If you look out the windows of their studio, in a large apartment in downtown Milan, the view is of the Arco della Pace, coincidentally one of the city’s most talked-about urbanist interventions that best represents design Italy. Within walking distance are important studios, such as the one where Achille Castiglioni accumulated objects for his work until he became one of the masters of design. We are talking about Nauta Yachts, one of the certainties of this nautical “made in Italy” that places us in the high rungs of world consideration. You will read in the following interview how their success is the result of great passion and a deliberate but also somewhat random and adventurous beginning. One of those stories that resembles building and inventing computers in a garage, where the engine of success is one’s great passion. The firm’s spokesperson is Mario Pedol, of the trio who founded in ’85 the firm that began as a construction site remains with him Massimo Gino. In the firm some 15 engineers, architects, yacht designers. Nauta’s signature is now on dozens of boats, from the world’s largest, the 180-meter-long megayacht Azzam, to the smaller and in some ways more difficult boats in the Beneteau production.
Mario, how do you start drawing boats?
“The first answer is quite trivial: out of passion. But there is also the pleasure of illustrating and describing one’s ideas with one’s hand. I used to do it with motorcycles and cars in school, then when the passion for sailing came, boats also came: there is something genetic in being led to a certain kind of expression. I studied at Bocconi, then one fine day after sixteen exams Massimo Uggè came to me, with whom I used to race on his Show 29, proposing that I should make a minitonner, a class that was emerging in the late 1970s. He told me that he had met in the summer a person who could be one of the first clients. I mean, that person was Pigi Loro Piana … with whom I have remained connected to this day.”
It was a good start.
“We were real kids, in our 20s, but we quickly found a boatyard that financed Andrea Vallicelli’s project for us, a small Ziggurat, a boat with which he had just won third place at the Half Ton Cup in Trieste. We went to our first boat show in Genoa obtaining an Elnagh trailer for use as a booth. We immediately sold seven boats, some of which were on paper. The mini was called Avventura 703: with that we turned our passion into work. It was the late 1970s.”
How did it continue after that?
I attended the ISAD (Higher Institute of Architecture) course, a year of intense study with the leading professionals of the time-Fulvio De Simoni, Epaminonda Ceccarelli, Massimo Gregori, Sergio Abrami, Andrea Vallicelli. was very formative and marked my definitive change of course. I drank secrets every day and loved it. Finding out how the boat works and what the tricks are was very good, they were answers to the questions I had always asked myself.”
Where did the name you chose for your reality come from?
“The name Nauta came immediately from an invention of mine, I had seen a boat with that name during the summer and it struck me because it contains everything you need, it’s a complete message. There was Nauta Import, we were importers of the Oyster, which were cruising race boats then, we sold four of them. Then after school we founded Nauta Yachts, which is still our main company. Nauta Design is the name we chose to better identify with our mission. We coordinate all the design work from the preliminary, which already contains some elements of naval architecture and structure that are then digested and worked on by the specialists to whom we turn from time to time, in fact it is a design work.”
What is your relationship with the word “design”?
In the beginning, let’s be honest, I also felt a little awe, because it’s a world where everyone is pulling a lot, so we who are almost self-taught and not “Architects” were in awe. When you find out that you are good at it and the mechanisms are the ones you use, but also the ones the big guys use, you feel more in. From this point of view, the boat we made for Renzo Piano was enlightening: he is very passionate, he would call us three times a day and we would spend whole days in Arenzano, and he never let you weigh his status or celebrity. So sharing routes, making the same arguments, finding that we were traveling in sync was a reassurance. I would say we have the title at this point….”
What do you consider the first major success?
“The debut of the current Nauta Yachts with the 54 displayed at the 1986 Genoa Boat Show was a success with compliments galore: it was innovative, with two cockpits and four cabins, which did not exist on such a size at that time. The standard layout was almost always with one cabin aft and two small cabins forward. The bet was on, but doing it was not like saying, we had to put it all together, build and deliver. Back then we were also builders and not just designers. In three months we sold two boats and the critical success was confirmed.”
What about your manifest boat?
“is certainly My Song (Nauta 84, photo above), because it comes from a total sharing of ideas with Pigi Loro Piana, who has been with us since the beginning. He has passion for performance but he also knows how to experience the sea, nature, the conviviality that the boat gives you, an educated enthusiast. That’s it, if we want to talk about a father-daughter relationship, it’s that. it’s a boat from ’99 but it’s still totally relevant for us.”
Perhaps getting to mass production is another strong point. “Yes. A milestone in our history is definitely the relationship with Beneteau, a great satisfaction. At the beginning, Madame Annette Roux made a precise speech, sharp as she knows how: she admitted that they had an unbeatable sales network and organization, but that by then their product was no longer as cutting-edge as in the golden days. To get back to it they were looking for the best designers in the world. Thus Oceanis 45 and 50 were born, with ideas later declined throughout the series. For a studio used to working on two three one-off pieces a year this work was very different. With series production we have been able to make the Studio more complete, because you have a portion of turnover assured with continuity. The difficult side is being able to live with all the technical and economic constraints that limit design solutions in some way. But it is an interesting challenge.”
Where is innovation looking into the future? Does the market absorb technology as much as it seems to experts? “Kind of like in automobiles there is the bulk of the market, which is the average family sedan but there are also grand tourers in smaller numbers, higher cost, however they will always be there. In boating it’s kind of the same thing. On the custom with no budget limits the technology gives excitement for those who can afford it that is exciting, now we are building a really interesting boat from Baltic. In family boats, the innovation is simplicity, sailing should be easy.”
We have not yet talked about Southern Wind.
“Southern was another important step. We had approached them to build a 92-footer, but unbelievably, after negotiating the price and the contract, Willy Persico said his manager in South Africa didn’t feel up to the timetable. it was a very serious act; I don’t know how many others would have done it. That boat was built by Cesare Sangermani, but then we went back to work for them, who built four examples based on that design. From there a relationship of esteem was born from which other minis were born. There was a good design, but the market recognized us mostly good quality and good price. We are now number 15 in the 100′. No one in the world has made as many boats of the same size.”