A new concept from Italian custom builder Vismara Marine, the V50 is what it calls ‘prêt-à-porter’, a sailaway package you can order online. Toby Hodges sails her in Viareggio
This is Vismara Marine’s ‘prêt-à-porter’ concept, a yacht that can be chosen off the shelf. Over the past three decades Vismara Marine has launched over 130 custom yachts from its Viareggio yard, many of which are now regarded as iconic designs.
Names such as Pistrice, Alligator and Kiribilli resonate because of the way they combine style and function, able to win on the racecourse despite carrying a cruising interior.
News that Vismara is expanding with the launch of its first series-produced model, the V50 prêt-à-porter encouraged us to travel to Italy for a test sail.
The Italian builder even provides the option of choosing your options online by making a simple choice of colours, aesthetics, layout and specification. It uses the company’s rich custom yacht building experience to offer a refined product with multiple variations. The four-step ordering process makes it as easy to pick and mix to suit style as it is to buy clothes online – and, crucially, for a guaranteed fixed sailaway price.
The V50 is a clever model to kick off a new production range with – a decksaloon motor sailer incorporated into a lightweight, performance hull, with two compact engines.
The first to launch, Dragon, is the third Vismara for Guess fashion designer Angelo Bruni. His input can be seen in the stark black and white styling throughout.
Deep protected cockpit
I particularly like the deep, protected cockpit, free of sailing systems, with single-level connection to the decksaloon. The raised aft deck covers a large tender garage, neatly stows a composite gangplank and creates a large sunbathing platform and a handy seat for the helmsman.
At the core of Vismara yachts is a lightweight composite hull. The V50 has a sporty hull built in E-Glass, plus a carbon rudder. So she is a medium to light displacement yacht, with 45 per cent of that weight in the keel.
In theory, then, she’s a stiff boat. While trying to put that to the test, we were dealt very fickle conditions off Punta Ala, with everything from mirror calm to 20-knot pulses of offshore breeze.
The helming experience was a little unremarkable. Yes, the V50 certainly feels light and rigid. Upwind in 10 to 15 knots of wind, she is absolutely in her element – balanced and fast – certainly more rewarding and slippery than any other motor sailer or decksaloon model I’ve sailed. She averaged 7 knots upwind, and up to 10 knots reaching under main and genoa.
But I was frustrated not to be able to get the best out of her. Before I list the reasons why, it is worth emphasising that Dragon is very much tailored to suit her owner. A combination of dirty undersides, no working instruments and an inability to trim the sails effectively – insufficient halyard tension and a problem with the vang – were frustrating in terms of collating performance figures.
Winch layout a problem
My main issue however is with the winch layout, which I found neither practical nor safe. The owner had requested that two winches were sited abaft the helms to keep them out of the cockpit. The mainsheet is led via a three-point coachroof bridle forward along the boom and back to winches on the aft deck, German-style. The genoa is sheeted inboard close to the mast, and goes underdeck to the aft deck where it shares the same two winches.
Bruni said he finds the system no problem to manage short-handed. But I couldn’t understand how you can helm and trim without having eyes on the sails. Even with a dedicated crew on each winch, we still had problems swapping over main and working jib sheets during tacks. Upwind when heeled, it seemed an exposed position from which to adjust sheets, particularly with a low lifeline aft.
These issues are easily addressed however; Vismara knows this and offers future production models with winches forward of the helms. A self-tacking jib might also be a wise option if the V50 becomes a popular choice for couples. “We made some changes to the second model as the first was built with the customer,” says Alessandro Vismara. “These include a less deep cockpit, a slightly raised coachroof and more winches which are forward in the cockpit for easier sail handling.”
The helming position does however benefit from good sightlines over the low coachroof looking forward from the windward helm or sitting and looking along the leeward rail. There is also reasonably clear vision through the coachroof when seated at the helm.
Twin engines provide many benefits. The extra manoeuvrability is a big confidence booster – dual engine control and torque negates the need for a bow thruster at this size and aids motor sailing. Positioning the engines in the forward cockpit lockers means their weight is central, yet keeps noise and odour out of the interior.
The twin-throttle controls are located in an exposed position however, which needs addressing.
The pros arguably compensate for the extra maintenance required, and having two exposed drives that lack protection from the keel. Vismara does offer protective skegs forward of the propellers if desired – something I would consider essential for offshore sailing.
Enter the Dragon
The deep and spacious cockpit along with the dinghy garage are prime assets to have, but come at the expense of accommodation space below.
The interior can be tailored to suit the owner’s personal taste. Dragon is very minimalist, in accordance with her fashion designer owner’s wishes. Bruni’s first two Vismaras, also called Dragon, were built in carbon fibre – a 46 followed by a 54-footer. “The [gold] 54, all in carbon ten years ago, was fantastic to do,” says Bruni. “But I realised it was not the perfect boat for cruising.”
Now he has grandchildren, his requirements have changed – his family all like to go on sailing vacations together. “I wanted to build a special boat that you could be inside and out of the sun without being below decks,” he explains – Bruni’s wife doesn’t like being cold or in the sun. The cockpit is also the ideal place for children, a protected area in which they feel safe.
When we first arrived at night, the white interior seemed particularly Spartan in the unforgiving glare of downlights. But during the day the decksaloon demonstrated its merits – the all-round visibility from inside and the abundant natural light comes into its own when you’re afloat.
“When it’s very hot, inside is better than outside and you can still see everything,” explains Bruni. With the hatches open and breeze flowing through, Dragon certainly feels fresh and bright below, the very antithesis of a conventional interior.
Heart of the boat
The decksaloon, linked with the cockpit, constitutes the heart of the boat. Bruni has elected not to have a separate navstation, preferring simply to use the aft part of the galley’s extensive worksurface or the saloon table if required. The double sink and stove have covers to help create a long single-level surface and emphasise the uncluttered styling. Water tanks are located under the saloon – another benefit of a decksaloon design – and there is plenty of additional galley stowage.
Accommodation is all forward of the saloon in 13 potential layouts of two or three cabins and two heads. Dragon has two cabins. A sliding door separates the large owner’s cabin from the rest of the interior. Bruni chose to forego a third cabin in favour of extensive wardrobe stowage, but there is also ample stowage under the berths.
The twin-berth layout is a clever solution as the berths are each wide enough for two to share if desired, yet they provide an option for either tack. “Two separate beds is perfect,” Bruni explains. “In summer it is very hot here and you don’t want two in a bed.” A heads and large shower cubicle are located in the forward ends.
In my opinion style has won over practicality in places in Dragon’s interior – future owners may appreciate more fiddles and handholds, for example. But the fittings are classy, the solid headlining panels look smart and the painted bulwarks show a quality finish to her build. Indeed the high calibre of her construction should be noted in relation to her premium price.
The V50 is offered in three packages, ‘Easy Sailing’, ‘Altura’ and ‘Luxury’, which cost from €750,000 to €813,500. These are, rather refreshingly, fully commissioned, sailaway prices with no hidden extras –literally off-the-shelf pricing.
LOA 15.50m/50ft 10in
LWL 14.00m/45ft 11in
Beam (max) 4.30m/14ft 1in
Draught 2.50m/ 8ft 2in
Disp (lightship) 13,300kg/29,321lb
Sail area (100% foretriangle) 129m2/1,390ft2
Engine 2 x 40hp Volvo saildrives
Sail area:disp 23.4
Designed by Alessandro Vismara
Built by Vismara Marine
Price ex VAT €750,000 (£596,828)
The V50 is a funky, modern, deck saloon cruiser that harnesses the skills and experience of a trend-setting custom yard and combines them with a set price and delivery time. Although this is Vismara Marine’s first production line, the V50 Dragon is still a yacht with a custom feel. So for those looking for something different, the ‘prêt-à-porter’ concept might just offer that ideal union of production and custom yacht worlds.