Azimut, the world’s busiest yacht brand, takes a leap forward with a new bow entry and styling on the first of a completely new series that employs a triple Volvo IPS drive
Italian builder Azimut has taken a considerable leap into the future with this new design. This is a yard that is constantly looking for new ways to enhance the yachting experience while developing motor yachts that offer excellent reliability and style. Development can often be a difficult path. It is possible to innovate, yet new ideas and concepts have to stand up against what has been done in the past and perhaps more important, they have to convince the buying public of their worth.
Take the use of the Volvo Penta IPS Drive system. This has worked well in many smaller cruisers, but by Volvo’s own admission, both hull and propulsion have to be carefully integrated if they are to work effectively. However, the advantages of a fully working system are considerable. Azimut has used the IPS Drive as the focus of this new 55S, and you can see what a difference this has made, both in the way the yacht is designed and the way it can perform.
Azimut has opted for a triple IPS Drive installation on the 55S, and this helps to maximise the advantages of the drive system. Earlier versions of the IPS did not work well in a triple installation because you had to keep all three running at the same time. This was due to the fact that the drive lubrication system did not operate unless its associated engine was running. That has changed, so that you can operate the 55S with one, two or three engines working, allowing you to find an economical solution for the particular speed at which you want to operate.
With just one engine running, you can operate at speeds up to ten knots, a good choice if you want a longer range or just peaceful slow speed cruising. Switch on a second engine – choosing any pairing of engines – and the speed rises to around 20 knots, so you still have economy but at planing speeds. With all three engines running, the speed tops out at over 35 knots, giving a bit of excitement or letting you reach the marina in time for happy hour. Because the engines are operating at or near their maximum efficiency in this way, you get the best possible economy.
Then of course you get the reliability of a three-engine installation, meaning that you can keep going at a reasonable cruising speed even with one engine out of action. Also, the designers gain more space inside the hull because effectively, three smaller engines mounted across the boat take up less space than two bigger engines, and they are also shorter. It is, as they say, a win-win. You hardly notice the engines in the engine room tucked away under the garage but accessibility is still good.
That garage built into the stern is another of the innovations of the 55S. The garage is designed around a Williams 2.85-metre jet tender. To assist the launch and recovery of this tender, when the garage door folds down, it can angle below the horizontal to act as a launching ramp. When simply open, without launching the tender or after launch, you have a two-metre wide sunbathing and watersports platform at the stern.
Another innovation hidden from view is the garage moulded from a carbon fibre laminate, a combination of lightweight and strength. Azimut is increasingly using these advanced composites to create stronger and lighter hull structures.
Above the garage, Azimut has found a new way to arrange the cockpit. There is only access to the cockpit from the starboard side aft, where the passerelle is located. This allows for surround seating in the cockpit about an aft table, which can be lowered electrically to create a sunbed. The cockpit is on the same level as the saloon and to emphasise the continuity, the teak deck extends from the cockpit into the saloon. There are sliding glass doors to separate the two areas but these almost disappear into the sides and there is an infill cushion to allow the seating to extend in one continuous line from cockpit to saloon. It makes a much more sociable arrangement in fine weather but with the ability to shut out the weather when it turns nasty.
Moving to the other end of the 55S, the bow has been squared off to form a near vertical bow above the chine line. Azimut has reasoned that the small pointed section at the bow does not form any useful purpose so they have made a feature of this squared off section by giving it a different texture than the rest of the hull. The effect is somewhat spoiled by the ugly anchor stowage extension over the bow, which admittedly does help to keep that chain clear of the hull, but it is not pretty.
In addition to these changes, the 55S also has very stylish and appealing lines. It has a great sporting look with a novel shape to the saloon windows, and you can see the benefit from the inside, where they allow a great seaview while in the saloon.
The layout is relatively conventional, with the galley contained in the long sideboard that runs along the starboard side and the dining area to port. This dining area converts to the social area with the TV opposite and the forward section of the settee lifts and reverses to create forward facing seating when underway. Alongside this seating is a sort of short chaise seat, which could work as a sunbed when the large sun roof is opened up.
There are options in the way this space is used but to a certain extent, it is compromised by the raised section that is needed to provide headroom below. With the engines well aft Azimut has managed to design in a generous three cabin layout and there is still space for a compact crew cabin in the bow.
The master cabin is amidships and extends for the full width, with the bed angled across the cabin. To port there is what could be a small dinette for two below the cathedral-like hull windows that make this seem like an open-air cabin. To starboard there is a two-berth guest cabin and then forward is the VIP cabin with its large double bed. In creating this accommodation the size of the bathrooms has suffered a bit and the passageways are on the narrow side.
At the helm, there are two adjustable supportive seats with the driving position on the inboard seat. The visibility from the helm is good with slim side pillars and an open window, which allows communication with the outside world. The dashboard is dominated by the two navigation screens, but it looks cluttered and it is not easy to find the information and minor controls that you need. The electrical panel is low down in front of the outer seat, and it is hard to reach. On the plus side there are good handholds around the saloon to ensure safe movement at sea.
When underway, the IPS drives are controlled by normal throttle levers, but in harbour there is a joystick control to make things easy. This joystick not only links with the drives to control steering and thrust but also to the bow thruster so you can make the yacht move in any desired direction and at any desired speed.
The décor is a contrast of dark woods, chocolate brown mouldings and the off-white of the settees and panelling. Though a bit harsh, it does make for a very modernistic look.
With innovation in the design of this popular sized sports yacht, the designers tread a narrow line. The easy option is to stick with tradition and convention and do what every other builder does. Azimut are always looking for a better way to do things, and with this 55S they have succeeded. It looks good, it works well and it offers exciting performance. This is a sports cruiser primarily designed for the sun, but it has enough flexibility to work when the conditions change. The triple IPS drive system offers enormous flexibility in the performance so this 55S can fill many roles.
In Asia: www.simpsonmarine.com
Technical Specifications – Azimut 55S
LOA: 17.29 m
Beam: 4.65 m
Draught (loaded): 1.14 m
Displacement (loaded): 22 t
Fuel capacity: 1600 lt
Water capacity: 590 lt
Engines: 3 x 435 hp Volvo Penta D6 diesels
Propulsion: Triple IPS Drives
Exterior design: Stephano Righini
Interior: Carlo Galeazzi