sway the 62’s course. She crossed this wake without even the slightest bump and there was no slapping or banging transmitted through the hull.
With a displacement of more than 30 tonnes, the 62 are a solid boat, which aids her stability and helps flatten her ride. Unlike some Aussie-built cruisers, the Azimut 62 also rides extremely level even when accelerating from a standing start. At no stage does the bow rise excessively. The 62’s acceleration isn’t mind blowing, but for a boat of this size a 39 knot top speed isn’t bad. Also unlike some of the smaller Azimuts I have tested, this boat responded quickly to the helm and had a reasonable turning circle.
But it was engine noise, or I should say the lack of it, that makes this boat stand out. With the aft saloon door closed while cruising along at around 22 knots, we could hardly even hear the engines anywhere in the boat. And that’s no exaggeration. In a nutshell, the Azimut 62 is an excellent blend of size, space, design and performance. With a price tag of a mere $3.3 million she certainly fits into the dreamboat category. But unfortunately, it’s her price tag that will keep her a dreamboat for a guy like me on an editor’s salary.
But I can’t complain. At least I still got to put to sea in this beautiful machine and still enjoyed taking her out for a cruise. Even if it was only for a couple of hours, but there is another way of looking at it, I didn’t have to pay for the fuel and somebody else had to wash her down at the end of the cruise.
The Azimut 62 is powered by twin MTU 8V 2000 M90 915hp diesel shaftdrives. With half a load of fuel on board the boat cruises comfortably at 29 knots. Other speed-to-rpm readings were 10.5knots at 1000rpm; 17.6 knots at 1250rpm; 32.9 knots at 2000rpm; and 38.3 knots at 2300rpm. The 62 had a fuel capacity of 3400lt. The engine room is heavily insulated to control heat and noise and boasts almost standing head height – for a short person.