Designer 18 September 2018
Marine Design carries out all aspects of design, both for the yachting sector and for technical and work boats, Umberto Tagliavini is a real specialist when it comes to fast hulls
by Niccolò Volpati – photo by Andrea Muscatello
In the right place at the right time. In the mid-1960s, the Costa Smeralda was still known as Gallura, and although the French Riviera was full of boats, they weren’t pleasure craft. A few yards from the shore, small fishing boats would sail backwards and forwards, on the lookout for anchovies. «In the port of Santa Margherita Ligure», Umberto Tagliavini recalls, «there were so many boats they would be lined up in two, three and sometimes even four rows. That’s where my passion for sailing started. I spent the whole summer around the piers».
Passion is an overused word. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard people say they have a passion for building, designing or selling boats. However, when I hear Umberto Tagliavini ’s stories, the word means something again.
I can picture images of his childhood and adolescence flashing in front of his eyes, back in the incredible 1960s and 1970s, when Santa Margherita’s shipyards led the way, with Otam, Spertini, Alalunga and the invention of the flying bridge.
Almost everything originated here, with a few exceptions, created in places like Viareggio and Varazze. The Golfo Paradiso was a sort of cradle of civilisation for sailing. All you had to do was go there, open your eyes and be curious and eager to learn. «The other day I saw a post on Facebook describing the most beautiful boat in the world, created by a young designer. It was judged the most beautiful because the owner’s cabin was 20 metres up – in fact you needed a lift to get there. But that wasn’t the work of a boat designer; it was the work of an idiot. Only someone who has never travelled by sea could fail to know that, at that height, every degree of incline of the hull is magnified by the rolling».
Who can argue with him? How many times have we seen designs on paper that would be a nightmare if they were turned into reality? Can you imagine the owner of this sort of skyscraper boat, feeling seasick in his beautiful cabin? «The various design schools», Tagliavini explains, «were all established during the boom years. Then everything stopped with the financial crisis. Now they are starting again, but seemingly with better judgement. The courses are taught by reputable people, and youngsters are taught that humility is a virtue, not a vice».
In other words, keep an ear to the ground, develop one step at a time and never forget that you are designing an object with the primary function of being sailed. «University was important for me», he continues, «but so was working my way up from the bottom. And it was a long, hard and tiring process».
Bruno Abbate, Tullio Abbate, Colombo and Piantoni, followed by Otam, Apreamare and Numarine. Small, medium-sized and large boats – Tagliavini has designed them all. «Building the hull of a small boat is not easy», he explains, «because all it takes is for the weight of two or three people on board to shift to alter the trim. Larger boats, meanwhile, are difficult because they are more complex, with lots of aspects to bear in mind». And nowadays these elements are ever more numerous, given that no owner wants to be without gyroscopes, which affect the weight, or stabilisers, which alter the waterlines of a hull, even if only marginally.
«I have the unfortunate trait of always trying to impose my views on others», Umberto Tagliavini admits, «but I do it with good intentions. My aim is always to create the perfect hull so the boat sails well». Despite this ‘unfortunate trait’, he has worked with lots of people, including Gianni Zuccon, Carlo Galeazzi, Alberto Mancini and Pierluigi Spadolini, developing an excellent relationship of mutual respect and friendship with all of them.
The team in his studio is a mixture of long-standing partners, such as Aldo Scorzoni, with whom he has worked for 28 years, and other, younger designers, including Clara Moltedo, who has been at Marine Design for five years. Although he does work for private owners, Tagliavini dedicates most of his time to Otam and Numarine.
«It’s not true», he says, «that everything is decided by the production managers nowadays. I believe there is still a lot of room for creativity and innovative solutions. I’ve been working with Otam since 1986, so I feel free to do what I think best, to a certain extent. I trust them, and they trust me. I don’t feel like I’m carrying out other people’s instructions: on the contrary, I believe that although much has already been invented, it is always possible to find the ideal solution for a hull. It depends on the type of boat, how it is used, what engines are added, and what transmission is chosen. Fluid dynamics software helps, but it’s not enough on its own».
Given how many boats he has designed, it seems only natural to ask him if there is one he is particularly fond of. «You never forget your first. It was called Black Bullet, a Magnum 63. It was the 1980s, and I was very young. The owner entrusted it to me for a complete refitting. And it’s not every day you get your hands on a 63-foot hull».
(Umberto Tagliavini, the passion for boats. The real ones … – Barchemagazine.com – July 2018)