Megayacht News Leadership Series: Tilli Antonelli, Wider Yachts

America’s Cup skipper-turned-entrepreneur Attilio “Tilli” Antonelli created the Pershing brand of yachts in 1985, now part of the Ferretti Group. Six years ago he created Wider Yachts. With it, he is well on the way to creating an equally famous and valuable brand. It’s known for expanding (literally) usable space aboard yachts and megayachts, plus investing in hybrid propulsion. Here, Antonelli shares why he’s inclined to do things different. Why are you such a keen advocate of diesel-electric power?

Tilli Antonelli: I believe it is the future of yachting, I believe that silence is the new luxury that owners aspire to. Think about the advantages of running megayachts relying solely on battery power for a full night. Think about using the beach club in complete silence without noise, smoke, or smell. Think about just enjoying the sound of the waves lapping up against the side of the hull. Diesel-electric power systems permit all of this. They allow yachts to run exclusively off the power they have stored in the lithium-polymer battery banks. That is what we strive for, and it is this that allows our yachts to cruise without the need to run their loud engines when those onboard are enjoying the surroundings. Besides the absence of noise, what other advantages do diesel-electric yachts have?

Tilli Antonelli: There are many; the reduction in onboard vibration being one of the main factors, the lack of traditional propeller shafts being another. Using electric cables instead of shafts to link power to electric motors in azipods means the engine room can be located forward in the bow area, liberating more usable space in the midships sections, to create more roomy cabins for the guests. Other advantages include fuel efficiency, which in turn extends cruising range, while the profile of the propellers allows a yacht powered by diesel-electric to access the more shallow areas of the world like the Bahamas.  Because electric motors have less moving parts, they are less prone to failure and have increased reliability. The knock on from that means lower running costs and less maintenance brought about by the efficient use and reduced running hours of generators and a clever power-management system. You seem to find opportunities that are radically different in concept to other yacht builders. Why is that?

Tilli Antonelli: Yes… we need to differentiate ourselves from the competition, but equally we need to respond to what the market is looking for… I believe the systems we have added on the Wider range will soon be copied by others… In fact, I am already starting to see this happen, and certainly that is my experience to date. In my past life with Pershing, we lead the way in many features that were genuine firsts. Now these are common place among other builders. How would you describe your approach to business?

Tilli Antonelli: I look at things rather differently to others, and I have always taken a broad interest in all types of boats, from sailing (my first passion), to fast yachts, to fishing boats, commercial craft, and the military. There are things that can be learned from other markets, which can be transferred across to yachting. It is true that I have a clear view on how things should be done. That is part of my experience, but of course I listen to clients; they are the end user. There is no point in building yachts that no one wants. In terms of style, this is a very personal matter, so I talk to them, try to understand what their requests are and if they can be satisfied. I will offer my opinion on functionality and usability and attempt to blend this together to come out with ideas that work on every level. Where does the future of Wider Yachts lie? Is it in the tender market or the megayacht market?

Tilli Antonelli: We are very concentrated on the Superyacht Division at the moment, which has become our core business, but we still enjoy conceiving and building modern day cruisers and tenders. Our mission is to build semi-custom yachts on time and on budget to discerning customers who are looking for exceptional, intelligent design and the highest quality of finish. This can be done on yachts in all size ranges. Wider Yachts is alone in building both megayachts and the tenders they carry. Do you think other yards might follow your lead?

Tilli Antonelli: We run two separate divisions (Superyacht Division in Ancona and Express Cruiser Division in Castelvecchio) and have dedicated teams working on different lines with a common philosophy. I think this is a good solution to offer our customers the benefit of “buying a full package.”  I don’t know what other shipyards will do in the future, but we believe there are advantages to offering customers this system. Do you see a brand-identity crisis occurring between Wider tenders and Wider megayachts?

Tilli Antonelli: Not at all. As said before, there is a common philosophy running from one to the other. Our tagline of “never enough” reflects this. Our passion is to push the boundaries to achieve ever better results.

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