Azimut `120SL Grande
Italian builder Azimut's new flagship, the 120SL, is the starting point in the company's new Grande series, and the combination of high speed potential and customised luxurious interiors is sure to please
In a significant re-organisation of their product range the Azimut Benetti Group introduced their Grande range at the 2011 Cannes Boat Show. This new range comprises planing motor yachts from 30 metres upwards and it consists of two yachts which were previously the flagship yachts of the Azimut range, their 100 and their 116. These yachts have now been superseded by a brand new 120 SL, and it is this yacht that sets the pattern for the future of the Grande range.
The SL of the name stands for Sport Luxury and this is the theme of the 120. Despite the fine fittings of the interior, the 120 has a low, sporting profile, and has a speed that can top out at 40 knots – so there is performance to spare. You can see the Azimut heritage in the design with the low fins at the rear of the flybridge that give an uplift to the stern. The square of windows in the centre of the topsides has now become a traditional Azimut feature and the large curving saloon windows above are also very distinctive features of past Azimut yacht.
Where the style differs from the more upright Azimut designs is in the flybridge. This is set well aft which helps to give the 120 its sleek profile and by placing it here it leaves space for a large sun roof that gives light and character to the saloon below. The windscreen windows are steeply angled and they merge into the forward coachroof to create the very sleek sporting image. To develop the advanced styling of the 120SL, Azimut relied on Carlo Galeazzi, who has been responsible for many of the earlier yachts in the Azimut range.
The plans for the Grande range are to introduce new standards of performance, and with its potential for a 40-knot top speed the 120SL offers all the excitement an owner could require. This sort of speed is not easy to find on a yacht that weighs in at 156 tonnes, and it requires a sophisticated propulsion system. Here, there was the option of fitting two big diesels from the MTU 4000 range, but the better option was to go for three engines from the MTU 2000 range. This three-engine combination is both lighter and cheaper than the two-engine alternative, and it offers a lot more flexibility.
To harness this 7200 horsepower, the designers decided that water jet propulsion was the answer. The 120 has three Rolls Royce jets with the two outer jets having full reverse and steering while the centre jet is a booster unit that only provides ahead thrust. With this arrangement, the yacht can cruise comfortably at around 24 knots using just the two outer jets. On the version we tested, the 120 rises to a maximum of 36 knots when the centre booster jet is switched in. With three engines, it makes for a crowded engine compartment, but all the important bits are accessible even though the stern garage does intrude on the space.
Azimut has some previous experience with water jet propulsion when they offered it as an option on their 103S, which had two water jets as an alternative to Arneson Surface Drives. Water jet propulsion offers a very smooth performance and a notable feature is the almost total absence of any vibration which makes life on board much more pleasant when cruising at speed. The hull of the 120 has been developed by Stefano Righini, and the deep-V shape was tank tested to ensure that it could offer a smooth ride both at high speed and in rough seas. Gyro stabilisers are standard, improving the ride at all speed levels.
An innovative feature of the 120SL design is a “tunnel” that has been incorporated along the centre line of the bilge area, which extends for 21 metres forward of the engine room and allows access to the hidden parts of the yacht as well as to additional storage areas below the staterooms.
Because of its location well aft, the flybridge is relatively small. Nonetheless, there is space here for a spa pool, sun beds, a bar counter and a dining area, so that this forms the main fun area of the yacht. For quiet drinks in the evening when the yacht is moored stern-to in a marina, there is a luxurious seating area built into the forward coachroof and more sun beds located forward of this.
On the flybridge, there is a panoramic view from the upper helm, which is just as well because the visibility from the main lower helm is restricted because of wide windscreen mullions and the steeply angled windscreen.
Three seats dominate the lower helm, and the engine and water jet controls are located on plinths between the seats so that the captain can control everything from the seat. The navigation and monitoring screens are placed low down in front and with everything finished in black there shouldn’t be any problem with reflections. Like most yachts of this size there is no view aft from the helm so you rely totally on the radar to detect anything coming up astern. Then again, with the speed that this yacht can travel, there’s little worry that other craft will be overtaking.
There is tremendous flexibility in the way that the interior can be developed. Apart from the main structural aspects of the hull and the engines, an owner has full freedom to develop the interior to his choice. The master suite can be in the centre of the hull or at main deck level in the forward area. On the yacht just launched, this bow area was occupied by the galley, which makes it convenient for serving in the dining saloon just aft.
The standard layout as seen on the prototype has four luxury staterooms in the hull, two of them full width with the master suite located in the centre of the hull and the VIP cabin forward with two twin cabins in between. Access to these staterooms is via a stairway located in the vestibule just behind the galley.
The main feature of the interior is the huge saloon at main deck level, which has almost cathedral-like proportions with close to three metres of headroom. By setting the flybridge well aft, that sunroof above is right over the dining table so when open it allows dining under the stars. This, combined with the large side windows brings a new standard of light and space to the saloon.
The dining table is in the forward section. Then there is the lounge area with seating on both sides, while right aft there is a bar counter which is conveniently located to serve the seating area in the cockpit aft. This first 120 was built for a Chinese owner who has had a big input into the interior design – the décor features mainly light fabrics matched to darker zebrano wood and cream leather.
Marble has been used extensively in bathrooms and the dining table is solid marble, weighing in at 300 kilogrammes. As a result, this extra weight has restricted the performance to 36 knots maximum speed with all three engines in operation. A much lighter interior and more attention to weight saving would allow speeds to rise, and MTU has recently upgraded the output of their 16-V 2000 engines so that another 600 horsepower could be available, which accounts for the 40-knot speed potential if an owners wants to focus on performance.
Azimut has great plans for the future of their Grande range. A new 100 will be introduced this autumn and this will be a flybridge yacht with a more modest speed potential. This new design will replace the existing 100 in the Azimut range and it will have many of the advanced styling features of the 120 SL. However the star of the Grande range will be the 135 Trideck that is currently under development
This 135 is a truly magnificent motor yacht and the sharp lines suggest a high speed potential that will make it one of the fastest semi-production yachts of its size on the market. Few details have been released. But Azimut is working with Rolls Royce on developing new propulsion systems, and these could be based around the new Azipull drives that Rolls Royce has recently announced. These pod drives have been developed from the extensive experience of producing drive units for the demanding commercial ship sector and they are the first pod drives available in the yachting market that can handle power outputs up to 5000 horsepower.
Much larger pod drives have been available but only for displacement speed operations. These new Rolls Royce drives are designed to operate at planing speeds and this opens up a much wider market for their application. Because they can rotate the thrust through 360° these drives can be combined in a very effective joy stick control system and it is possible that the 135 will feature two of these drives combined with a centre line booster water jet in a system that will combine flexibility in operation and control with high performance when required. With engine manufacturer MTU now part of the extensive Rolls Royce Group, this propulsion system has the benefit of coming from a one source supply.
With their new Grande range Azimut Benetti is re-inventing the design of performance motor yachts. Paulo Vitelli, the Chairman of the Azimut Benetti Group commented, “Azimut Grande represents a tangible response to the needs of expressed by our yacht owners. It is an appealing line that doesn’t cut corners in terms of comfort and flawless performance.”
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Technical Specifications – Azimut Grande 120SL
Length 35.5 metres
Beam 7.5 metres
Draft 1.9 metres
Displacement (full load) 156 tonnes
Fuel capacity 18,000 litres
Water capacity 3300 litres
Engines 3 x 2400 hp MTU 16V-2000 diesels
Propulsion 3 x Rolls Royce water jets
Hull design Stefano Righini
Interior design Carlo Galeazzi
Builder Azimut Benetti