Ahead of the fleet: the Ferretti Group Private Preview 2021

Ahead of the premiere of its newest fleet at the Cannes Yachting Festival, the group pulls out all the stops at a gargantuan private preview in Monte-Carlo – and Tempus was there

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It’s 9am and I am standing in a rather peculiar location. As a guest of the Ferretti Group’s famed private preview event in Monte-Carlo, awash with billionaires, businesspeople and harried sea crew all eager to review the latest fleet before it sets sail to the season’s international Yacht Shows – including Monaco and Cannes – I expected to spend my time here skirting along the edges of proceedings, looking but not touching as yachts the size of houses shuttle back and forth across the Yacht Club de Monaco’s harbour.

With 2020’s event curtailed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the buzz this year is palpable. A sense of relief permeates every corner of the Monegasque principality, and thus it seemed a fantastical idea that I might get any sort of priority access among the milieu.

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But I was wrong. Instead, I stand barefoot and shielding my eyes from the blazing September sun bouncing off the stern deck of the two-storey bespoke yacht owned by Ferretti Group CEO Alberto Galassi.

To call him a man of action would be an understatement – at 1am last night I had watched as he took to the Yacht Club’s stage to play guitar alongside Italian pop icon Umberto Tozzi – and now he is here, impeccably dressed in a tailored suit and ready to field my questions on his work. And with a series of spectacular new models from each of Ferretti’s subsidiary manufacturers making their debuts at the event, each more innovative than the last, I am intrigued as to how he views each of the brands under his control.

“The difference between each brand is like the difference between me, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kevin Costner and a Formula One driver; we have seven brands, none of which overlap each other,” he says. “For powerboats, you have Wally; for heritage and timeless elegance, you have Riva; if you want to tailor-make a boat, you have Custom Line; meanwhile, Pershing is like a jet fighter.”

Does Galassi have a preference? “Ah, come on,” he says, emphasising his words with a mano a borsa hand gesture. “This is like asking a mother to choose between her own children.”

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* Ferretti Group CEO Alberto Galassi

From our vantage point, the Ferretti Group Private Preview, taking place just before the Cannes Yachting Festival, is a somewhat overwhelming spectacle. Bobbing gently next to us is the enormous Ferretti Yachts 1000 model, making its premiere as the largest ever produced by the shipyard at 30m in length and hosting five luxury cabins.

Meanwhile, across the harbour is the equally brand-new Riva 68’ Diable, a gorgeous, angular vessel with a stunning sunroof design and bucketloads of power, with two MAN V12 engines offering a max speed of 40 knots.

But it would be remiss of me to suggest there wasn’t a clear standout among the premieres – a frankly remarkable feat of engineering and design that had fast become the talk of the event, though a rather polarising one – the Wally WHY200.

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* The Wally WHY200

Towering above the adjacent vessels, and featuring a truly bizarre 180-degree cabin carved into the bow of the boat, this “spaceship yacht” has captured the attention of virtually every attendee from photographers to prospective buyers. Even Galassi himself, while admitting its envelope- pushing design is not to everyone’s taste, cannot resist its unique charms; his impartiality goes straight out the window when I ask which yacht premiere he is most excited about.

“Oh it’s the WHY200,” he says, in a manner which suggests he could not possibly pick any other model.

“The world is talking about it – ‘I love it!’, ‘I hate it!’, ‘I don’t understand it!’,” he chuckles. “But you don’t judge the interior or the performance of a vessel by looking at its exterior; if you are not a fan of the design, I believe you will end up falling in love with the ship because of how it feels inside and how it performs. And if you already love the exterior, then there’s no problem to begin with.

“It’s a big bet, sure,” he says. “But we think we’ve won that bet.”

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The time comes to disembark and, with espresso in hand, I am escorted down the harbour wall to attend a sea trial of the Pershing 9X, which made its debut at the brand’s 2017 Private Preview. Pershing’s yachts are almost a test of how much both performance and comfort can be ramped up without sacrificing one another. From the stern, I can see hordes of onlookers snapping photos of the shimmering exterior as we crawl out of the harbour, until the captain makes it out into open water and opens up the taps.

This is a simply astonishing machine. The bow sweeps up toward the sky, tipping us backwards as an enormous arc of water shoots high into the sky and the wind picks up as we cruise past 20, then 30, then 40 knots. Carving through the Mediterranean’s transparent waters and even the wake of other yachts, the captain makes a series of dramatic figure-eights at full speed, the boat tilting into each turn with such grace that the cup of water on the table to my left doesn’t spill a drop.

The smoothness of the ride seems almost illogical; my eyes and ears are informing me that this is an intense, adrenaline-fuelling experience, but my stomach – and my relaxed pose, couchant on a sofa – suggest otherwise. I can only imagine the comfort and precision of this year’s 6X, which, while more compact, is more powerful and technologically advanced.

The Ferretti Group prides itself on exponential innovation year-on-year, and if almost half a decade has passed since this model made its debut, the mind boggles as to what the future has in store for Galassi and his team.

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