The Italian Job

Regardless of where they’re built, a growing number of boats are following Italian design trends
The Italian influence is undeniable in Chris-Craft’s open Corsair boats.

The Italian influence is undeniable in Chris-Craft’s open Corsair boats.

KC Stock, the owner of Cruisers Yachts, decided around 2009 that it was time for a styling change. He and Tony Martens, director of product development and engineering, wanted the next generation of Cruisers to be sleeker, with sportier lines. However, they knew there were limits.

“It seems as though some European builders can get away with compromises, but domestic builders can’t,” Martens says. “If we told our customer he had to open his sunroof to stand up and look forward to drive, we couldn’t get away with that. Our boats need to function, but we also want them to look good.”

Many U.S. builders of family cruisers and runabouts are embracing that same attitude. Cruisers, Chris-Craft, Cobalt and others all have models with a Euro or Italian look, but with a little more focus on practicality. It’s as if the manufacturers told designers: “We want it to look Italian, but take it down a couple of notches.”

The Italian influence is undeniable in Chris-Craft’s open Corsair boats.

The Italian influence is undeniable in Chris-Craft’s open Corsair boats.

Considering that Stephen Julius, who purchased Chris-Craft from Genmar in 2001, owned Riva Yachts before selling the Italian brand to the Ferretti Group in 2000, it’s no surprise that Chris-Craft boats wound up looking the way they do. A modern Chris-Craft would seem at home alongside a Riva in a Venice canal, but Rivas ooze opulence like a supermodel in a Versace gown, with an aura of impracticality at a high price. Chris-Crafts are more like an equally good-looking American woman sipping a domestic beer, rather than an imported champagne.

“It’s our attempt to try to strike a balance,” says Steve Heese, Chris-Craft president, who bought the company with Julius. “With a tooling investment, that’s the bet you’re making. We try to develop global products much like BMW does.”

After Heese and Julius bought Chris-Craft, one of the first people they called was designer Michael Peters in Sarasota, Fla., where the builder is also based. Peters has been designing boats for European companies for decades, including Azimut, the Ferretti Group and Jeanneau. “Our office has always been much more about European than American style,” Peters says. “My natural tendency is going to be very European.”

Peters aside, the one thing many builders seem to have in common is the country of origin for their designers: Italy. Nuvolari-Lenard is based there and has designed for Marquis Yachts in the United States, as well as for multiple clients in Europe. Many designers for France-based Groupe Beneteau are Italian. Polish builder Galeon Yachts, which MarineMax distributes in the United States, enjoys alliances with Roberto Curto, an Italian designer.

“Italy is one of those places where design reverberates from,” Heese says. “Even if you’re using an American designer, if the design is coming from those places, the American designers are going to pick up the vibe.”

There’s “European blood” in the Cruisers Cantius series.

There’s “European blood” in the Cruisers Cantius series.

For the Cantius series, Martens and engineers from Cruisers worked with Patrizio Facherise, president of FD Yacht & Product Design Studio, based in Bradenton, Fla. Facherise worked with Peters before opening his own office. “I was born in Italy, lived in Belgium, and I’m an American citizen,” Facherise says. “It is the nature of our studio here to try to please the American market, but with some European blood. It’s European style with American ergonomics.”

Facherise also worked with Cobalt on its new A36, which the company calls a crossover bowrider. Cobalt president Paxson St. Clair is 6 feet, 3 inches tall, so he mandated that the Euro-inspired coupe be designed with at least 6 feet of headroom — a feature that can be difficult to find on European boats.

“We felt we needed a fresh look, not in a revolutionary way but an evolution,” St. Clair says. “The Italian look is too far on the extreme of form over function. Everybody loves that European look, but function is a more important piece to the puzzle in the States.”

This article originally appeared in the February 2019 issue.


Suntex Acquires Tampa Area Marina

The Marinas at Little Harbor, with slips and drystack storage, is in a resort community that’s being developed in Ruskin, Fla.

Littelfuse to Acquire Carling Technologies

The $315 million transaction is expected to close in the fourth fiscal quarter.

Boat Sales and Fraud

Boat History Report has tracked a 123 percent increase in fraud on the preowned-boat market since the pandemic buying spree began.

Avoid Cutoff Confusion

Dealers should familiarize themselves with a new law requiring engine cutoff switches so they can inform their customers. Meanwhile, a new program puts Ohio youth in kayaks to learn about the importance of the Great Lakes.

Wave Wifi MNC1250

Wave WiFi has solutions to keep boats online further from shore using the fastest possible internet connections. Wave WiFi’s new Dual Band Marine Network Controller with SIM-activated cellular system (MNC1250) distributes fast reliable internet onboard. It can be connected to any internet source including cellular data using the built-in universal SIM card slot and transmits both 2.4 and 5GHz AP signals for speed and reliability. Gigabit ports provide fast throughput and Wave’s proprietary GUI (Graphic User Interface) makes it easy to set up and operate. New Multi Active WAN feature allows you to assign devices to a designated internet source of your choosing. Cameras, door alarms, and other devices can run on cellular while onboard users are connected to other land based hot spots.

OneWater Acquires T-H Marine

OneWater Marine purchased the Huntsville, Ala.-based P&A provider for around $185 million.

Groupe Beneteau Acquires Starfisher

The Portugal-based yard builds powerboats from 25 to 35 feet and was doing subcontracting work for the group.

Winnebago Posts Record Q4, Fiscal Year

The Chris-Craft and Barletta parent reported full year revenue of $3.6 billion, a 54 percent increase from 2020.