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Summer 2007

Article selected from our quarterly magazine dedicated to the largest and most luxurious boats with information, interviews, technical articles, images and yachting news



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Article by
Fabio Petrone


Mario Pedol

We met Mario Pedol during one of the recent boat shows, in an ideal setting to talk about boats. Obviously not about any boats but of his boats, more specifically about those currently in production that according to both the general public and the press are becoming more and more popular than the previous successful lines he designed in the past and of those wèll probably see in the future.


Mario Pedol

Mario Pedol

Mario Pedol

Mario Pedol

Mario Pedol

Mario Pedol

Mario Pedol

Mario Pedol

Was your choice of being an architect moved by passion?

Yes, it was and also family background because my grandfather on my mother's side introduced me to the sea. He spent most of his life on board ship as chief engineer for an Italian company and mostly on two liners namely the "Saturnia" and the "Vulcania".

Have you ever crewed in any regattas?

Yes I have as a boy then later while at university but again out of sheer passion and never at a high level.

Did you attend university with a view to becoming a naval architect, or did you study architecture in general and then specialize in the nautical field?

Actually, I went to the Bocconi university in Milan which has little to do with boats. Among other things I didn't even finish because a schoolmate and friend of mine with whom I used to sail and race convinced me to start building mini-tonners: 7 metre boats that were catching on as the new class of the time.

Did you design the boat?

Absolutely not. We went to see Andrea Vallicelli who drew up the Ventura 703 which was very successful, and what had begun as a game ended up as a business. We built 40 of them in just two years selling as many as 8 at our first Genoa boat show. Then we had to build them and passion gave way to a full time job rather abruptly. This event marked my starting point, the first experience is still considered as being the result of my love for boats and I've never returned to my studies since then. I became an agent for Oyster Marine for three years that were also successful, then the pound sterling went sky high and we were priced out of the market. The die was cast in a sense and I wanted to learn more about boat design, also because the Milan "Istituto Superiore di Architettura e Design" had begun a new course in boat design which was held by the leading Italian project designers: Massimo Gregari, Fulvio De Simoni, Ceccarelli, Vallicelli and so on.

In other words the cream of Italy's boat designers...

And a very interesting experience too, it was a practical hands on course, not maritime engineering, where you are taught about hydrostatics for ships that have little to do with boats, but instead worked on specifics under professional supervision. After that I went on to the U.S.A.. To consolidate what I had learned, I worked for Scott Kaufman in New York. Coming back from this experience I began to draw the plans for the first boat which turned out as the Nauta 54. One of my clients back from the Oyster days was keen on the project and we built the first model that we exhibited at the Genoa boat show in '86, more than twenty years ago. The boat was an immediate success, because of the deck layout that "de facto" set the trend for the ensuing years, with lots of open air space, and a centre cockpit and adjacent sun bathing area….many liked it and it sold immediately marking the beginning of the current Nauta production line.

Did the fact that you were initially involved in sales and only later so on the drawing board, help you better appreciate the feedback from production regarding the evolution of tastes and trends?

Certainly yes. Even during the course I mentioned earlier I experienced a more detailed in depth technical approach where design was concerned, but I was coming from a hands on experience in the field which was an advantage that gave me much throughout the period. This was because I already knew what clients were looking for, what I needed, and thanks to the Ventura 703 I knew above all how to build boats. Then I had been involved with the Oyster range which was producing larger boats at the time.

In your opinion, do first hand knowledge of what actually goes into building a boat together with what happens in a ship yard allow one to cut corners?

As for sailing boats, the first one was Nauta 54, purchased by our illustrious client Pierluigi Loro Piana, with whom we now share a great friendship. The boat was named " My Song". Nauta 70's and 65's followed, as well as many custom built ones: the last one is a Nauta 84' custom built constructed in New Zealand...

You design custom built boats, but also series...

Yes, in actual fact we do both. In the beginning we were a ship yard selling the Nauta brand. Then, in 94' we changed course a little by specializing in yacht design. We now offer an all round service ranging from choosing the suitable shipyard with our client to the complete follow up from phase one to delivery of the boat itself.

We have delivered many custom built boats in this way for individual owners and thanks to the very nature of this winning formula we have a closer working relationship with an Italian shipyard: Southern Wind Shipyard situated in Cape Town South Africa. We began to build there a custom built boat that became the first of a small series. From there on we developed a close working relationship which has been mutually satisfying and successful. They build very well and our designs are much appreciated by both our clients as well as theirs. Numerous interesting and beautiful boats have come out of this which means that, between 80 to 100 feet we are looking at 16 boats in about eight years, averaging two a year.

Which do you find more stimulating between a custom design or a series model? Do you like more what is difficult or what is easier?

Both are very captivating, due to what I mentioned at the beginning. I am fortunate enough to be able to do what I like doing best, at the same time I'm fascinated by each client's individual taste and his intended use of the boat which helps me best interpret the underlying theme he's after. This allows me to satisfy clients' wishes as much as possible whilst putting into the project our style and know how gained from experience. Concurrently, I very much like to measure myself against a broader market which is where I began in fact. One must follow changing trends and "lifestyles" on board, the 'feel' for the boat, as this changes too and evolves as time goes by. Then one should gauge the competition and market requirements. All of these components go into assessing the right mix in terms of size and number of cabins, as well as the actual use and spirit of the boat...

A very articulated approach, varying, like the different ways of building boats.

Absolutely yes, this I truly like. Where sail boats are concerned we do this for Southern Wind and much more recently for Beneteau, with whom we are designing the interior layouts for the whole new Oceanis range. It is an important aspect of our work because it includes as many as eight models of which three, the 50', the 46' and the 40' are underway and the rest are to follow. By the time they will all be in production wèll be looking at about 1,600 boats per year. The enormous success attained with the 50' has led to the doubling of the production line. In eight months they have manufactured as many as 1,000 boats averaging one boat every day and a half. Thanks to the recent production line by Beneteau in the U.S.A. these figures will grow considerably.

Are there any substantial differences between a boat built for the European market and one for the American? Taking for example motor yachts, are there differences in the interior décor or the engineering? Are there any particular requests concerning the choice of furniture or the mast, or perhaps technical gear?

There are differences in the way one cruises, and lives on board. For example the American market requires fewer cabins, the use of professional crew is less customary, that is why both the 46' and the 50' have been designed to accommodate two different interior layouts one with two cabins, the other with three. The two cabin version will surely be more popular in the U.S. than in Europe, for this very reason production will be adjusted in the knowledge that the U.S. market share for the two cabin version will be 70% and that the European will be exactly the opposite.

Do they also take into account charter companies' requirements as well as those of private buyers who may wish to charter their boat?

This is no doubt an important market for them, to the extent that they have recently introduced the Cyclades range of models for the charter market and the Oceanis one for families.

So they're starting with two distinct lines from the word go.

This is obviously company policy and strategy that has been decided beforehand, but within these parameters there is much to be looked at and done: according to where the market is heading, what the competition is doing......the Oceanis 50' is certainly the innovative product Beneteau was lacking but without going "over board". In fact it is proving to be very successful both in Europe as well as in the U.S. Another precious experience for me was with Bertram, from '92 to '95, when I was asked to renovate the interiors of the 43'. They liked them enough to ask us to renew their entire range. They continued producing interiors on our design for a further ten years, that's to say up to a couple of years ago. That was when we confronted our work with a new world: motor yachts, the fisherman range and the American market.

Was Bertram your first experience with motor boats?

Yes, the follow up to that took us to Toy Marine where we tried to bring our "Med." style to American boats, by emphasizing the open air attitude to return to what were the given proportions of the superstructure in relationship to the hull itself, in other words a retrò look of times gone. The undoubted elegance of the Baglietto's, the Ischia's, or of the Alalunga Sportfisherman faded a little to give way to the market tendency in privileging below deck space by penalizing open air spaces.......

You in the 'enginè market.

Well exactly. In relationship to the large numbers of the classic Italian fly bridge, Toy Marine is a niche market, but there is obviously demand for them, people appreciate them and that is why they sell and are well liked. After all, we cruise our boats from June to September during which we spend most of the time out in the open air whether at sea or tucked away in a bay. In addition to this we have wanted to build a pronounced V shaped hull capable of withstanding heavy weather cruising in big seas. The lines are classic... capable of evoking the particular tradition of the American "Down East" but in a modern key.

Do you use a particular technique, or better a particular technology in your work?

We do a lot in 3D, for both interior and exterior diagrams. It is a fundamental, very powerful, working tool which is very useful to us, but also to our clients, to ship yards or for private use, because 3D makes it easy to picture all of the different options every project can offer.

Are these 3D programmes used solely to better understand dimension, volume, and/or the ergonomics of any given layout, or are they useful in the actual construction phase in the sense that they can transfer data to the cutting machines, the thread milling machines, or to the wood cutting ones and so on?

Where deck and hull are concerned, the data from 3D can be used for the creation of the mould. On the other hand, where the interior layout is concerned the information gleaned from the same programmes is mainly used to measure weight factors, volume and the impact given by different colour schemes and materials. Reference between 2D and 3D is made constantly in that ergonomics are derived from twenty year's experience in 2D before being upgraded to 3D. Obviously, 3D can't place you at a table in a given dining area, but it does do a lot in terms of perspective as well as visual impact, perception of volume and space. It is also very important and of great help with the design of the exteriors, when studying shapes and sizes and portrays a realistic idea of looks in general. It is naturally enough only complementary to the designers' markers or the strokes of their pencils.

The segments of the motor yacht market seem to be divided up in ever growing small niches. In your opinion will the current trend true to motor yachts also be found in sailing yachts? Will we witness an evolution to the classic sailing boat or not?

Reasons of space availability on sailing boats would suggest that change would be unlikely. It is the very volumetric equation of the object, that limits the otherwise possible birth of new typologies. I dare say some efforts are being made in that direction even though I doubt these will become market trends. The concept of a "day sail boat" however is a novelty, and may generate something new.

Given the exponential and continuous increase in size of the number of motor boats, do you think that such a growth will be able to enhance the development of new ideas, of new designs geared to large sailing boats as well?

Yes I do, because in the over 35 to 40 metre range - more so in the over 40's - there is much more potential. This is a concept we are already working on. The sailing boat market is without a shadow of doubt moving to ever growing dimensions. In fact one of our more recent projects is the Southern wind 100, that you must have seen at the Monaco Boat Show. Four boats have already been sold on paper, and two more after the exhibition, a great success. I'd say that the secret for success lies in the fact that they've managed to build a boat with a very large, bright, deck house with ample 'all round' views whilst at the same time giving a flowing profile to the superstructure that is harmoniously blended into the deck, with nothing to spoil the view from stern to bow.

How did you find working with an Italian/South African mix, dealing with an all Italian management and a ship building yard with South African staff?

It has worked very well because we have been working with the Italian management for years. There has been a long standing reciprocal esteem and respect, the skilled workers take pride in what they do and in the country there is a well established tradition in yachting and ship building. One can actually "feel" all this at the yard and the extraordinary cost/quality ratio enables one to be more daring and to design things one normally wouldn't because of the prohibitive costs such projects would fetch elsewhere.

In the beginning your core business was to design sailing boats, will your diversification in the worlds of the fisherman at first and then later onto motor yachts have a follow up? Will you be building other boats from the Toy range or with other yards? What do you have in mind for the future?

A number of interesting things like a small ship of 110 feet with one and a half decks and another a little smaller; we are also working at a very important project entailing a ship with five decks. We can safely say that with no trouble at all we are getting more and more requests from the motor yacht field. Therefore I believe that wèll be more and more involved with Toy Marine, a brand for which we are already preparing a third model, a 51' motor yacht.

In your opinion, what area should one have to work on to customize a project or a particular design?

I believe the best thing is to follow ones own ideas generally speaking. Then the market will reward you for your own philosophy and style without necessarily having had to invent something different.

What about new projects for sailing boats?

We are currently involved in the pre-executive phase of a 112', surely a very beautiful and functional boat capable of outstanding performance with which one can safely sail around the world. We are also working on projects for a number of concept boats over 40 metres.