Toby Hodges is impressed with the power and poise of this wonderfully slippery new design from Italian yard Advanced Yachts
A multitude of shiny new yachts drifted across the Bay of Cannes, like a painting of a seascape reflected in the mid-morning calm. It was early September, the day after the 2016 Cannes Yachting Festival, and a prime time for trials for prospective owners and press. But the Advanced Yachts 80 was the only yacht visibly moving under sail.
I had gone aboard the A80 with little expectation of being able to sail; I hoped for a tour of the bay under motor at most. But we proceeded to spend a couple of hours actually sailing in apparently lifeless conditions and that is a testament to the potential of this mile-eating cruiser.
I was given a commanding demonstration of why a relatively light and slippery performance yacht is a good option for sailors who will inhabit waters where the wind doesn’t always whip the salt off your face.
First impressions may lead you to think this is a showpiece yacht designed for performance cruising between glitzy Med ports. Actually Advanced Yachts creates thoroughbred cruisers designed to tackle the world’s oceans at speed.
‘Easy handling, sailing performance and distinguished design are the key elements of the Advanced bluewater yacht,’ states the Milan-based firm. This first A80 is quickly living up to these promises.
Apsaras launched in the summer of 2015. Following the Monaco Yacht Show she went directly to Las Palmas to take part in the ARC, where she won line honours in the cruising division. Her Asian owners, who did the crossing, were delighted. Her performance has raised awareness of the Advanced brand, which is now being represented by Berthon International.
Form and function first
A Reichel Pugh design built in glassfibre-carbon composite with engineering by Gurit equates to a yacht centred around performance. The A80 has beamy, modern generation hull lines for speed combined with generous interior volume and deck space.
Build quality is excellent. Hull and deck are made from CNC-lathed female moulds at Advanced’s 3,000m2 shipyard near Fano, Italy. The glassfibre sandwich hulls have carbon reinforcement, the deck is in carbon and glassfibre composite that is vacuum-infused with epoxy.
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Unidirectional carbon fibre reinforcements are added in the keel, chainplates and other high load areas, plus longitudinal stiffeners line the hull. The furniture is mostly made from a sandwich of foam core with teak veneer.
Apsaras is a relatively standard boat – in so much as an 80-footer can be. Her owners wanted tried and tested basic systems and hardware to make servicing easy in Asia.
We were aboard a 40-tonne yacht sailing upwind in just 3.5 to 5 knots of breeze under main and genoa, yet the log consistently showed our boatspeed to be one knot faster than the true wind. In a demonstration of her performance potential, we peaked at 6 knots in 4.2 knots of wind at 60° TWA.
Those are impressive figures for what is promoted as a cruising yacht. A glance at the dimensions and ratios illustrates a potent, powerful yacht, one that carries stacks of sail for her relatively light displacement – indeed her sail area-to-displacement ratio is nudging that of the all-carbon Swan 60. The polars confirm she’ll hit double figures in anything over 7 knots true wind and she has clocked 25 knots in the Atlantic.
This is also a sailor’s yacht. When helming, I was surprised just how light and communicative Apsaras was for such a large boat, with finger-light movements all that was required. Reichel Pugh was reportedly against the concept of twin rudders for this model and drew the A80 with a deep 3.2m single spade rudder.
The use of a central, hydraulic-powered mainsheet winch, maxi-style, works well, and is something Advanced employed on its first model, the A66. The traveller is recessed neatly into the deck and operated via a remote line driver.
Together, the winch and track make for an effective way to trim and tame the powerful mainsail. The hydraulics are powered by both DC and a power take-off drive on the generator, allowing a choice of silent sailing or extra grunt when required. I would like to see some form of stowage designed in for the sheet tails – the pin-on bags look like the afterthought they obviously were.
Under engine, we made 10 knots at 2,400rpm while consuming 17 to 18 litres of fuel per hour. With 2,000lt of tanks, the A80 can motor for five days and nights at this speed.
It did, however, seem noisy under engine in the aft guest accommodation, with noticeable vibration from the propulsion. It was fine in the saloon and further forward, however owners will obviously be happier if they can sail rather than motor in light airs!
For a relatively new brand, Advanced Yachts has done a commendable job of creating a family friendly look. The A80 has a very powerful design that is complemented by a sleek yet masculine coachroof line, a signature styling from superyacht design specialists Nauta Yachts. The chunky bowsprit enhances her purposeful form.
The bowsprit is for attaching the tack of the Code 0 or gennaker and also helps keep the anchor chain clear of the plumb stem. It is designed to be strong enough to take both the tack loads and high snatch loads of the chain without the need for a bobstay.
Abaft the forepeak and chain locker is a superb sail locker sandwiched by two watertight bulkheads. The deep locker contained spare sheets and halyards and has plenty of space for flying sails.
The foredeck is kept clean thanks to the use of recessed furlers for the genoa and the staysail. At the mast base are two deck winches to handle the running rigging from the Hall carbon mast and PBO rigging (owner’s choice).
The coachroof has a relatively flat top and this helps make the wide side decks feel secure to walk along. It also contains a foldaway sprayhood, which can withstand 30 knots of wind.
The guest cockpit is long and super-shallow. Indeed, without padded cushions on the coamings there would be little in the way of comfortable seated support – or protection. Two large daybeds aft serve a second purpose of helping create headroom in the aft accommodation.
The beamy aft deck also has room for two more sizeable sun loungers. The cockpit sole is at a single level from pushpit to the offset companionway, making it easy to move from cockpit to aft deck.
The tender garage can fit a 3.22m dinghy facing forwards. This area doubles as a generous lazarette, although access from both quarters would be preferable. A passarelle extends neatly out of the aft quarter to starboard.
This is the third Advanced Yachts model I have sailed and all have particularly inviting interiors by Nauta. They display Italian design in subtle tones; not too flamboyant or operatic.
The lovely raised saloon of the A80 draws you in. This centrepiece of the yacht is bathed in natural light through the large coachroof and hull portlights and a big skylight hatch.
Raising the roof
A raised saloon area also helps keep the machinery low and central. The engine space below the A80’s saloon floorboards is excellent and includes two gensets, a watermaker and aircon.
The large daybed to starboard seemed a bit of a waste of saloon space to me, but Advanced Yachts manager Aldo Tomasina pointed out that owners can use this for resting on passage without feeling cocooned below. The insert to this bed also slides across to the table to seat two.
The A80 has a proper nav station by the companionway. The switchboard is noteworthy for its easy access to the wiring behind, where every wire is labelled – a captain’s dream. Not only is there a good size lifting chart table, but the saloon table also hinges open to store full-size A1 paper charts.
The layout of this first boat is similar to the A66, including a galley and dinette forward of the saloon. The key benefit of this is that the owner and guest accommodation is completely separated from the ‘service’ end.
Advanced operates a flexible semi-custom approach to its interiors in terms of both materials and cabin layout. There are two layout schemes for owners who want forward master cabins.
Guest cabins comprise two identical en-suite cabins abaft the saloon. The headroom was notable despite the cabins being below the cockpit. The aft cabin makes full use of the A80’s 6.2m beam.
The standard design for the owner’s aft cabin has an offset double berth, but as Apsaras’s owners are contemplating chartering the yacht, the cabin was fitted out symmetrically so that it could easily convert into two en-suite double cabins in the future. A benefit of this format is that the large sofas each side of the island berth double as useful passage berths.
Apsaras normally operates with three permanent crew and the crew accommodation forward also has plenty of space. The two Pullman cabins forward of the galley can sleep four crew sharing a heads and a shower.
Here is a bluewater performance cruiser that’s born to sail. For owners looking to go long distance with two or three paid hands, the A80 is a model that encourages sailing at speed and in refined comfort. I would like to see tail lockers, foot chocks, and aft deck storage designed in – small points that would help finish off her clean looks and functional design. In many ways the A80 is a larger version of the sexy A66 we tested in 2013. She shares a similar style, layout and powerful potential. The multi-million Euro question will be whether you really want all that power. In areas of typically low wind we saw how it is a real advantage to be able to sail and fully utilise the lightest of breezes. Few other cruising yachts of this size could actually sail in five knots of breeze. This does suggest that for sailing the oceans and tradewinds, the A80 may need to be kept on a leash and reefed a lot of the time. But what a platform she offers to tour the globe at speed!