Italia Yachts has succeeded with its smaller designs, but is there room for the Italia Yachts 12.98, another premium brand in the 40-45ft cruiser-racer sector?
Few new boatbuilders notch up a succession of race wins, including three ORC World Championship victories, as quickly as Italia Yachts has managed. What makes this even more impressive is that these are genuine dual-purpose yachts with fully fitted interiors and enough comfort to spend a few weeks on board in style. The vision for the 43ft Italia Yachts 12.98 was very clear from the outset: a single design with two distinctly different versions, the Fuoriserie race edition and Bellissima performance cruiser.
Our test boat is the latter, which is nearly 400kg heavier than the race version, but has more efficient use of space and greater comfort below decks. At the same time, it still has the same Maurizio Cossutti designed narrow hull with a single rudder and minimal wetted surface area intended to give excellent performance, particularly close-hauled and in light airs.
The Italia Yachts 12.98’s hull shape has an all-round performance profile, without being optimised for power reaching in the manner of many twin rudder designs. So how would it respond to being pushed hard with a big kite and the apparent wind well forward?
Towards the end of my first sail the breeze notched up to 10 knots with the Quantum A2 spinnaker pulling us along at 8.5-9.5 knots, with the true wind 20° aft of the beam, but the apparent a long way forward and the huge 178m2 sail sheeted as tight as possible.
Form stability builds quickly with increasing heel angle. With the boat fully powered up, and loads building in the helm, the rudder never hinted at being close to stalling, even when trying to bear off with the sheets pinned. It’s a very different experience to older single rudder designs with wider waterline beam and less efficient rudders mounted further aft.
The Italia’s single rudder suits the long and slender hull shape, which has relatively low freeboard and plenty of flare above the waterline aft. It’s mounted well forward, away from the disturbed water at the stern, in the same manner as for TP52s and Fast 40s. The blade’s 1.95m depth, combined with a reasonably generous cord length, means it’s less easily stalled than the very high aspect ratio rudders on those boats.
Helm stations are well configured both for gentle sailing and when well heeled, whether standing behind the wheel or sitting on the side deck. Both locations offer a good view of the headsail luff and the substantial foot chocks are well placed.
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Heading upwind the Italia Yachts 12.98 drops easily into the groove, with a positive feel to the helm, even in light airs of just 5.5-8.0 knots true. In these conditions boat speed ranged from 4 to 5.2 knots, with occasional faster bursts at a true wind angle around 40°. Bearing away with the A2, with the true wind 15° aft of the beam, we made speeds roughly equal to the wind speed of 7-7.5 knots, occasionally nudging up to 8 knots.
The Italia Yachts 12.98 Bellissima deck layout has a pair of winches on each coaming just ahead of the helm stations to handle all lines, including the German mainsheet, headsail sheets and reefing pennants. It’s a little cramped for more than one person to work here and there are no rope bins, but generally the arrangement works well and leaves space for a big unobstructed seating area further forward. Despite the relatively low freeboard, there’s a good feeling of security in the cockpit, especially on Bellissima models fitted with a large central table.
Room to race
Race versions add a cockpit mainsheet traveller, plus coachroof pit winches, inhaulers for headsail sheets and so on. Dedicated headsail sheet winches are also mounted further forward than the mainsheet winches, while cockpit benches are shorter, creating a more spacious feeling with extra room to move around during race manoeuvres.
My second sail was in less breeze, with only 2.5-6 knots at the start of the day. Upwind at a true wind angle of between 45-50° we made speeds equivalent to 80% of the wind speed, mostly hovering in a respectable 4.3-4.8 knot range. We made similar numbers after bearing away onto a broad reach and hoisting the A2, with the true wind angle varying between 105° and 115°, despite the reduced apparent breeze.
Even in such light conditions the helm still had a positive feel – a good test of any thoroughbred design as a lot of boats feel dead in these conditions. Had the test boat been equipped with a Code 0, we’d undoubtedly have been able to make even better speeds reaching at tighter wind angles.
Both versions of the Italia Yachts 12.98 have a similar sail plan, but the Fuoriserie model has a carbon rig as standard and a longer bowsprit (1.8m in place of 1.3m) that translates to 10% more spinnaker area. The race version also has an option for running backstays to enable use of a square top mainsail that adds 3.1m2 of area – which would have proved useful in the more gentle conditions encountered on our test.
On the basis that fully crewed race boats gain additional stability from people on the rail, the keel bulb of the race version is a little lighter. This, combined with a simpler interior and the carbon rig helps to reduce displacement to 8.9 tonnes, compared to almost 9.3 tonnes for the cruising boats.
Pace rather than space
On the downside stowage on deck is limited. In addition to the lack of rope bins there’s no dedicated sail locker as the forecabin is pushed further forward than is typical for today’s yachts.
Even then, interior volumes aren’t large for a boat of this length, but that’s partly a function of the low freeboard and narrow beam that gives such good light air sailing characteristics. Nevertheless Italia has achieved a civilised implementation of a three cabin, two head layout that offers a different style and philosophy to the mainstream.
Our test Italia Yachts 12.98 was hull number one, which is owned by the interior designer of renowned Italian studio Abore and Partners. The striking use of mirrored film on the settee fronts helps give an initial impression this is a brighter interior than most sleek performance yachts.
Another first for Italia is a washable linen-style finish for bulkheads, offset by black edging around the doors. The latter is intended to have a practical function as they can be identified at night without the need to use lighting that might disturb sleeping crewmembers. However, the look may not win universal approval and surfaces may quickly attract dirt on well-used boats.
The USA is an important market for Italia, so despite the boat’s performance origins, the galley is well appointed with both top loading and front loading fridges, good worktop space with deep fiddles and four eye-level lockers. There’s also an opening port above the three-burner cooker, but only a single sink.
The owner of the test boat chose not to have a chart table, which frees up space for a full length settee to starboard that makes a decent sea berth. There’s also U-shaped seating around the table to port, plus five useful eye-level lockers each side in the Bellissima version.
In the forward cabin there’s a hanging and shelved locker to starboard by the entrance, plus a couple of easily accessed drawers at the aft end of the berth and further stowage volumes under the mattress. On the downside the forward end of the berth is sufficiently narrow that most couples will want to sleep feet forwards.
The en-suite on the cruising version is nicely appointed, although there’s not enough space for a separate shower stall. On the race version, this area is left empty to reduce weight in the ends of the boat. The larger aft head, which is identical on both versions, has a separate shower stall.
Both aft cabins are very similar, with the starboard one having marginally more floor space, although both are a bit on the small size for a boat of this length. The two are separated by a technical space, which helps to improve sound insulation.
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