There was tangible excitement on the dock when Rebeca, the first 134-foot (40.8-meter) Oasis 40M from Benetti, made her debut in the swanky seaside setting of Italy’s Portofino late last summer. Clearly, we were all looking at something different—which, of course, was Benetti’s intention from the beginning.
“We decided a few years ago to create a new collection that targeted a younger clientele and a more informal onboard lifestyle,” says Federico Lantero, product marketing and communication director at Azimut-Benetti. “We liked the idea of an SUV of the sea or adventure yacht, so we went to the designers at RWD with this brief, and they came back with something completely out of the box.”
The subtle curve to the vertical bow, the upright wheelhouse windscreen, the gleaming silver paintwork, the chiseled contours and chamfered edges—together, they create the impression of a yacht that is polished yet purposeful, stylish yet seaworthy. The Oasis 40M may look like a fully custom aluminum superyacht, but it’s actually the first of a new semicustom series in fiberglass.
“A new way of experiencing the sea called for a new design aesthetic,” says Adrian Chisnell of U.K.-based RWD, which also devised the general arrangement. “We went that extra mile to make sure the Oasis 40 stood out from other yachts in her class, and Benetti have done themselves proud with the build quality, which sets a new benchmark for series yachts.”
The showpiece exterior feature—and the key to the Oasis name—is the open aft deck, which serves as a 950-square-foot (88.2-square-meter) beach club with fold-down bulwarks that extend the beam to 37 feet (11.3-meters). Here, there’s a hydromassage infinity pool overlooking the swim platform. And, everything faces out to sea instead of inboard, as has traditionally been the case.
This kind of terraced arrangement, offering closer contact with the sea, has become popular on larger yachts, but Benetti and RWD have cracked the concept on a yacht of 385 gross tons. To increase the available deck space, there are no exterior stairways from the aft decks to the upper levels. Instead, guests use a companionway staircase amidships, and the crew has its own interior access.
Another design highlight is the smooth transition between the exterior and interior. Full-height windows and teak soles that match the exterior decking make sure guests never feel far from the sea, but there’s more to the airy, uncluttered interior design than meets the eye. Rebeca is the first yacht project for New York-based Bonetti/Kozerski Architecture, responsible for that city’s modernist Pace Gallery. The discreet, yet chic ambience the firm created for the yacht has more in common with the world of residential design.
“We have clients who charter or own yachts, and their feedback was that they couldn’t find anything that has the same contemporary spirit or ambience as their own homes, either in terms of style or utility,” says Italian-born Enrico Bonetti. “In our view, yachts tend to be very conformist, with spaces developed for specific activities and very little integration. So, we began proposing alternatives, which took a long time, as although Benetti wanted something new and fresh, they weren’t necessarily ready for all of our proposals.”
Classic white calacatta Vagli marble with golden inclusions, warm santos rosewood, and clean white lacquered paneling exude a feeling of casual sophistication. The walls in the master stateroom are clad in linen, while the bed and night tables are wrapped in vacchetta leather (like the trim on Louis Vuitton travel bags). Rift-sawn white oak with stainless steel trim covers the walls in the guest staterooms, where the beds are made of ziricote wood with individual leather headboards the owner chose. Light switches, faucets and other accessories are in dark bronze. Built into the bulkhead in the main salon is a bar unit that opens like a cupboard to reveal a glowing interior of backlit onyx.
“We wanted to keep the palette of materials and finishes discreetly simple, natural and constant throughout the yacht,” Bonetti says. “We try not to use known labels or brands, something we discussed with Benetti, so a lot of the freestanding furniture was designed by us as well. An example is the fluted leather dining banquette and bleached chestnut breakfast table in the sky lounge, which unusually is placed longitudinally to one side.”
The wheelhouse is a place where practicality always takes priority over creativity. But here, again, Benetti confounded expectations and created a futuristic, but functional space where guests can also enjoy the navigation firsthand. Gone is the traditional console, replaced by a carbon fiber peninsula wrapped around a Besenzoni pilot’s chair that is upholstered in plush cognac leather. Developed by Benetti together with Seastema, this freestanding, integrated bridge allows for full-height windows, providing the crew with excellent visibility and visitors with 180-degree panoramic views.
Designing yachts in new ways always carries an element of risk, but Benetti has zeroed in on the mood of the market. At press time, 12 hulls of the Oasis 40M had been sold. In anticipation of this demand and the need to boost production capacity, the Italian shipyard even built two sets of molds.
La Dolce Vita
Rebeca is named after the wife of American owner Tim Ciasulli, a champion offshore powerboat racer with four world speed records. Now the owner of Planet Honda in New Hampshire, Ciasulli grew up by the ocean on Barnegat Bay in New Jersey. His first boat, at age 11, was a 13-foot Boston Whaler. He reflects on life and yachts with Editor-at-Large Justin Ratcliffe.
You’ve owned a string of fast planing boats. Why the move to a displacement yacht?
Tim Ciasulli: I would take a bunch of friends out for a blast off the coast of Connecticut, and we’d get back to the dock and go below deck, and the doors would be open, plates all over the place, and it would take a day just to put it all back to rights. I crossed one time from Fort Lauderdale to the Abacos, and even the fridge was turned over. The fact is that going fast and having a nice yacht that you can enjoy with friends are mutually exclusive. But, I have both because we tow a 43-foot, carbon fiber Midnight Express with five 450-horsepower outboards that goes 100 miles an hour. So, I can take friends out and scare the hell out of them, and then go back to the mothership and relax in comfort.
At what stage did you get involved in the Oasis project?
We had already seen the concept renders, but then they showed us the scale model when we were on our previous boat in Palm Beach. I must have spent three or four hours just looking at that model from every angle, and it was gorgeous. Italians are known for their styling, right? But this was a radical departure for Benetti, as it would be for any boat company, for that matter. You know, they all say that they blur the boundaries between inside and outside, but all they really do is put in bigger windows. This was a completely clean sheet of paper, and we realized that the onboard lifestyle the Oasis 40M could offer us was exactly what we wanted. So, it was an easy choice: This is a no-compromise boat.
You have Italian heritage. Was that a factor in deciding to buy an Italian yacht, or just a coincidence?
Probably a little more than coincidence. My wife and I have owned a home in Italy since 2015, and we plan on spending a lot of our time—once I stop working full-time—in Italy because we love it. As Americans, we put in 80-hour weeks and run around like headless chickens, and we miss the important things in life, like spending time with family, breaking bread, enjoying a glass of wine or an aperitivo with friends. That’s la dolce vita, which is the life that we love. It’s not about having a big boat or Ferraris in the garage; it’s about relationships.
Benetti Oasis 40M Specifications
LOA: 133ft. 11in. (40.8m)
BEAM: 27ft. 11in. (8.5m)
DRAFT (full load): 7ft. (2.14m)
SPEED (max./cruise): 18/14.5 knots
NAVAL ARCHITECTURE: Benetti Yachts
EXTERIOR DESIGN: RWD
INTERIOR DESIGN: Bonetti/Kozerski Architecture
BUILDER: Benetti Yachts
For more information: benettiyachts.it
This article was originally published in the Spring 2021 issue.