Marc Smith is deputy editor of Families in Business.
With a vision to make all their customers' "dreams come true", Ferretti Group has, over the last 40 years, succeeded in becoming one of the world's leading yacht makers. Marc Smith explores what's on offer – and who's spoiling themselves
Think of a luxury yacht and what do you see? The sleek, sexy lines of a custom-made temptress moored in Monaco perhaps, or the raw power of a state-of-the-art feat of engineering heading into the Pacific sunset? Then again, how about the portly frame of a 50-year-old man in a blue blazer, tie optional?
Norberto Ferretti, founder and president of luxury yacht makers Ferretti Group, is a man of several surprises, but perhaps his description of how the range of jaw-droppingly beautiful Ferretti Group yachts looks is nearer to the truth than it first appears.
The 50-year-old man in question could well be the founder himself who, in his youth, left the family car dealership to set about making his living in boats, becoming a world champion in the Class 1 Offshore series along the way. But it could equally be a description of one of the increasing number of wealthy individuals who is turning yachting into the default pastime of the noughties.
A look at Ferretti Group reveals a Who's Who of all that is great and good in the yachting world: Ferretti yachts, the company's head brand; the iconic, 150-year-old Riva brand; Pershing, the high-performance, award-winning yacht maker; Custom Line, the leading producer of customised maxi yachts; and the sport fisherman's number one choice – Bertram. All fit as snugly as one of Ferretti's luxury leather sofas into the Group's structure alongside four other brands (Itama, Apreamare, Mochi Craft and CRN).
Looks can be deceiving. While other manufacturers strive to create the fibreglass equivalent of Ursula Andress emerging from the sea in Dr No, looks come second to manufacturing excellence at Ferretti Group. Not that you'd know it, of course. The Group has invested heavily in developing individual fibreglass, interior and furnishing production units at its base in Forlì, Italy. This means that every aspect of the design is studied in depth, so that when it comes to production there is a consistency that few others can match.
But great design coupled with an innate Italian sense of style is not the end of the matter. Cutting-edge technology is a further hallmark of Ferretti Group. Take the Anti-Rolling Gyro (ARG) system, developed in association with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, for example. ARG reduces by half the rolling caused by waves, guaranteeing maximum comfort during cruising – in other words, sea sickness has been made to walk the plank. "It would be impossible for me to live on-board without this system," says Norberto, who is proud that his company is the only boat manufacturer in the world to have installed the system.
And the results of all this are stunning. Just take the Ferretti 780, a 24-metre yacht with a maximum cruising speed of 31 knots, which was launched at the Cannes boat show last September. The 780 can accommodate up to eight people and is characterised by an innovative layout that gives the customer ample space for those dinner parties to die for. The overall design offers a continual visual panorama from the rear deck facing the bow, while the living space, featuring an array of luxury double sofas, has been enlarged so you can relax and unwind in front of panoramic windows, making it seem as if you are actually sitting on water. The master cabin and bathroom areas, meanwhile, are as elegant as one of Lake Como's boutique hotels. Other details include refined finishes in teak wood, compared to the traditional cherry wood that is normally adopted for a yacht of such dimensions. For those who prefer to be in the water rather than out of it, the rear deck area makes for an easy descent into the sea.
With so much choice on offer, Norberto must have faced a delicious dilemma when selecting which one to have as his own personal yacht. He eventually plumped for a Navetta 30 by Custom Line, which is equipped with two MAN engines giving a cruising speed of 16.5 knots. Inside, the yacht has been customised to the owner's personal tastes with wood and leather furnishings and fittings, and can accommodate up to eight people. The flybridge has a large open-air panoramic area with sofas and a table with room to seat eight. A barbecue provides another dining area. Steps lead from the panoramic deck to the sun-deck, which has large sunbathing areas for total relaxation.
Those customers who are looking to spend their hard-earned money on such acquatic indulgences come from an eclectic range of backgrounds. "We have lawyers and industrialists," says Norberto, "but Ferretti Group clients can also be professional sportsmen such as footballers." And they are no longer just coming from the traditional yacht market of Europe.
Testing new markets
Fifteen years ago Norberto tried to sell a boat in South Africa, and found it impossible. Now, China, the Middle East and many other markets are gradually opening up, and Ferretti is hoping to capitalise on their new-found wealth. "I believe it is very important to innovate and respond attentively to stimulation from new and rapidly expanding markets like the Asian countries," says Norberto, who admits that they are working to adapt some yachts to the specific requirements of these different markets, as a result of factors such as higher average temperatures and humidity levels.
Pershing yachts have gone one step further and have already launched a special version of the Pershing 90' for the US market. "We know that Americans, as opposed to Europeans, place more importance on daytime areas rather than nighttime areas," reveals Pershing CEO, Tilli Antonelli. "In the new version the yacht features three cabins instead of four; the fourth cabin being replaced by a splendid relax/home theatre area with a large leather sofa and a maxi-screen television." In addition, it features an extreme tropical air conditioning system, a back lit onyx bar, a stainless steel ultra-modern galley with a wine cooler and automated dumb waiter, a decadent leather floor in the master stateroom, luminous Bisazza mosaics in the showers and contrasting hand-stitched ceiling panels.
With so many new designs and markets on the horizon, Norberto may well have to rethink how he describes one of his yachts when these new customers begin to purchase Ferretti Group's next offering.