Federico Ferrante started out in the marine industry as a yacht owner, a sea change from his upbringing in Milan, Italy, where he was born and studied with the intention of joining his father’s accounting firm. “Moved by the passion for the ocean at 22,” he says, he moved south to Tuscany to open his own charter company.
“I ended up owning and operating two yachts, a 60-footer and a 70-footer, aboard which I lived year-round for four years,” Ferrante says. He credits his time as a charter operator as a priceless learning experience from a technical standpoint and for teaching him business management and yacht ownership. He became president of Azimut-Benetti USA in 2010.
Ferrante is manages all business aspects of the Italian conglomerate’s operations in the United States, from product development to running a staff of 18 people who handle sales, service, marketing and parts distribution in two Fort Lauderdale, Fla., locations.
The mission of Azimut-Benetti is, in part, “building the most beautiful, reliable, technological and innovative yachts, and providing assistance anywhere, and at any time.” How do you achieve those goals?
Azimut-Benetti is the world’s largest private group in the yachting sector. We have operations in 68 countries worldwide. First and foremost, we value fine craftsmanship, and we have a predilection for timelessness. The group’s success comes from its passion for what it makes, the care it takes of yachts owners, and the desire to experiment with new technologies and always surpass itself. The new Benetti Motopanfilo 37M is the perfect example. On this yacht, the style and tradition of Benetti meet the ones of Loro Piana Interiors, bringing a sense of timeless elegance to the yacht.
In addition, both Azimut and Benetti constantly work hard to improve and develop the latest technologies. The Benetti B.Yond 37M is one of the models that stands out the most for its highly innovative propulsion system. It has a steel hull, an aluminium superstructure and a Siemens Siship EcoProp diesel-electric system developed for Azimut-Benetti Group. The recently presented Grande Trideck is the new symbol of Azimut’s innovative DNA, as it proposes a revolutionary layout: It has three decks plus one, offering a new space, an extra deck at the stern that fits among the traditional ones.
How do Azimut’s Yachts Innovation Lab, Factory-Atelier Lab and Testing Lab drive technology and innovation?
They [result] from continuous interaction between design, production and control functions, where all the technology possible is at the service of the finest hand-craftsmanship. Thanks to this, Azimut works to some of the world’s highest construction standards applied to series production boats, and the entire range benefits from the know-how and technology developed.
How does the group continue to recruit new and established yacht designers?
François Zuretti, Andrew Winch, Stefano Natucci, Marty Lowe, Dickie Bannenberg, John Munford, Terence Disdale, Stefano Righini — Azimut-Benetti started to cooperate with such brilliant architects and designers in the ’80s, when the rising evolution in size and complexity of the yachts demanded an extra sparkle of ambition in anticipating trends and architectural revolutions. Leveraging this legacy, the group keeps joining forces with the best international designers to broaden the nautical design borders. Among the latest partnerships are Achille Salvagni, RWD Studio, the Bonetti/Kozerski Studio and Baciocchi Associati.
Azimut-Benetti won six awards at the World Yachts Trophies 2021. Can you speak about each of these?
The Azimut 53 won the Best Interior Design award in the 45- to 64-foot category. With its surprisingly spacious interiors, the Azimut 53 also stands out for its day area, which is laid out on almost the same level, with the galley near the entrance and the living area separated by a difference in height of just 25 centimeters.
In the 64- to 80-foot category, the Azimut 68 won the Best Layout award. Designed in partnership with Alberto Mancini for exterior styling and Achille Salvagni for interior design, the Azimut 68 offers owners the option of three proposed layouts, which vary from the most formal to the most convivial one.
In the same category, the Magellano 66 won the Best Interior Design award. The model is a modern long-range yacht with hugely comfortable interiors and a layout that ensures a high level of privacy. The entire day area is all on the same level, with no steps, for free and safe movement.
In the category spanning yachts from 98 to 164 feet, the Azimut Grande Trideck won the Best Interior Design award. Azimut’s new flagship and the first three-deck model in the range has interiors by Achille Salvagni, who abandons the preconception of attributing specific functions to the various areas and transforms the boat into a more fluid and shape-shifting space. The interiors have been expanded in width and perfectly integrated with the exteriors, each becoming an extension of the others.
In the same category, the Best Innovation prize was awarded to the Benetti Motopanfilo 37M. The concept was developed by the shipyard in collaboration with designer Francesco Struglia for the exterior styling and the firm Lazzarini Pickering Architetti for the interiors. Benetti and Loro Piana Interiors formed an important partnership [to fit] out both the interiors and, in part, the exteriors of the the yacht.
The Benetti Zazou, lastly, won the Best Layout award in the 164- to 270-foot superyacht category. This 213-foot fully custom yacht has sleek, flowing lines, a Carinthia blue steel hull and an aluminum superstructure. The exterior styling is by Giorgio M. Cassetta, with interior and, in part, exterior design by Dutch firm Sinot Yacht Architecture and Design.
The boating marketplace has increased tremendously throughout the pandemic. How do we maintain this level of interest?
The group has seized the moment of commercial exuberance that has characterized the last six months, with our two brands delivering a total of 245 boats as of August. Production value stands at about $984 million, up about $115 million on the previous year.
The way to maintain these standards are through constant research to keep producing the most innovative and technologically advanced yachts while developing the most sustainable solutions and anticipating the owners’ desires. It is to keep in mind that some of the effects of pandemic will probably be long-term. We appreciate spending time outdoors more, in a secure place with the people we love. Yachting is therefore a great solution.
What challenges do you see in the future? Supply chain? Elevated costs?
In the past months, we have been affected by a production slowdown. This was due to shifting organizational issues resulting from anti-Covid policies, and the more recent procurement problems in the supply chain. In addition, the cost of raw materials such as steel, aluminum and resin for composite construction has increased drastically. This is another difficult note to manage. We have worked well together with our suppliers to create sufficient warehouse stocks to cope with the current situation, as well as purchased large quantities of materials in advance to prevent tariff increases. Therefore, we do not foresee delays, but we have to keep being proactive and ready to limit the effects on prices and on our production, and keep optimizing logistics, orders and the corporate functions that can be affected.
In late 2018, Azimut planned to become the top yacht brand from 40 to 100 feet in the U.S. How has that gone?
Azimut Yachts is reporting excellent results in the United States. If we look at the second quarter of 2021, from April to June, 25 new units were delivered in the 46- to 115-foot range. This result represents a 27 percent rise on the same period the previous year. In recent months, we have seen steadily increasing interest in all the products in the range, from the super sporty Verve models to our largest yachts, including the new Grande Trideck flagship.
The notoriously knowledgeable and demanding American public is particularly appreciative of our proven capacity for product innovation and of the fact that we offer technologically advanced models with a rich array of highly intelligent design solutions, as well as recognizing the great reliability of our after-sales service.
The Verve 42 was the third launch of Azimut’s Verve outboard-powered series. Any plans for more outboard powerboats?
After the launch of the 47, at the 2020 Miami Yacht Show, we knew we had created yet another revolution in our industry. Within 18 months, we had 60 units sold retail, which is unprecedented even for Azimut Yachts. The 42 was the most natural sequel. It carries the exact same DNA and features in a more compact configuration from all standpoints, from purchase price to weight and handling. Introduced to the world at the just-concluded Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, it already registered 25 units sold retail. The advent of the new 600-hp Mercury Verado outboard surely gave us plenty of room to grow and create further. I can’t tell you much more now than stay tuned.
In what ways does your relationship with MarineMax benefit the brands?
Besides being the world’s largest yacht dealership, MarineMax has strong relationships with its customers. We have been working with MarineMax for several years. It has represented Azimut Yachts in the United States since 2006, and the Benetti class was added to their offerings in 2019.
What are American buyers looking for that differs from the European and Asian markets?
In the U.S., yachting is a family matter. We often see three generations within the same family spending days on board together and building the most memorable and valuable experiences of their lives. The yachts we bring to the U.S. are extremely feature-rich and oversized in all areas that matters to the market. From our audio-video systems to the electronics packages, the air conditioning system upgrades and the widest selection of materials, fabrics and leathers, our offering is tailored to the American market in a way that U.S. [buyers] see us now as a local benchmark, rather than a foreign brand.
What’s coming in 2022?
The Azimut Yachts Collections continue to grow, improve and expand, and Benetti’s fleet continues to add custom constructions and deliver growth based on naval platforms up to 230 feet and over while developing and adopting technological solutions addressed to sustainability.
In 2022, Azimut will introduce two models from the Grande Collection, the brand’s flagship range; two models from the Magellano Collection, the crossover line; and a new Azimut S7, a sports coupe for fast navigation. In addition, the Azimut Yachts fleet is welcoming “Sea Deck,” a concept that brings the opening stern beach area to smaller boats.
Benetti’s custom yachts currently being fitted out include a 203-foot unit designed by Giorgio M. Cassetta with naval architecture by Dutch firm Van Oossanen, and three 220-foot units based on the new B.Century platform.
Another major new development is the Oasis Deck concept, a space that goes well beyond the traditional idea of the beach area, giving substance to unfulfilled demand in the market for large social spaces at the water’s edge, now being developed for the B.Now models 50M, 58M, 66M and 72M yachts.
Describe your ideal day on the water.
My ideal day on the water is without a doubt with my family. We are boaters by DNA and trade. My wife works in the industry as well, for 20 years. My daughter started boating when still in the womb and never stopped. She’s an avid fisherman and now the one pushing us the most to go out. We are early-morning birds, the best hours to [push off] the dock, leave everything behind and go exploring.
The Florida Keys and the Bahamas are our common destinations, and by now we have a variety of secret waypoints stored on our plotters. We spend the day at anchor, immersed in nature. We dive, we fish, we cook and eat what we catch. We absolutely love spending the night at anchor. The ones after sunset and right at sunrise are for us the best hours one can spend on a boat, ever.
This article was originally published in the December 2021 issue.