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This 54-Foot Italian Dayboat Is a Speed Demon on the High Seas. We Took It for a Spin.

by multimill
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There’s more than one way to wake up before breakfast. One of my recents was a caffeine-free, early-morning sea trial aboard the Centouno Navi Vespro, which we took for a spin in the Baie de Cannes. The 54-foot Vespro was a new launch at the Cannes Yachting Festival, a sleek-looking vessel with a long profile, vertical bow, svelte hardtop and open stern. It’s a stunner at the dock that looks a lot like many other big and expensive dayboats in its class.

But as soon as the captain handed over the white-leather-wrapped steering wheel, it was clear this was a different animal. The Vespro was designed to be fast, and the builder was reporting a nearly 65 mph top end, thanks to twin 1,200 HP MAN V8s mated to water jets. I figured we were going to really feel the two-foot chop out on the bay, with some good old-fashioned teeth jarring. The Vespro’s lightweight construction, combined with relatively modest engines for a boat this large, would most likely compromise the ride in terms of comfort. Or so I thought.

Centouno Navi Vespro

This is what a 54-footer looks like at 60 mph. Notice the water-jet trails at the stern.

But as I pressed the throttles forward and felt a jolt of acceleration pin my back to the white-leather helm chair, I noticed just how smooth the boat was in the waves.

Vespro’s naval architect is Marco Arnaboldi, who founded the formidable AB Yachts in 1992, a shipyard that is still building very big and very fast yachts over three decades later. Centouno is following the proven formula with the Vespro and recently announced plans for a pair of 92- and 127-foot megayachts.

Centouno Navi Vespro

The water jets give the Vespro a tight turning radius.

At the helm, the Vespro took a bit of getting used to. In true sportboat fashion, the wheel pulls hard back to the centerline after turns, and piloting the water jets is an art form unto itself. I’d compare driving these monster jets—which are like shooting two massive fire hoses from the stern—to skiing in powder. That’s opposed to a conventional outdrive, which is more like sliding down a groomed trail. The sensation with water-jet propulsion felt like floating above the water.

The benefits are faster acceleration, a higher top end, and turn-on-a-dime responsiveness. Jets are excellent in tight turns. But as I was carving S-turns at 60 mph, the Cannes show helicopter suddenly appeared out of nowhere, hovering low, just off our bow, a photographer leaning out to capture the sea trial. When you’re driving at those speeds, the last thing you want is a surprise. Turns out I didn’t need a double espresso after all.

Centouno Navi Vespro

An aerial view shows the open, dayboat design.

Even with the throttles pinned, I couldn’t get the boat up to that tantalizing 64.4-mph top end (we were laden with fuel and people) but I did see 61 mph on the speedo, which is plenty fast. I backed it down to 46 mph for most of the sea trial, though the captain noted the preferred cruise is closer to 58 mph. Even at 46, the ride was exhilarating and, I loved making the tight maneuvers: The Vespro spun tightly in less than a boat length.

The Vespro also exhibited a high level of fit and finish both inside and out, as one might expect from a dayboat with a starting price of just below $3 million. The interior woodwork was richly grained and snugly fit, the doors were satisfyingly heavy, and the drawers closed softly, with no rattling. The teak decks on the exterior also added luxe to the topsides.

Centouno Navi Vespro

Fit and finish is strong across the boat, including this high-contrast interior.

The designers added as much dayboat appeal as possible, with large sunpads on the stern and up on the bow, a dining table, cool-looking helm console, and high-backed racing seats, and fold-out terraces at the rear. When folded out, the terraces add another six feet to the beam, making it a very able party platform. The JL Audio sound system, in fact, was crystal-clear during the test, even with the rush of the wind at 60 mph.

Back at the dock, it was obvious the Vespro is different than other day yachts in its class. There’s that space-age look (thanks to the Darth Vader hardtop) combined with Euro styling. But there was also the speed and the adrenaline factor. That first-of-its-kind combination of aesthetics and performance should be seen by competitors as a wake-up call. I know it was for me.



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