A long-respected company with a reputation for conservatism has spent the last few years quietly transforming itself into one of the most exciting and innovative shipyards in Italian yacht building. And now SANLORENZO has arrived in the big leagues, with the launch of the magnificent 52-metre Seven Sins just the start of a whole new adventure.
Long before anyone dreamed of applying such a word to a place where boats were built, Sanlorenzo was a boutique shipyard. One-offs and bespoke production motor yachts were lovingly constructed for discerning customers by a small, skilled workforce in Ameglia, just around Punta Bianca from La Spezia. It was in 2005 that Massimo Perotti, 48 years old and looking for a challenge, bought the company. He had spent 20 years as Paolo Vitelli’s right-hand man at Azimut-Benetti, which at that time was building around 500 boats a year. Sanlorenzo, by contrast, had recently completed its 500th boat in 50 years of existence. “The shipyard was sleeping,” said Perotti after the acquisition. He had soon increased production rates of the fibreglass boats, introduced several new models, and taken on a second shipyard to develop new lines of superyachts in steel and aluminium. Today, his energy levels show no sign of flagging. In 2016, Sanlorenzo opened another yard, which can accommodate vessels of up to 80 metres. The first yacht to emerge from the sheds there was Seven Sins, a steel 52-metre, in 2017. “At this moment we are building two 62-metres in steel for 2020, one 64-metre which will launch next year, and after Seven Sins we are building five more 52 Steels taking us through to 2020,” he said. “Plus we have orders for five of the new 500EXP explorer yachts, one 40 Alloy and four of the new 44 Alloys.”
With so much emphasis on larger superyachts, it might look as if Perotti’s grand plan is to phase out fibreglass production and focus on the top of the market. But no: “The Composite Yacht Division is two-thirds of the total turnover and this is, in my opinion, the perfect match,” he says. “The Superyacht Division – steel and aluminum production – will not go over €120 million. Superyachts need top quality. You cannot achieve a high level of volume and good quality at the same time.” A handsome, four-deck superyacht with styling just on the edgy side of conservative, Seven Sins is a beautifully built 499GT displacement design with twin 1,900-horsepower MTU diesels, for a top speed of 17 knots. With accommodation for up to nine crew, she offers four guest suites on the lower deck, and a fifth – which could also serve as an enviable captain’s cabin – behind the wheelhouse on the extended upper deck. The deck saloon is the yacht’s prime real estate, with its generous, symmetrical layout, terrific expanse of windows, and reflective deckheads to accentuate the sensation of space. Venture forward through the lobby, which boasts a Carrara marble staircase and a glass display cabinet for the Belgian owner’s artworks, and the owner’s suite occupies the full beam of the yacht’s hull, with its office space, capacious forward bathroom and a floor area to rival the main saloon. Even by the elevated standards of modern superyachting, this is an unusually well-appointed suite.
For all the undoubted luxury of this imposing stateroom, however, the yacht’s pièce de resistance is down at the other end, in the stern, where two panels fold out from the topsides to open up the beach club area, while the transom hatch lifts to flood the tender well. With the tender floated out of the way, the roof panel lowers to provide a central deck for the beach club, at the same time revealing – to general applause, one assumes – the glass-bottomed swimming pool overhead, refracting dappled sunlight through the water. It is a stunning piece of design, deceptive in its simplicity. This is where your guests will want to spend their days.
If the styling of Seven Sins successfully mixes the modern with a reassuring conservatism, then Sanlorenzo’s new fibreglass motor yacht model, the SL102, encases some genuinely new thinking within an entirely straightlaced shell. The shipyard is famous for the old-school sobriety of its SL flybridge motor yachts, and perhaps more than any other shipyard has the happy knack of producing designs which hardly date at all. But in the design office a complex balancing act is always going on, between the traditional brand values of the company and the need to bring new ideas to the market. It’s like the swan serenely gliding on the surface, with much energetic paddling down below. “The superyacht models are quite modern, true enough, but still perfectly in keeping with the tradition of Sanlorenzo design,” contends Perotti. “On the other hand, the composite line products, that are traditionally more conservative, have recently seen more modern concepts with innovative ideas that, nevertheless, respect Sanlorenzo tradition. This is exactly the philosophy that has been guiding me since 2005, when I acquired the shipyard.” So while the 26-knot SL102 looks, at first, like one more expression of this timeless principle, study the yacht more closely and a surprise soon reveals itself. Hidden behind the trompe l‘oeil of those demure superstructure curves lies an asymmetrical main deck layout, in which the saloon extends to the gunwale on the port side, with a conventional side deck, including fold-out balcony, to starboard. In a solution seen aboard many larger superyachts, a companionway on the port side leads from the cockpit to the upper deck, where a walkway runs forward to the bow. Meanwhile, a section of the port gunwale folds down amidships to provide sole-to-deckhead views from the dining table.
Asymmetry is not a new notion in commercial craft, and is not unknown in pleasure boats either, as certain Sealine owners will be pleased to tell you. But it is a genuinely game-changing idea on board a big motor yacht, and will send ripples through the superyacht world. The fact that it was introduced in Sanlorenzo’s conservative SL line is a sign of how bold the company is capable of being when it comes to mixing new ideas with old, respecting shipyard traditions while challenging market perceptions. As it enters the superyachting arena with strong designs in lengths of 50 to 60 metres and more – there’s a 70-metre on the drawing board – Sanlorenzo is no longer a boutique shipyard, but a confident player on the world stage. When he took over the company back in 2005, Massimo Perotti felt the need for a challenge: he had gone as far as he could within the Azimut-Benetti organisation, and with no way up, the only way forward was out. “I wanted to test myself,” he told me. Thirteen years on, it looks like he’s passed that test with flying colours.