WRITER: Nicolas Shammas PHOTOGRAPHER: Jeff Brown
Decked out in some new Santoni x Wider trainers, we climbed aboard their new 47-metre yacht for a short cruise along the French Riviera. Built entirely in aluminium and powered by a hybrid diesel-electric propulsion system, this boat is making all the right waves.
From left to right: Giuseppe Santoni, Tilli Antonelli and Paolo Favilla.
When a respected shoemaker of the calibre of Santoni establishes a collaborative relationship with another luxury brand, you pretty much have to sit up and take notice. If you’ve been paying attention, you might know this Italian marque doesn’t do things by halves (hint: check out our special supplement in this issue’s Asides section).
It all began with a partnership with Mercedes AMG, for which Santoni continues to produce sturdy boots and trainers for men. That was followed by a tie-up with the legendary Venetian textile maker Rubelli, who supplies the brand with exclusive materials to make sophisticated women’s shoes and accessories. More recently in 2011, a deal was brokered with IWC, for whom Santoni creates handsome watchstraps. But the latest union, with an Italian yacht maker, is the most intriguing because unlike the others, Wider is far from a household name.
The amazing beach club at the back of the Wider 150, including its amazing 7-metre swimming pool, which can be filled only when the Wider Express 32 is driven out.
Naturally, this new alliance piqued our curiosity and quite by chance, a few months ago we received an invitation from Santoni and Wider to travel to Cannes and do just that.
A short flight to the French Riviera later and while checking into the Hotel Barrière Le Majestic in Cannes, a package arrived from Santoni, as if by magic. In it was a brand new pair of exquisitely soft white leather, low-top ‘Santoni for Wider’ sneaker-style deck shoes (in my exact size, of course). Beautifully comfortable with a surprisingly bouncy sole (and soul), the trainers have an air of the Achilles by Common Projects about them, yet their design goes further with a profile that speaks pure unabashed minimalism with some leather that’s almost decadently rich.
The tender is a deep V hull 9.6-metre Wider Express 32, powered by twin 260hp Mercuiser diesels that offer a maximum of 37 knots.
On our first evening, we were invited to a private dinner held at Fred l’écailler, a seafood restaurant located off the beaten path in the quiet backstreets near the town hall. Hosting the dinner were the two founders of Wider Yachts, Tilli Antonelli and Paolo Favilla, in addition to the company’s new majority shareholder Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, plus Giuseppe Santoni, who brought along his wife and teenage son.
“I have known Tilli and Paolo for many years and our headquarters are located less than an hour away from each other,” said Giuseppe Santoni before going on to explain that it was their common values more than their geographic locations that helped cement this union. He also spoke of how both companies have received awards for innovation and technology, how both share a deep respect for the environment, how both encourage eco-sustainable practices and how both strive for excellence in everything they do. “You’ll really be able to understand all of this when you go on-board Genesi tomorrow,” adds Antonelli, referring to the first of the Wider 150 yachts, which was delivered this past April.
The new Santoni for Wider trainers with deckshoe soles come in white and black for now but additional colours will follow.
For those in the know, Tilli Antonelli is quite a legend in the yachting industry, a man who helped transform the business into the glamorous and hi-tech pastime that it is today. In 1981, he launched his first yacht under the Cantieri Navali dell’Adriatico brand. This was closely followed, after a rebranding, by the first Pershing yacht in 1985. Named after the Pershing missile and taking inspiration from its shape, its lines were the work of a then relatively unknown designer Fulvio De Simoni. Now, more than 30 years later, the duo is still working together, this time under the fold of Antonelli’s latest venture – Wider Yachts.
“We launched Wider in 2010 because we wanted to push the boundaries,” continues Antonelli. “You must always look to the future and not just in terms of aesthetics. What we wanted to do was something radically different.”
The large sun deck fitted with a full bar, barbecue and jacuzzi, makes the ideal spot to entertain guests.
That meant entirely rethinking the modern motoryacht with one of the fundamental changes being the ditching of regular motorisation in favour of an innovative hybrid system capable of running in a zero emissions mode. The way it works is a pack of lithium polymer batteries take charge from four inline, variable-speed diesel generators. Not only is such a system more efficient, it also allows for the yacht to travel further and run both quieter and cleaner, plus, when mated to azimuthal pods, it helps free up a massive amount of internal space too. Antonelli and his team were therefore liberated to conjure up all sorts of unique aspects, including the ability to drive a huge Wider Express Cruiser 32 into the rear of the Wider 150 and park it in the space you’d normally place the engines.
“It’s not just about pushing the boundaries with the concept,” chirps in Paolo Favilla, Antonelli’s partner in the business and the current managing director. “We also wanted class-leading quality so we looked at the most famous Dutch shipyards and we believe we now make comparative products.” I asked if that meant that Wider believes it’s the Feadship of its size category and his answer was emphatic: “Absolutely”.
The terrace on the foredeck with its hydraulically-operated opening roof offers absolute privacy to owner and guests. It’s also where a 4.5 metre tender, jet skis, wakeboards, paddleboards and diving gear are all concealed.
It’s easy to see why Santoni was attracted to such a visionary team. Just as with the shoe industry, the motorboat one is flooded with companies vying for your business but when you really get into it, the ones who excel without compromise are few and far between. You could say that Wider and Santoni are newcomers of sorts, disrupting the status quo in their respective fields.
Through much of our thought-provoking first night, we noticed one member of the party keeping very quiet. It turned out the mystery man was in fact Sri Lim Kok Thay, the newest investor in Wider and the key stakeholder who helped them expand from building innovative 12-metre day-cruisers with foldout cockpits, to much larger and even more radical mini-superyachts. When the opportunity presented itself, I probed the Malaysian billionaire as to why he decided to invest in a new Italian shipyard, when so many established names like Baglietto and Cantieri di Arno have faced bankruptcy in recent times. “I must be mad,” he answered drolly. But he’s not, of course, and moreover he knows a thing or two about building ships. Massive ones in fact. For though his empire spans leisure and hospitality, oil and gas, power generation, oil palm plantations, property development, biotechnology, it is Star Cruises (the third largest cruise line in the world) that has made him a world-renowned figure. And by providence, Star Cruises has emerged as Wider’s biggest customer, thanks to an extensive order for a fleet of Express Cruiser 32 boats they plan to use as tenders.
The style of the upper saloon is light and informal, with flowing white curtains, zebrano parquet, a silky cream rug and Poltrona Frau leather seating.
As promised, the next day we got our chance to experience life on-board the Wider 150 with a short cruise aboard Genesi. This boat has already astonished the classification society Registro Italiano Navale when it became the quietest yacht ever built to RINA Comfort Class and the first yacht to obtain a perfect score for levels of sound and vibration. It’s little wonder then that it went on to win the prestigious Best Motoryacht prize at the Superyacht Awards in June. The genius of its propulsion system is that by profoundly reducing the size of the motors and then moving them and the rest of the technical space to the bow, Wider have opened up a realm of possibilities. For example, at the rear where you’d normally find the engines, you’ll instead find a marvel of engineering that they call the beach club. When on the move, this 90-square-metre area houses the Wider 32 rigid tender. However, at the touch of a button you can lift the rear transom and allow the seawater to flood in, allowing the tender to be driven out. Once removed, the tender’s berth converts into a fully functional 7-metre swimming pool, surrounded by a beach area with two lateral platforms that fold down to extend the space even further.
Apart from the amazing terrace, the master suite boasts a full-beam bathroom forward that features a custom-made wooden bathtub and a massive shower, plus a walk-in wardrobe.
“We have reimagined every centimetre on board, not just the big garage,” adds Antonelli. “Take the lateral walkway wings for example: they extend over the water, allowing for a full-beam Sky Lounge.” Indeed, Wider fully lives up to its name with multiple lateral platforms, including one almost 6-metre-squared one in the very large owner’s suite that actually aligns flush with the floor thanks to teak decking that extends out and up once the balcony itself is hinged down.
The Wider 150 affords space for up to 11 guests in five cabins, attended by nine crew. Furthermore, it’ll cruise at 12.5 knots with a range of 3,000 nautical miles. Thanks to its zero emissions mode, you can stay at anchor in a bay and run everything on-board for up to eight hours with not a single generator running and in complete silence, with no smoke or smell from the exhaust. To fully recharge the batteries, you need only an hour and 45 minutes to power another eight hours of sleep – in blissful silence. That’s just amazing. As are my amazingly comfortable new Santoni’s. No wonder every member of Genesi’s crew are wearing a pair.
The Wider 150 also happens to be incredibly still at anchor, thanks to five gyroscopic stabilisers.
MODEL Wider 150
DISPLACEMENT 391 tonnes
MAX SPEED 14.1 knots
RANGE 4,700nm (at 10 knots)
GUESTS 11 in 5 cabins
PRICE 28 million USD