If Luca Bassani wanted to shock the yachting world with the design of his new displacement yacht the 26-metre Wally Ace, then he has succeeded, with very long range capability and an interesting take on the master cabin – to say nothing of new shape.
At first glance, the new 26-metre Wally Ace, the first in the line of the new displacement yachts, looks bulky and somewhat ungainly. But as we found out after boarding then taking her out on the water and giving her a real seagoing test, she is far from being a duckling and is in fact much more like the swan of the children's story.
We had approached the yacht as she lay stern-to the dock in Ravenna, Italy, and as we did so we were struck by two inescapable facts. The first is that Bassani has thrown away the rulebook, which says a short yacht should have a narrow beam. Secondly, the arrangement of the stern and the master cabin that opens directly off it will be the reason this boat is going to sell.
Bassani thinks that boats are used most often by friends or family groupings. But he adds that “just because of that, it does not mean you all want to be together all of the time.” In fact, Bassani suggests that apart from enjoying a meal together, those that go yachting have different needs and desires, adding that he has given the Wally Ace four distinct recreational spaces. Some like peace, quiet and an opportunity to sunbathe. Others want shade a place to read a book and relax. The young cry out for media space where they can play games, listen to music and watch movies, and there are others who want to watch the world go by doing nothing more than look learn and dream the time away.
The 59-square metre top deck offers acres of flexible space unspoiled by the need to carry a tender. On the Wally Ace, it is stowed inside its own garage. Very steep stairs lead up to the sun deck which, on this first edition of the Ace, is an open area split into two thirds aft and one third forward by a central bar unit running athwartships. There is no helm station up top, so the captain controls departure from the main deck wheelhouse. There are, however, joysticks that can be used for manoeuvring at sea located on the sundeck and for docking right aft on the main deck.
Forward in the bow is a large lounging area offering some 33 square metres of space. It features massive sun beds and an enormous table that pops up to be a dining table or drops away to become a coffee table. Or, it can be covered with cushions to make an even larger sun bed. At anchor, this delightful area will likely prove to be a wonderful relaxation area.
The spacious aft deck, with its rear-facing sofa, is another large space that offers 36 square metres dedicated to outside living. Three large sun beds can be joined together to make one huge pad on which to lay and watch movies on deck using the projector TV, which drops down from the deckhead.
Finally the fourth open area is the sumptuous swimming platform aft, which can be accessed – somewhat seductively – through glass patio doors that slide open from the Master suite directly onto it.
The hull plan
We headed out to sea intent on putting this boat to the test. It was a fine day with little wind and somewhat flat seas – in no way exerting the Ace, nor showing us how well she might handle in rough water. The boat manoeuvred well coming out of the tight berth. Smoothly and within moments, we were moving through the commercial port heading for the open sea. The yacht is responsive at the helm and quickly accelerates when power is applied.
As we cleared the breakwater, we were immediately struck by two facts. First, the boat is quiet; secondly, she hardly drinks any fuel! At full speed, the Wally Ace vibrated a little and drinks a lot more, but that is to be accepted in any displacement hull.
The hull shape, where the depth is noticeably forward, is largely responsible for the lack of drag and the low fuel consumption. It does not detract from the ability of the yacht to steer well, as one might at first think. We found it easy to steer a straight course and it was just as easy to throw her into a tight turn, although we quickly learned not to apply too much wheel if you want to stay upright!
That Swedish feeling
Inside the yacht, Bassani has opened it up so that on the main deck it resembles a Swedish style loft that is light, airy and very spacious. There are huge glass windows and a clear glass screen that separates the helm station and navigation area from the main salon and dining area. Teak and holly woods are used for the decking. Teak is also used to cover the bulkheads and is the same wood that is used to create the yacht’s furnishings.
The living area, with its sliding entrance door from the aft deck, lies to port and is well planned and laid out. U-shaped seating to starboard faces a hidden TV that pops up on the port side. In the centre of the space, a glass-sided stairwell leads down to the guest accommodation, all of which is situated on the lower deck. To port, there is a bar with sink unit and drinks fridge, which features two pull out drawers the lower of which can double as a freezer.
Towards the centre of the space, located off centre and slightly to port is a large teak dining table surrounded with eight fabric and steel designer chairs. Storage cabinets are to port and starboard below the windows. It is obvious that Bassani has sailboat experience because this is a motor yacht where every spare centimetre of space has been used to create storage
In the forepart, and featuring windows as tall as elsewhere in the yacht, is the navigational area, which is divided from the living saloon by two glass panels, one to port the other to starboard. In the centre, a glass-panelled watertight door leads from the wheelhouse right onto the foredeck. It is a novel and pleasing approach to a wheelhouse design that manages to fit the working area completely within the living space.
Guest accommodation is accessed using the stairs in the centre of the saloon. In the midship section are two generously sized twins one either side of the corridor. Pullman berths over the inner most bunks mean these cabins can sleep three persons. Both cabins have ample storage space beautifully outfitted shower rooms.
All the way aft is where that Bassani genius has struck again. Again throwing away the rulebook, Bassani has put the master cabin right aft, allowing it to open directly onto the swim platform. He calls it a terrace on the sea. Two, equally-sized mirror image double bedded spaces open out onto the swim platform. The effect is incredible. Guests can lie in bed watching the sea lap onto their balcony through floor to ceiling windows. On a three-cabin version of the Wally Ace, the owner can opt for a giant, full-beam owner’s cabin with a centrally-aligned bed that faces directly onto the sea through full height windows – a huge departure from the norm.
Once out of bed, guests can walk from the aft cabin(s) through glass doors onto the swim platform. The area is large enough so that while you swim off the stern, the crew can have your breakfast ready for your return. Access to and from the water is via the same Opacmare lifting stairs that raise up to become a boarding ladder in port and act as a swimming ladder when they reverse direction and provide steps into the sea.
Each room aft has its own air condition system, which allows the aft patio doors to remain open at anchor while not affecting the rest of the air inside the remaining parts of the yacht. Temporary sills can be inserted into the door opening with screws to prevent water slopping over the swim platform into the cabin. On the forward bulkhead of each cabin, is a smallish shower room with its separate bathroom.
Accommodation on the same deck in the forepart of the vessel is reserved for crew and it is accessed using stairs that lead down from inside the wheelhouse on the starboard side. It leads into a full-beam galley and crew mess off of which there is access to the under-deck tender garage and engine room.
Right forward in front of the galley and crew mess set well into the blunt-nosed and rounded forepeak are two, twin berth crew cabins, each with separate WC’s that are divided from each other by shared shower. Each cabin has small, full-length hanging wardrobe and drawers are located under the lower most bunk. The crew cabins are situated directly over the Seakeeper gyroscopic stabiliser system which, despite being run at all times the yacht is in commission, is very quiet and free of vibrations.
There are aft steps from the galley area down to the engine room, while another door on the starboard side opens into the Ace’s tender garage. The tender is deployed in space-age fashion by a side door which lifts up to allow a gantry crane to perform the launch. The Wally Ace can store a tender as large as 5.5 metres. The garage is well planned because tenders sit over soft patches which can be lifted from the yacht using her own gantry if ever such an operation where called for, perhaps for maintenance purposes.
As with any brand new almost purely conceptual design, there are many gloriously innovative ideas that will undoubtedly filter down into mainstream yachting, no matter how much Mr Bassani might wish others did not copy his pioneering flair. We love so many of the features this yacht brings to the table not least of which is the Terrace on the Sea. With a base price of €5.3 million, it is an interesting option for the sun and fun loving owner.
Technical Specifications – Wally Ace 26m
LOA: 26.23 m
LWL: 25.85 m
Beam (max): 7.75 m
Draught (half load): 1.75 m
Displacement (half load): 94 tons
Model: Wally Ace 26 metre
Builder: Wally Yachts
Country of Build: Italy
Designer: Wally / Allseas / Luca Bassani Design
Exterior styling: Wally / Luca Bassani Design
Interior design: Wally / Luca Bassani Design
Engines: 2 x Caterpillar C12
Output: 2 x 385 bhp
Max speed: 13 kts @ 1,800 rpm
Cruise Speed: 9 kts @ 1,000 rpm
Fuel Capacity: 15,000 ls
Range @ 12 knots: 3,000 nm
Range @ 9 knots: 5,000 nm
Fresh water: 3,000 litres 792 US gal
Generator: 2 x Northern Lights 32 kW
Owners and Guest Berths: 10
Crew Berths: 4
Construction type: Sandwich GRP
Classification: RINA Charter Class SCV CE Mark Category A
Tenders: 5.7 metre Custom Build
Base Price: €5.3 million