Looks, build quality and really smart design – has the new Ice 70 got the full package? asks Toby Hodges after a maiden sail
Some yachts will always produce that instant spark of attraction. With others, the appeal may be slower burning, where facets or practicalities will help make the appeal more than skin deep. This new Ice 70 may just have that rare ability to combine both.
The opportunity for a first quick sail after its debut showing at Cannes Boat Show confirmed to me that, for a multitude of reasons, the Ice 70 is a standout new large yacht. It has the looks to stop you in your tracks, the performance and finish quality to really impress, as well as something else too, something more enduring: homogenous and harmonious design.
Why is that a big deal? Many yards have models at this market level, particularly in Italy. But a semi-custom or custom yacht will typically involve input from multiple sources. The naval architecture will come from one firm, the deck styling from another, then the interiors, structures, rig and engineering design will all come from different experts. While it can work wonders, the overall effect can also risk being a little disjointed and can certainly be an overwhelming prospect for an owner to manage.
Here, one designer and one shipyard have worked together for decades and the results on the Ice 70 are telling. “It took my team and I more than 4,500 hours for the design and the complete engineering of the boat,” Umberto Felci tells me. “This makes the difference in terms of quality and coherence of the project and efficiency of the construction of the future yachts.”
For those unfamiliar with Ice Yachts, it is a performance cruising brand established 10 years ago from the experienced CN Yacht 2000 shipyard near Milan, which has built around 80 semi-custom yachts over the last three decades. So while this new Ice 70 may be the longest yet for the Ice brand (which also has a 72ft cat in build), the shipyard itself has launched dozens of composite yachts of this size (mostly from the Felci board).
Stepping aboard the Ice 70
The Ice 70 is designed for robust, fast offshore cruising. This first example is a special version made for a client who usually sails alone with his permanent skipper, Bobo Innocenti, so it needed to be easy to manage.
Innocenti explained that they have moved up from a Solaris 50 and that 90% of their time is spent cruising in the Mediterranean. An essential feature therefore was the ability to have control of everything from the helms.
The pedestals are a work of art and appear to grow out of the side deck coamings to form sculpted branches on which to hold the crucial array of push button controls. All systems, from the sheets and halyards, down to the telescopic keel, lighting and the mooring gear, can be operated from these consoles.
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Then there is the bimini, so often an afterthought. Here the carbon framework was designed by Felci too and blends smoothly into the exterior aesthetic, like the spoiler on a car. With an owner who likes to actively sail for four or five hours a day before being able to relax out of the sun in the cockpit, it’s a crucial feature. It can be removed, given some time, and the sprayhood dodger can quickly be folded away.
The interior will likely appeal to the majority thanks to classy styling which fuses the traditional use of teak and leather with modern touches. The result is elegant, tasteful and peaceful, while the decision to avoid stuffing it full of cabins means it feels like a much larger yacht.
Of course the reason for choosing such a design is not just for looks, it needs to perform. Snapping up the brief chance to try Ice 70, Thalassa2 out in Cannes, I worried that by the time we made it out of the bustling Port Canto marina and through the Cannes anchorage there’d not be enough of the afternoon breeze left to give us any meaningful sailing experience.
I was (gratefully) proven wrong while being shown the real merit of having a large, performance-oriented yacht like this, one which is crafted around being able to maximise single figure windspeeds and still provide an engaging experience.
We were soon making 7 knots in 10 apparent close-hauled. The increase in stability you get at this size, shape and keel choice (telescopic) is impressive, as is the ability to sail close to the wind (up to 21° apparent). Felci, a performance cruiser maestro and a skilled dinghy racer, has produced a slippery, modern hull shape, combining high form stability with low wetted surface area.
When the Code 0 was released we were off and into a priceless spell of sailing, making 9-9.5 knots in 11 knots apparent at 60° to the apparent breeze while bathed in the golden evening light.
I imagined this to be the equivalent of driving a finely tuned Italian sports car – except with this Ice there are few boundaries, no speed limits, there’s plenty of space for your luggage/golf clubs, and you can sleep aboard in serious comfort.
70ft solo sailing
The steering felt light and direct and it was a pleasure to be able to feel pressure variances on the single carbon rudder blade. I was also impressed with how Innocenti can and does manoeuvre and sail this yacht himself and how well configured it is for him or the owner to do so.
All winches and furlers can be controlled from remote buttons on the pedestals. Even gybing the Code 0, for example, can be done short-handed from the cockpit. Although the huge headsail was furled to gybe, the neat part was having the endless line for the Code furler leading around the self-tailing jaws of the high-speed mast base winch, which is again controllable from the pedestal. Release the sheet, while pressing the winch remote button to furl, then activate the new primary winch to unleash the sail again on the other side. Impressive (when it all works smoothly)!
Innocenti says they fly the Code 0 until 13 knots true wind, then swap to the jib to make the same reaching speed of around 10 knots. They keep this until 20 knots before switching to the staysail.
He also says that despite this being a carbon composite build, there’s been no strict attention to weight and that comfort comes first. This is a 25-tonne fast cruiser which carries another three tonnes of water and fuel. That said, weight is certainly kept low and central. It has a full carbon rig, with hydraulic mast jack, in-boom furling mainsail sheeted to a traveller, Doyle cable-less jib and staysail and a Code 0.
The rig package alone costs more than my house, as does the lifting T-keel option – arguably the eye-watering prices required for high end performance at this size level today.
The decks are kept really clean including the single-level cockpit, flush foredeck and wide side decks, which are easy to access from the aft deck. The lead of the jib sheets to the primary winches does mar this slightly, however, by creating a tripping hazard on the side decks.
It seems a rare oversight in the otherwise slick design and I questioned if the turning blocks could be mounted inboard. Innocenti thinks this would need larger size reversible primaries to solve the problem, which would in turn create another by requiring more space.
Another slight annoyance and a downside to the cockpit protection is the need to duck below the sprayhood to move down the companionway, although the sprayhood can easily be folded away.
When you do move below decks you’ll find a wealth of luxury and space. It really gives the impact and feel of a much larger yacht, with a layout more like an 85-90 footer – remembering that this one is designed largely for two to sail, so, other than the owner and skipper cabins there is only one guest cabin. A four cabin version is optional, as is a layout with an aft owner’s cabin.
The dark tones and classic styling with the abundant use of teak and burgundy leather is elegant, albeit quite masculine, and should age well. The furniture is sandwich-built with abundant use of solid teak veneers including the soles, which are punctuated with dark wenge strips.
The interior design involved plenty of owner/skipper input and shows the benefit of a genuine semi-custom approach. The aft part is particularly well conceived as the galley can be closed off from the saloon with a sliding door, yet is still accessible from the skipper’s cabin via a tech space walkway beneath the bridgedeck.
As well as conventional access to the 195hp Yanmar engine below the companionway steps, this tech space also helps allow for engine access panels from all three other sides. Innocenti’s cabin also has direct access to the machinery/genset space further aft.
The owner’s cabin forward contains a relatively modest vee berth and practical surround stowage. The adjoining ensuite heads is particularly impressive, with a wonderful shower room with teak seat, in which you could imagine reclining and enjoying the luxury of 1,400lt water tanks. The tanks are built into the structure below the saloon floor, in composite for water and plastic for fuel.
A keelbox area for the lifting T-keel creates a longitudinal bulkhead, which is used wisely as the internal wall of the twin guest cabin and the screen area of the TV snug area to starboard.
Ice founder, Marco Malgara, thinks people don’t tend to move up from 50ft to 60ft but are more likely to opt for this size. “We said if we do a 70-footer it can’t be the same as a 60 but must have a real feeling of luxury,” he explained during our sail. I think his team achieved that handsomely. Numbers two and three are now in build.
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This is arguably the definition of today’s luxury fast Med cruiser. Italian designed and built, it performs as its looks might suggest, but crucially, is conceived to be manageable to sail short-handed. It’s ideal then for the sailing its owner does: warm weather, slippery cruising. With its sleek coachroof design and its powerful hull and rig, the Ice 70 steals your attention from the dock, then holds it while moving throughout the boat and leaves the peak rewards for those on the wheel. It’s a premium priced large yacht and looks and feels so. While the yard is able to offer fit and finish flexibility, its collaboration with Felci design ensures the end result really is as smooth as ice.