Issue: July 2002
One of the things about Australia that Europeans have trouble understanding is our approach to quality, whether in product, in service, or in art.
We're talking about products here. An Aussie will aspire to BMW or Benz, because the reflected glory tells the world he or she has the money to buy status: "Look at me, mine is bigger and better than yours, I must be rich, I must be superior".
A European will buy a quality item, because of the quality, which in turn confers status upon the owner. And yes, there is a difference. Americans buy more Lexus than either Benz or Beemer, but that is another story and getting away from the point.
It is the pursuit of quality, as its own reward, which must have helped give birth to the Uniesse 42 Open. The Italian Uniesse Company is a relatively new (15 years old) operation, which currently builds eight different models, between 13 and 23m long, with two new motoryachts in development.
This 42 Open has a base price of $756,157 and a list of options that includes almost anything you can imagine. You can even have air-conditioning in the cockpit, if you want.
A little over the top? Not at all. The Mediterranean summer sun is relentless, unrelieved by cloud or sea breeze. After a while you need to hide from it, which is why they invented the siesta.
There will be times, parked stern-to in a small fishing port, where you will be hugely relieved to roll down the screens and relax in the sheltered cockpit. The options on this boat lift the listed price to $923,131. Good value ? I can't tell; I don't have the taste.
But the boat does oozes class. The deck gelcoat is not white, but it is not really cream either. Either way it looks expensive. The windscreen surround and the frame for the curved, sliding cabin door, are stainless steel, not aluminium. You can have a meter that tells you how much anchor chain is out; better than tying bits of rope to the chain and forgetting the count.
The fully optioned boat shown here will give no owner a reason to feel physically or psychically uncomfortable. Crass has been banished; there is no room for the tasteless.
The importer describes the hull as a sportsfisher style, perhaps because it has quite a long keel. She was drawn by American Fred Hudson, who gave her a vee bottom and shaft drives, but the notable feature is that the hull extends to the edge of the landing platform, for a long waterline length and you can carry the dinghy there without affecting longitudinal trim.
The interior is exquisite. There are two sleeping cabins, the master in the bow and the second on the starboard side. Both have their own air-con controls.
The interior is trimmed in high-gloss timber with silicone injected into the joints between the timber panels to eliminate any creaking, which may arise when the hull is working. The off-white dinette is trimmed in leather, the galley worktop is real granite, not some sort of lightweight imitation.
All the nasty-looking appliances are hidden so there is no suggestion of the utilitarian. TV and microwave are behind doors above the galley; the fridge too is hidden behind a timber door, but the fridge door itself is sheathed in the same timber as the cabinet trim. The cooktop is Bosch. There are other cooktops aboard; we will come to them later.
The bathroom is ensuite with the owner's cabin forward, with a second door opening to the saloon. The toilet is one of those nice Italian electric jobs, set into a moulded console so it does not look like a toilet which, let's face it, may offend the sensibilities when the bathroom door is open. It is equipped with a holding tank, which has its own gauge. There is a shower curtain to screen off the bathroom from the splash.
If the interior is exquisite the cockpit is stunning. Immediately aft of the main bulkhead is the helm station (on the portside, as this is an Italian boat). On the starboard side are a curved settee and a small dinette. Next to the driver's left knee is a tiny courtesy light/come cigarette lighter.
There is an icemaker under the helmsman's seat and behind it is a second Bosch cooktop and a fridge. This is where, on a shiny new summer's morning when it would be a crime to be inside, you whip up the eggs benedict and pop the bubbly.
Moving aft, you step down into a sort of second cockpit. Here you will find the Miele barbecue grille, a sink and a food preparation area and plenty of lockers. This is where, on a soft summer evening, you clean the fish and barbecue the prawns. Right down the back you will find the deck wash, the shower and the stowage for the liferaft.
The landing platform is expansive, it's more than a metre wide.
When you fire up the twin 480hp Volvos you are reminded that the 42 Open's origins are in a land where blood-red is the favourite colour of Ferraris, Alfas, Maseratis and Lamborghinis. Instead of a discreet burble you get a testosterone-jangling throb, never too intrusive when under way, but enough to remind you that the Latin races don't mind a bit of aural excitement.
We ease out of the marina without needing the bow thruster. Push forward the electric controls, wait a second or two for them to engage and the big boat – weight is 13,300kg – lifts her nose onto the plane without needing the tabs. She soon flattens out and returns to the driver a full view of the horizon.
The power steering is quite firm and loads up a bit when you're turning. Most power systems do the same thing; I like it as it reminds you that you're changing course and to pay extra attention. The hull corners surprisingly flat, which I cannot explain.
The 42 has had one offshore run in a sloppy sea on 2m swells. The skipper reports that the weight of the boat contributed to the good ride, the keel contributed to good directional stability and that the keel reduces agility a little, as you would expect. Our run was in still conditions, but she is obviously a dry boat; the only spray she took on board was on the landing platform. The entire cockpit area was dry. No direct spray, no drawn-in seamist.
As we put the boat away Phil Malcolm brought out of the shed the two sun cushion/chairs. These are removable, an easy lift because they are made of foam, closed-cell foam so they don't absorb water like a sponge. They are beautifully done, finished in the boat's trim colour and sit in the aft cockpit.
Have a look at the hydraulic passerelle (gangplank) essential for the stern-to mooring style obligatory in small Mediterranean harbours, where marinas are few.
The passerelle can double as the dinghy lift. I jumped off the Uniesse onto a public ferry wharf via the passarelle. Beats climbing over the bow rail with the camera bag between the teeth.
When I cruised the Med we built our own passerelle from a length of aluminium ladder, a piece of ply and a pair of shopping trolley wheels. Not quite the same, but it did the job.
To review such a boat properly, you need to be rich. The very rich I have met on boats have a faculty for detailed fault finding that I don't. This boat is not perfect – none is – but it is a fine piece of work.
Back to the motor car analogies with which I started. An expensive car should delight the owner every time he hears the "thunk" of a well-engineered door. If he doesn't enjoy the "thunk", if he worries about how much he paid for the "thunk", he should buy a cheaper car.
The potential Uniesse shopper should feel the same way about the 42's timber trim, the stainless-framed sliding door and the glorious dinette setting.
Perhaps that old robber baron JP Morgan got it almost right. You know him, the guy who gave us the quote "If you have to ask the price you can't afford it". No, that's not the right one. I was thinking of Wilbur Wilde's uncle Oscar, who could come up with a decent put-down when he needed one.
Oscar described a bloke he didn't like as "A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing".
The Uniesse 42 is powered by twin 480hp Volvo TAMD 74P. This is a high-geared boat. 2600 revs gives us 31 knots, but the hull bottom is a bit furry – from the dock you can see it on the tabs – and Phil Malcolm reckons she is good for 33 knots, which I believe. Ease back to 2300 revs and you still have 29 knots; an easy 2100 gives you 26 knots. These speeds were achieved with a full 1500lt on board. The Volvos give a distinctive whistle, which diminishes as engine revs drop.
Story by Barry Tranter