From humble beginnings in Viareggio, Italy in 1873, Benetti has grown to be one of the leading superyacht shipyards in the world. It’s further the oldest Italian yacht builder. The management team brought together owners, industry representatives, and craftspeople from June 16 to 18 to celebrate Benetti’s 150 years in operation.
The yard opened when a young Lorenzo Benetti acquired the Cantiere Darsena Lucca yard in Viareggio. Within the first three decades, the yard launched more than 30 wooden vessels. The projects ranged from schooners to cutters and traditional Italian tartane fishing vessels. Since it was a family business, Lorenzo Benetti’s sons, Gino and Emilio Benetti, took over operations in 1913. Remarkably, a vessel from their watch, the 167-foot (51-meter) sailing ship San Giorgio, is still around. Converted into a naval training ship in 1952, it currently sits at the Museum of Science and Technology in Milan.
The father-to-son tradition continued with Maurizio and Bertani Benetti, Emilio’s children. Among their notable accomplishments was the steel-hulled Maria, the yard’s first to employ diesel engines. Yet another revolutionary moment came during the 1960s, when Gino’s son Giuseppe and Giuseppe’s son Lorenzo switched construction permanently to steel. The renowned Delfino, Gabbiano, and Mediterraneo series of yachts and megayachts launched and attracted numerous buyers, too.
Some of those buyers were even more high profile than the shipyard. For example, singer-songwriter David Bowie took delivery of El Caran in 1977 (above), a 128-footer (39-meter). He entertained the likes of fellow singer Mick Jagger and actors Michael Caine and Robin Williams onboard. George Martin, the manager of the Beatles, entertained the band on his Delfino motoryacht. Then, in 1979, Saudi businessman Adnan Khashoggi took delivery of Nabila, which was an extraordinary 282 feet (86 meters). The yacht arguably is as famous as her string of subsequent owners, including Donald Trump (who renamed her Trump Princess) and currently Prince al-Waleed bin Talal (who renamed her Kingdom 5KR). Of course, she also appeared in the James Bond film Never Say Never.
Unfortunately, Nabila also resulted in financial troubles for Benetti, so the family sold the shipyard in 1985 to Paolo Vitelli. Having acquired Azimut some years prior, he financially restructured it and embraced new construction methods and technology. Specifically, he saw fiberglass as a worthy material, and his intuition was right. The Classic 115 series that kicked off in 1988 led to 100 sales in a decade. Additionally, he believed diesel-electric propulsion was worth introducing to clients. Benetti built its first diesel-electric yacht, the 213-foot (65-meter) Ambrosia, in 2006. Furthermore, Benetti created its own R&D division, plus acquired a shipyard in Livorno, under Vitelli’s leadership. The Livorno site is where its headquarters are today, constructing a variety of projects, including the 353-foot (107.6-meter) “giga” yacht Luminosity.
Vitelli has since passed the chair seat to his daughter, Giovanna Vitelli, and the CEO seat to Marco Valle. The three (above) welcomed local dignitaries, owners, shipyard employees and their families, plus supplies to the Viareggio and Livorno sites this past weekend for various celebrations. Importantly, long-tenured employees received awards, while some of the youngest attendees received special apprenticeship courses. And, in a past-meets-present moment, the classic 1967 delivery Odissey III, El Caran, and the newest B.Now and Oasis Deck projects all sat in the Livorno marina.