Nauta Yachts. Designers who gave the world Azzam
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Nauta Yachts. Designers who gave the world Azzam

How was the biggest megayacht on the planet designed?
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Today Mario Pedola, Massimo Gino and the Nauta company they run have all the eyes of big yachting enthusiasts. It is not easy to design the world's largest mega yacht, 180 meters long, while remaining in the shadows.

Mario Pedol and Massimo Gino are still surprised to be able to sign «the design contract for the world'»s largest mega yacht, the 180m. Azzam. The ink has not dried out yet, and they were already working on the project in complete secrecy. Given the size of the company, it is no surprise that information about the future yacht was carefully guarded.

Mario Pedol was given great news on the phone, strangers were nearby and he had to pretend that the call was not very important.

He later admitted that the most painful thing for him to do at that moment was to act as if nothing had happened. The experience and stamina, which the designer does not take up, helped.

Let's go back in time for a little while. Mario Pedola's father was a chief engineer and was involved in the creation of two transatlantic motor ships, Saturnia and Vulcania. Since childhood, Mario could not think of his life without the sea and ships and even participated in two prestigious regattas, in particular on a 30-meter racing sailing yacht of half-ton class. He even interrupted his studies at the School of Economics to design, together with Andrea Valicelli, a 23-foot sailing yacht that took part in the world championships in the same class «of half-ton»class.

Mario has found a yacht building company for his yacht and has agreed on a monetary reward in the form of a license fee. The project proved successful: the yacht participated in the regatta, came third and the orders flowed. During 2 years about 40 models were sold.

Then the Pedolo family bought the British sailboat Oyster 57'. Somehow it came to pass that Mario began to represent an English company in Italy. He sold 5 models, but because of the high rate of pound sterling import was unprofitable, and Mario decided to take another sea pause: he set sail on the Atlantic Ocean, taking a course for the Caribbean Islands. From the voyage he made a huge profit, recording with scrupulous precision all the details of everyday life on board. At the same time, he thought carefully about his future career.

On his return to Italy he entered the Department of Maritime Architecture, Trade and Yachting at the University of Milan. He attended seminars by well-known and experienced water sports professionals, such as Fulvio di Simoni and his friend Andrea Valicelli. Mario then crossed the Atlantic Ocean again - this time to learn the craft of naval architect at New York's Scott Kaufman Yachts design office, where he gained experience from Drake Sparkman and the Stevens brothers, founders of Sparkman and Stephens.

Scott Kaufman had a huge influence on Mario's artistic taste: «Kaufman was a great mentor, he never shy away from my creative freedom».

Returning to his homeland, Mario Pedol, together with his friends Massimo Gino and Enzo Moiso, founded Nauta Yachts in 1985, offering, as he himself put it, panoramic «yachting services, namely design, engineering and brokerage». The friends also set up their own shipyard to be fully self-sufficient. The first step in the new field was the production of the Nauta 54', a fairly large sailboat for its time. Mario's assistants doubted the success of the project, but at the boat show in Genoa the model aroused interest from three customers at once. The three orders were followed by four others, one of whom was Pier Luigi Loro Piana, who later became a close friend of the designer.

Scott Kaufmann, who has joined the project, has also enhanced the company's image and enriched its design developments with unconventional solutions. The firm became known in the semi-custom yacht segment and its impeccably designed models focused on the most demanding customers. For the Nauta 54' the designers embarked on the development of a 65' model with the legendary Bruce Farr. Unfortunately, due to the economic crisis in the 90's, the yard had to close. The company itself survived, but switched completely to design. The models were built at third party shipyards, for which the partnership with a team of experienced designers was a great help. Mario continued his brokerage activity, it helped to keep close contact with customers, but this activity only took 10% of the company's total turnover. Nauta was happy to listen to the wishes and suggestions of its customers:

«It's always interesting to exchange ideas with them.

Some come with drawings, newspaper and magazine clippings, photographs...

Together we look for a common style, refine and adjust details, often going to the customer to get a better idea of his tastes and aesthetic ideas. They are the basis for our work».

In 1992, the manufacturers of Bertram motor yachts entrusted the company with the interior design of all models in their range. Mario was brought up on sailboats but was also ready to work on motor yachts. However, he understood that a completely different approach was required. There is more space available on motor yachts. Nauta's engineers worked with David Napier, the yard's designer, to redesign the Bertram range. The company has since worked on the interior design of the Sense models of the Bénéteau yard, as well as on CNB and Lagoon catamarans. Today they are collaborating with a major French company. Mario Pedol has established close contacts with one of his clients, an engineer and designer of prestigious Ferrari racing cars. He commissioned him to design a 230ft yacht, which he soon decided to extend to 262ft (80m).

«There will be no "whipped cream pies", the new model will fit perfectly into the landscape due to the abundance of open areas and glazed areas».

Meanwhile, the company continued to grow. It increased its staff to 14 people, moved to a new office in the center of Milan, and updated its computer equipment. Mario Pedol is committed to an ultra-modern minimalist style, but his designs have stood the test of time perfectly.

The economic crisis of 2008 did not allow the company to complete the 90-meter Light project. Mario went on holiday, not knowing how his company's fate would unfold in the coming months. «I was standing at the helm of my sailing yacht when my cell phone rang suddenly. One of my friends called on behalf of engineer Mubarak Saad Al-Ahbadi. Some owner who wished to remain anonymous was looking for a design studio to order her to design a very large megayacht. At first I thought it was a joke, but gradually I realized with amazement that my friend was not joking». Back on solid ground, both literally and figuratively, Mario hurried to meet the engineer. He showed him sketches of blueprints. The shipowner expressed his wishes for each deck, but did not say a word about the exterior design. Mario was asked to draw up a technical and financial feasibility study as soon as possible. For a company dealing with medium-length yachts, the challenge was enormous.

«I learned that the order was assigned to us when I was at the Rolex Cup, but at the time it was a yacht "just" 145 meters long. My engineers immediately went to work.

Every week, Azzam grew longer and longer.

The customer wanted the dining room to accommodate 50 people, the crew area to accommodate 60, and Christophe Leoni began to think about interior»design. In 2009, the customer abruptly changed his plans: it was decided that the length of Azzam would be 180 m. Mario and his assistants have once again added work. The deadline was tight: no more than five years for production. The seven-deck yacht will be equipped with two engines and two gas turbines with a total power of 94000 hp.

However, the titanic task did not frighten the company, which in parallel with the design of Azzam is engaged in other projects, such as the development of the 72-metre yacht Edge together with Benetti Design Innovation. As can be seen from the sketch, Nauta's designers decided to completely «dissolve» the vessel in the water landscape by glazing the superstructure. The master suite measures 102m² and opens onto a 105m terrace. The abundance of sliding doors allows to combine the saloons with open areas. Light penetrates freely everywhere. The trim is dominated by shades of beige and brown. The interior is decorated in a modern minimalist style, without pretentiousness or decoration. Nauta also maintains close ties with the shipyard in Ancona's Cantiere Delle Marche, where the Nauta Air line is produced. Its head, Vasco Buonopenciere, speaks of Mario Pedola with genuine admiration.

We willingly share his feelings.

Published in YACHTS magazine #54.

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