We met Gianluca Adragna and his team. This versatile group take on every aspect of boat design, from sailing to motor vessels, while also embracing the world of military and working boats. They stand out for their ability to follow the project from beginning to end, from the first sketch to the last screw
by Luca Sordelli – photo by Andrea Muscatello
A river in full flow. Unstoppable. It’s best to not even try stopping Gianluca Adragna when he talks about his studio, his work, his boats. How can we best sum him up with one word? Passionate.
We’re in Slovenia, just a few kilometres from Trieste, in a large office where models and photographs of boats designed by Adragna Yacht Design are accompanied by numerous regatta trophies. Born in 1973, Gianluca grew up with a love of sailing like many people from Trieste, inheriting his father’s passion for the sea.
As he is telling me about what Gianluca Adragna Yacht Design Studio has done and, first and foremost, what it is working on now, I soon find out that they cover a very extensive field, ranging from sailing boat prototypes to military vessels and even embracing maxi-ribs, large motor yachts and working boats. He is accompanied by Michele Wetzl and Andrea Bendinelli, who also fill me in.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s start at the beginning.
«Everything began in 1997, with the design and construction of a small carbon sailing boat, which marked the start of the One Design Formula 660 used here in Trieste for some Match Race regattas. However, the “big step” forward came from the military world».
It’s an enormous step from a small sailing boat to a war ship… «Yes, it is. It all happened by chance, when chatting to an acquaintance at a bar in Trieste. The first project was for a client in Singapore, who had the first four boats built in Australia, before moving production to the much more economical Vietnam».
What did you learn from this experience? Is it a very different world from yachting?
«I learned a great deal. They were aluminium boats. The first model travelled at speeds of over 50 knots, but even in the later ones the top speed was never less than 40 knots. Of course, attractive design is not what people are looking for in that sector, but it’s the best way to learn all about practicality. For example, I always smile to myself these days when someone sees a reverse bow and describes it as very ‘military-looking’?».
In what sense? «Boats with reverse bows are wetter, they don’t open the wave. And a vessel that has to travel through any conditions can’t afford to be fussy. The same applies to windscreens. Military and working vessels want them angled towards the bow to avoid reflections. The ones that are elongated towards the stern are much more imposing in aesthetic terms, but far less practical».
I can see what you’re saying about the importance of practicality. «I often repeat that design is a very easy word to say, but the reality is very different. AYDS stands out for “real design”. This means that the yard knows how to follow the entire life of the boat, from start to finish. It means knowing how to create a beautiful object and following its construction right through to the last screw».
What has been your biggest challenge from this standpoint? «I’d say Adler Suprema, a large, complex and very sophisticated yacht. It was designed by Nuvolari and Lenard and we looked after all the engineering, with the exception of the hybrid propulsion system. It was a long and fascinating job, and we had to look after everything down to the smallest detail».
Going back to sailing for a moment, AYDS created the Stream 40 for regattas: «Yes, absolutely. It won the Barcolana five times in its category and even performed very well in the world championships. It was an innovative, “strange” boat. People criticised it initially… then it went on to inspire many».
You also created a very unusual object when you entered the world of Rhibs. «The luxury Rhib we developed for ICS Marine is a Rhib that is different from anything else on the market. It is made entirely from carbon and is a highly sophisticated vessel that can reach a top speed of 50 knots. We also patented a hull with a very high level of static and dynamic stability. This is another result of our experience in the military sector».
However, now you’re faced with a new and different challenge: «This is for a major company involved in resorts in the Maldives, owned by a Slovenian businessman. It’s an extremely stimulating project that entails the creation of a luxury passenger boat. It will be used to transport the guests at these super resorts from the airport to the islands. It’s something very different from a standard working boat. The dies will be manufactured in Croatia, where a very similar project is getting underway for the development of “VIP passenger boats” to transport guests from the cities to the islands. Everything has to be done quickly and with the highest standards of comfort».
What two concepts would you use to describe Gianluca Adragna Yacht Design Studio? «First and foremost, passion. Here at the studio we all have a very deep knowledge of the sea and boats. We like designing them and using them. This is fundamental when it comes to creating something beautiful and ‘alive’. And then innovation. We like creating new, original things».
Lastly, as a sailor, what would Luca Adreagna ‘s ideal sailing boat be like? «I imagine a boat made for riding. A very lightweight 70’, with large internal spaces. A fast boat, which is fun to use. Large, but still enjoyable to steer. Not something to be controlled by pressing buttons».
(Gianluca Adragna Yacht Design Studio – Barchemagazine.com – July 2018)