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Palma (Mallorca, Spain) Wally Yachts, Wally Cento Galateia

Articles

Sailing Against the wind with Wally

When he launched Wally Yachts in 1994, Luca Bassani dared to venture where no yacht designer had gone before.

Words by Patrick Tillard

In any industry, to set a standard you must first push the boundaries of convention to their limits. Such a tactic of course carries risk. And while success brings respect, so can failure. Nonconformists to ‘design’ traditions are immortalized and flagellated in equal measure, depending on the results of their ambition.

Founder of Wally Yachts, Luca Bassani, is all too aware of this tightrope walk. When he launched his company in 1994, he eschewed the prevailing wind of the status quo and went where other yacht designers had feared to tread.

With childhood summers spent in Portofino, Luca developed a deeply-rooted passion for yachting. When he built his first boat in 1989—the Wallygator—it was for his personal use. “I was looking for a boat that would suit my family,” he explains, “something that offered both great racing speed and cruising comfort, but also looked amazing. I couldn’t find one that fitted what I was after.”

Luca sought a vessel with a carbon fiber mast, a forward master cabin, and no backstays—a blend of a top-of-the-line America’s Cup yacht and a Monaco-docked no-expense-spared superyacht. Such an unorthodox concept was rejected by the industry, and he couldn’t find a boat designer to accept his commission. So he went it alone.

“I knew of great materials and had these great ideas,” he says, “having spent a lot of time racing sailboats, so I set out to design a yacht myself that was all the things I needed it to be.” He didn’t have any idea that the Wallygator would be the first step to becoming an internationally respected and highly recognizable brand. Wherever the boat traveled, people flocked to see it. After five years, Luca decided it was time to start a “little business” to help others share his dream.

“I wanted to be incredibly innovative from the start, and make the absolute most of the newest technologies,” Luca states. “Innovation, quality, and service – that was my philosophy, and it remains to this day. No compromise. We are always researching new innovations, materials, and methods of designing.” 

Such a high demand for precision translates to long hours. “What we are doing is art. It therefore takes time – a 200ft yacht, for example, requires around six months of designing and then three years of construction.”

Wally’s groundbreaking innovation

The result? The most elegant, state-of-the-art yachts and tenders to sail the oceans. The industry’s most visionary designers use only the very best composite materials to create vessels that are a superlative example of form meeting function; the perfect marriage of performance and comfort.

Almost as if to prove a point, in 2003 he created the 118 Wally Power (pictured below left). Accommodating six guests (and six crew) in comfort similar to that of a much larger superyacht, the yacht also boasted 17,000 horsepower and a top speed of 65 knots. 

The technological revolution also took place in their sailing boats, with Wally pioneering the inclusion of carbon fiber in sails. Innovation is the hallmark of Wally’s short but game-changing heritage, with Luca’s ability to risk now having led to Wally becoming the envy of the yachting world.

“Our products now choose the client,” Luca continues. “We appeal to people who set a standard; people who decide the trends. We are not followers. We have a very high percentage of return customers – people who come back for their second or even third boat. They then get more involved with the design, and in turn, help us innovate even more.”

Of course, with such singular success come those intent on riding coattails—many modern yachts take inspiration from his creations. But Luca is unfazed “When Wally was launched,” he says, “we were one of the few people attempting something of this kind. Now there are many others trying. But I don’t mind the competition, because I don’t really see them as competition – few compare to Wally. 

“The constant pursuit of innovation is what makes us different. We will continue to push the boundaries while retaining our aesthetic and soul – this keeps my entrepreneurial spirit alive.”