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Focus on Wally

Interview of Luca Bassani

Since the launch of the first Wally yacht 20 years ago, the brand has become synonymous with its rapid adoption of the latest innovations in technology as well as ground-breaking styling - an ethos that has been imprinted on all the company creates by its founder, Luca Bassani.

The list of Wally firsts in the field of large performance sailing yachts is massive – carbon fibre construction, canting keels, 3DL sails, 3DL sails that can be furled, furling gennakers, a lifting keel with a trim tab, to name but a few.

Luca Bassani says that for him personally a high point was the introduction of self-tacking jibs. “At that time, all boats, both racing and cruising, were using big overlapping genoas and everyone told me at the time, it is impossible to do a fast boat with a little jib. Today if you look at all the racing boats and cruising boats, they are all using them and big overlapping jibs don’t exist anymore.” He is also proud of how his yachts, regardless of their size, can be sailed by very few crew and in hiding all the highly loaded ropes below deck, the sheets for the sails, etc, they have made life on deck considerably safer.

Over the last decade the Wally range has extended from sailing yachts into the wallypower range of futuristic-looking motoryachts, yacht tenders and some projects, ambitious even by Wally standards, such as the 56m long by 38m wide ‘WHY’ conceived in conjunction with Hermès, that is part giant motor yacht, part luxury villa afloat.

“Since the beginning our philosophy was to exploit any new technologies, to achieve boats that could be at the same time faster, simpler to manoeuvre, safer to use and, as a last goal, also nicer aesthetically,” says Bassini. “The slogan we have had since the beginning is ‘fast and easy’ and we followed that path to this day.”

20 years on, Bassani’s appetite for innovation remains as fervent as ever. So what will the Wally fleet at Nespresso Cups in the future look like?

Following on from the victory of Larry Ellison’s BMW Oracle Racing trimaran in the 33rd America’s Cup, so Wally has developed its own wingsail, known as the ‘WOW’, as an alternative to a conventional mast, sails and rigging. “At Wally we have a patent which would allow us to use a wing on a normal boat with the possibility to drop the wing or to reef the wing when the wind blows harder. I hope we can soon make the big jump from a traditional sail plan to a single wing, as again this will make the boat both faster and easier to manoeuvre. This is really something that could absolutely change the world of sailing, not only for new boats, but also for old boats.”

Another area Bassani would like to pursue is stability generating appendages. The Dynamic Stability System is a retractable foil that protrudes from the side of a boat. When sailing this foil generates lift, creating more lift the faster the boat sails, in effect taking over some of the role of the giant lead keel all monohulls rely on to stay upright when sailing. A boat fitted with such a system can be built substantially lighter making it faster still.

“On a big boat the effect could be dramatically good, because instead of having this very long deep keel, with a huge amount of tonnes of lead, you can have a much smaller keel and great stability. And the system is much less complicated than a canting keel or a water ballast system. Imagine if you have the wing and also this Dynamic Stability System, it is going to be a big revolution. In terms of performance you are going to have a boat that instead of going upwind at 10-12 knots, will go upwind at 15 and instead of reaching at 15 will reach at 25-30 knots. If you put those things together – the reduction of weight, the wing and the Dynamic Stability System in the end you are going to have an incredible sailboat.”

Bassani is pleased with the association between Nespresso and Wally at the Nespresso Cup. Traditionally Wallys have always joined existing regattas, but the Nespresso Cup, held appropriately in Bassani’s hometown of Portofino, is solely for his boats.

“Now that the fleet is quite big, the flexibility we have is great, because we can have races at the right moment in the right wind and you don’t have to have a start just because there are other classes. Having three or four days only for you, you can wait for the right weather window to have the best races. It is like it used to be in the golden age of the Maxis in the 1980s when the Maxis were sailing by themselves with their own race committee and courses and they were really having fantastic racing.”

Bassani adds that he likes the family flavour of the Nespresso Cup, the club feeling and the involvement of the sponsor. “The sponsor in this case doesn’t remain someone far away, they are part of the competition. I think everyone is very, very happy about the event.”


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