Market differentiators in the burgeoning cruising catamaran market can be difficult to find, yet this is what industry leader Beneteau-Lagoon has achieved with its Excess models, which deliver a livelier and more responsive range.
- Silky smooth, quiet ride
- Massive, luxuriously appointed owners’ suite
- Styling inside and out shows lots of Italian flair
- Latest technology makes the boat easy to handle, even for just a couple
As the New Zealand boating market becomes increasingly sophisticated, so the size and scope of the type of boats being sold here is changing. This new appreciation and demand for craft at the super-luxury end of the spectrum is expressed in boats such as the Azimut S7.
Italian manufacturer Azimut the world’s largest producers of large luxury powerboats, building a full range of motor-yachts from its seven shipyards in Italy for more than 50 years; and has seen no let-up in demand despite the global pandemic. The company is currently taking orders for 2022–23, and it’s not just European owners getting in on the action: five Azimuts were sold to Kiwi owners last year and an additional five sales in 2021 also include a second S7 to be launched here in November.
“People are becoming more conscious of luxury products here — look at the cars you see on the roads these days,” says David Hawke of Azimut’s New Zealand agent Pinnacle Marine. “Many owners are demanding more style – luxury – sophistication and technology from their boats, this is where Azimut are taking it to the next level. In the last 18 months, even with Covid, we’ve seen enquiry levels increase significantly.”
This particular Azimut S7, named Eleven Eleven after a particularly auspicious number in numerology for the owners, arrived here in late 2020. At 21m (70ft) in length, it fills a gap in the S series between Azimut’s 18.3m S6 and the larger S8 and S10, launched last year. On the model’s release in 2018 it showcased a new interior layout, with the galley forward on the same level as the saloon, a dinette area which converts to a lounge, and an off-centre spiral staircase leading down to the accommodation, including the enormous full beam master suite.
Azimut is big on the use of carbon fibre technology, and in this boat it is used in the upper superstructure and flybridge, to reduce weight and lower the centre of gravity, and in the fold-down swim-platform/tender launch platform at the stern. (Azimut is such a big consumer of carbon, it purchased the factory that previously supplied them). Because of the lighter weight and rigidity of this material, Azimut can build without creating excessive top-heaviness, allowing two-metre headroom on both the main and lower decks.
Eleven Eleven, which is the owner’s second Azimut, will be used for family cruising around the Hauraki Gulf and further afield. She lives in Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour, in a prime position across from the Team New Zealand base. Hawke says the boat was well used by the owner, family and friends as a platform for viewing the 2021 America’s Cup, her berth a ringside seat for the victorious return of Te Rehutai to the Viaduct, and the ensuing celebrations.
The S7 is a ‘sportfly’, so it looks more like a very large sports boat rather than a traditional flybridge launch. It does however have an upper driving position, and the views from up here are spectacular — you’re about three metres above water level, and it feels like you’re sitting on top of the world.
The boat has four generous cabins — two doubles and two twins — and three heads, plus a crew cabin with its own head. It has air conditioning throughout, with separately controlled (also remotely) individual zones. The owner of this boat ticked a lot of the boxes on the order form, so it is tricked out with lots of optional extras such as underwater lights, an integrated wine cooler in the saloon, a drawer fridge on the flybridge, an electric bimini on the bow and an integrated washer/dryer on the accommodation level.
As you might expect from Azimut, the styling is very European, with a distinctly Italian flair to the interior combination of rich textures, finishes and shades reminiscent of a luxury hotel, designed by Francesco Guida. Recessed LED lighting accentuates the floating ceiling panels, pale timber flooring and reflective surfaces. Exterior styling is by Stefano Righini, and features dark reflective glass, curvaceous lines and multiple glazing. This is not a boat for blending into the background.
The boat’s 45.4 tonnes (loaded) displacement is pushed along by triple Volvo D13 800hp diesels, with IPS 1050 drives. These are controlled by joystick at low speeds and when docking, and in company with a bow thruster, make such a large boat surprisingly easy to manoeuvre. Getting the boat in and out of its berth at the Viaduct obviously takes some practice but when it comes down it, we’re talking fingertip control of a vessel which is more than 20 metres long.
The S7’s ECS (Enhanced Cruising Solutions) programme includes active trim control to automatically adjust the boat’s longitudinal trim and optimise fuel consumption; an auto balance system, which transfers fuel between tanks to manage transverse trim; and an integrated onboard control and monitoring system, which interfaces with the main services. Having all this tech on hand means it can actually be handled by just two people. It’s a very large boat equipped with the latest technology and multiple systems keeping it running, but the touchscreen user interface is surprisingly clear and simple, designed so you can just get on, push a few buttons, and get going.
The sun is out, so we start off driving from the upper helm station, where there are twin seats to starboard facing a pair of large Raymarine screens for navigation; a touchscreen monitor for the triple Volvos, along with the joystick, wheel and throttle controls; and ample seating on a u-shaped settee to port. All of the exterior upholstery, up here and in the cockpit and bow areas, is in durable, fast-drying and UV-resistant Batyline fabric.
This upper deck is quite small compared to the overall size of the boat — the huge foredeck with its massive daybeds, and the raked windscreen and sunroof take up much of the upper surface — but there is space for a daybed to port aft of the seating area, with the large clear-finish carbon radar mast behind it.
A curved staircase takes you down to the main deck level. There’s plenty more seating in the cockpit, under the hardtop generated by the flybridge deck: an L-shaped settee around a fold-out table on the port side faces an electric barbecue at the base of the steps curving upwards. Aft of this, large squabs form a large daybed across the transom, with access to the boarding platform on both sides.
This carbon fibre ‘sea terrace’ folds down to create an additional rear deck and can be angled for launching and retrieval of tenders and water toys. As the pod-drive system does away with the need for shafts and props at the stern, there is enough room in the garage under the cockpit to accommodate a 3.25m Williams jet tender and Sea-doo PWC. The large Volvo diesels are accessed through a hatch in the cockpit floor, along with the generator and modular Schenker water maker.
Reflective glass doors form the rear wall of the saloon and open it to the cockpit, creating easy flow between the two areas. To starboard just inside the doors is an eye-catching mirrored glassware and drinks cabinet.
Like the glossy exterior, the interior styling features a range of materials, including clear-finish carbon, high-gloss timbers, mirrored glass and stainless-steel accents. The saloon features a twin table arrangement; each one can be raised or lowered separately or folded out to create one large dining table.
The large galley is forward of the saloon, but on the same level, creating an easy flow between spaces. It features a four-hob induction cooktop, large under-bench oven, double sink and dishwasher, with integrated refrigeration. The benchtop surface is a hard-wearing grey textured laminate stone.
Views out of this main cabin area are generous and framed by a distinctive diamond-shaped windows. A flat-screen LED TV pops up out of the cabinetry on the starboard side, then slips away when not required, making sure the view is the star.
The screens and controls from the flybridge are mirrored at the lower helm station, where there is also the monitor for the optional Seakeeper NG16 gyroscopic stabilising system. The entire cabin roof forward of the saloon, above the galley and lower helm station, is glazed, and can be opened up as a giant sunroof or covered with a concertina-style blind.
Heading down the curved staircase to the accommodation level, pale timber flooring gives way to plush white silk carpet. At the base of the stairs is a cupboard concealing the washer-dryer, then turning towards the stern of the boat, the simply massive owner’s suite.
It’s more luxury hotel than boat cabin, with its angled bed, large windows, ample seating and storage areas, and mirrored, marble-topped vanity unit concealed behind a curved partition. Aft of this, one door leads to the head and shower compartment, and another to a walk-in wardrobe. Those high topsides and carbon fibre superstructure pay off in spades down here, allowing so much space and headroom.
If you’re not lucky enough to be sleeping in the owner’s suite, there are two twin cabins, one on each side going forward, and in the bow another double ‘VIP’ cabin, with its own ensuite head and shower. (The two twin cabins share the day head and shower on the port side.) Throughout the accommodation the finishes are textural, tonal and super-luxe, with pale flooring, chocolatey timber and dark, reflective finishes and mirrors.
Out on the water, the S7 certainly makes a statement. On the day of our test run the Waitematā is mostly glassy calm, but any slight wake or chop we do encounter is mincemeat beneath the bow of Eleven Eleven. We’re certainly too high up to get any water on the windscreen.
The electronic steering is light at both the upper and lower helm stations, and the sense of speed is deceptive: it doesn’t feel like we are going super-fast when in fact we are blasting along at nearly 30 knots (top speed is around 37). At that speed you’re burning around 360 litres/hour (120 litres/hour per engine). Downstairs, with the rear door closed, the ride is also exceptionally quiet and silky smooth thanks to the Volvo IPS.
This boat is the nautical equivalent of owning a high-end performance European car — all flashy good looks, shiny finishes, latest technology and Italian style. A new era of boating has arrived in this country, and boats like the Azimut S7 are its flagship.