This fourth Wallycento took the design and build to an aggressive new level. Toby Hodges reports from a test sail of Tango off the coast of Monaco
This may be the fourth 100ft yacht designed to the Wallycento box rule, but it’s one that raises the bar with regard to combining form and functionality with outrageously cool aesthetics. Considering that Wally is yachting’s deity of style, that’s saying something.
Tango is at the very forefront of modern fast monohull design and advanced technology. Its stealthy black livery and long, low lines combine with a bold reverse sheerline to create a potent, powerful look. The ruthlessly clean deck is signature Wally. The image of the single helmsman on deck, with all that power and beauty controlled simply by the touch of a network of buttons on the pedestals, has become an icon for the Italian brand.
If Tango’s form is captivating on paper, in the flesh it’s mesmerising. As a sail trial from Monaco was to prove, however, here is a yacht that is just as much about function and how its detailed design and engineering allows it to perform as a cutting edge racer-cruiser. Rigorous weight centralisation, rig and rudder adjustment and an innovative ramp deck are core design details that demonstrate a new level of grand prix racing-inspired thinking.
The team that collaborated to make it possible is impressive: lines from Mark Mills, structural engineering by Pure Engineering, MYT project management, construction at race yacht specialists Persico Marine and styling by Pininfarina.
Marcello Persico explained that after 15 years of building top end race yachts, including five America’s Cup campaigns, this is the first cruising boat his team has built: “It required 30,000 hours for the interior and 100,000 hours structural (composite) work!”
The Wallycento box rule creates light displacement superyachts with powerful sail plans and planing hulls. I have had the privilege of sailing aboard two of the previous three Centos, Magic Carpet3 and Galateia, yet Tango still stands out one of the most awe-inspiring yachts of any size I’ve ever sailed or seen.
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The design is more in keeping with out-and-out racing yachts like TP52s and mini maxis than luxury cruiser-racers. For those unfamiliar with the Irish designer Mark Mills, Tango’s lines instantly give you a glimpse into his racing pedigree. They are smooth, bucking the trend for hard chines or twin rudders. “There’s a time and a place for twin rudders and most inshore boats don’t qualify,” said Mills as he introduced me to his largest design to date.
It was the success of Mills’s 72ft Alegre, which has an innovative sloped or ‘ramp’ deck that inspired Wally founder Luca Bassani to recommend Mills for the Tango project. “Wally has constantly blended form and function to improve the sailing experience,” said Bassani, adding that for Tango in particular this involves, “the cutting-edge deck layout that combines our flush-deck with bulwark, introduced in 2006 with Esense, with the ramp deck of Alegre.”
A seamless deck from transom to bow makes a telling difference when you consider the sheer size of the sails that need to be carried up to the foredeck.
If the headroom is not required below, it’s a potential game changer. “Structurally a ramp deck is a big improvement [for a lighter, stiffer yacht] and crew work improvement is unparalleled,” said Mills. “The ability to haul sails up or across the deck without interruption is very cool – and it’s aesthetically unique.”
Time to Tango
The huge square-top mainsail emblazoned with a red rose was hoisted (… and hoisted) until it reached the mast top, which towers 47m above sea level. Following my gaze aloft Mills remarked: “The request was for the most aggressive Southern Spars rig yet.”
Again, it’s the functionality of this rig that really stands out. This is the first time a Cento’s mast step can be adjusted under load – no small consideration given that there is up to 34 tonnes of compression at its base. The mast step has a rounded base, made from a special alloy with low-friction material. A jack inside the mast controls vertical lift, while a ram can move the base fore or aft.
Mills was very keen to capitalise on a class rule change that no longer penalises mast rake adjustment. “We wanted to bring race boat practice to the Cento,” he explained. “We actively change rig rake in the TP52s to get the best rudder angle.”
To compensate for the rake of the rig (“which is unprecedented at this size”), Mills designed a trench in the pushpit area. “We wanted to make sure the tack of the jib is always at its lowest – it’s as you would find on a [mini maxi] 72”.
Typically, the larger a yacht becomes, the more disconnected the helm can feel. Tango’s owner was very keen that the helm retained the feel of a smaller performance yacht. Two cogs inside the wheel pedestals therefore act as a gear change to make Tango’s steering feel lighter or stiffer, according to the conditions.
“We had the boat heeled at 25° in 25 knots of wind in Saint Tropez, but the owner could still steer with one finger,” said Carlo Torre, director of the project management company MYT responsible for the build.
The rake of the rudder can also be adjusted half a degree fore or aft via a button at the pedestal and the quadrant is mounted on the deckhead in the lazarette, below the helm pedestals, to minimise the linkage.
It was perhaps asking too much to feel anything from the rudder blade in the five knots of breeze I had when helming. However, the 640m2 of upwind sail area is certainly enough to convince Tango’s nimble 17-tonne hull to heel in the lightest of airs. And it is a remarkable feeling to stand with one foot on the angled deck or substantial bulwark and have all that power at your command.
We still matched or exceeded the 4–7 knots true wind speed for most of the sail. Wallys are typically used for inshore racing and short-term cruising in the Mediterranean, so the ability of Tango to sail – and for the helmsman be able to feel and appreciate the experience – in the lightest of breezes when most other yachts of this size wouldn’t even hoist canvas, is a potent one.
Sailing for scientists
The helm and trimming areas are kept particularly tidy and compact, and the deck is Wally-clean. Even the gennaker sheets are run through the bulwarks. There are only six winches (more comparable to a Farr 40, as one crewmember pointed out), to help minimise weight and long hydraulic runs.
By ensuring all winches are mounted at the same height on deck and that each has a crossover base, every line can lead to every winch. They are the latest three-speed Harken models with an exceptionally powerful first gear, capable of pulling 900kg – which means a jib can be hoisted in one gear in just 7.5 seconds!
The deck layout facilitates crew communication. The mainsail trimmer sits directly forward of the helmsman with remote push button controls to hand, the jib trimmer only another couple of metres further forward.
The mainsheet and runners are adjusted via huge MagicTrim rams below decks. The B&G readouts in the ultra-shallow pit don’t show the usual windspeed and direction figures, but rather heel angle, rudder angle, forestay load and port/starboard run times. Hydraulic rams allow for exact tack loads to be set. It’s sailing for scientists.
Wallys have always been known for their ease of use for cruising with minimum crew though – even the Centos. Which is why there are rams and remote controls for most functions and a self-tacking jib track (even if Tango has transverse clew tracks for racing too).
Stability and trim
“We asked Mark Mills for a slightly forward trimmed yacht, because from past experiences we knew how easy it is to trim a boat aft when needed, but how it’s almost impossible to move the trim forward in light wind, when these big hulls have more drag,” explained Carlo Torre.
The water tanks are located aft so that, before racing in heavy wind, water can be added to bring the trim aft and increase stability. “To be competitive now you need to be agile in windward/leeward racing so central weight is needed,” added Torre.
The centralisation of interior weight is another weapon in the armoury for Tango’s assault on the Wallycento class. “The centralisation of the interior layout has a knock-on positive effect for the centralisation of winches, systems, hydraulic hoses, everything else,” Mills declared, “leading to a boat that’s not only lighter but better centralised weight wise than any other Cento.”
The engine room and powerplant below decks are as close as possible to the cockpit winch package, keeping cabling, tubing and power loss to a minimum.
The experienced team behind Tango knew that to improve on what had been done previously with Galateia, it would need a fresh approach, a configuration change even. “It required an owner who would let people do things for an improvement,” said Torre.
Every gram the project team could save on the interior, they could add lower down as ballast. Centralising weight and reducing it wherever possible in the hull so it can be used in the keel instead. “This means more energy going into making the boat go forwards rather than just going up and down in waves,” said Mills.
The keel trunk alone is 370kg lighter than Magic Carpet3, said Torre. “For the same displacement we have the heaviest bulb. We are lighter than Galateia by 900kg, but with more lead in the keel.” Such savings could prove significant – there is reportedly a 1.5 tonne difference in displacement between these three boats, excluding masts and keels.
Start with the engineering
This strict weight plan made the interior design more challenging. “It was a boat that started without a layout, but instead with the engineering,” Torre pointed out, as he guided me around the interior. “We wanted to have the most efficient structural layout, and suggested to Mills and Pure Engineering to define the structures with the only constraint of having the engine room just aft of the keel.”
The result is that, as you descend the magnificent, wide, curved companionway, you enter the after part of the accommodation, which contains the saloon. The cabins and galley all surround a central machinery space – as do the heads, to minimise plumbing runs.
Panels and doors are built of Airex foam to keep them super-light. The compact galley, built and finished in titanium and carbon, even uses a gyro on the induction stove to save the need for stabilising weights.
Despite this scrupulous attention to weight, Tango’s interior still has the elegant feel of an Italian-styled superyacht, with the design aiming to complement the structural lightness. The stark contrast of black carbon and white leather with scarlet red details (such as the stitching on the sofas) sets off a modern, sporty theme.
Fluid horizontal lines, most notable in the suspended steps, are used throughout the interior to give an impression of seamless surfaces. Mills explained that 1.9m is the minimum headroom requirement of the Cento box rule and that they designed all of the interior to within 10mm of that limit, admitting “we probably went too tight on the tolerances!”
The reverse sheer means headroom tapers away towards the transom, but from the companionway aft the area is given over to one vast lazarette space.
The owner’s cabin in the forward section of the accommodation has a double berth each side and an en-suite with walk-in shower compartment. There is a generous space between berths to house and shift sails below the enormous sliding foredeck hatch.
The captain uses the guest double cabin to port, complete with another luxurious walk-in shower, while the permanent crew have a Pullman to starboard. The downside to designing an interior around centralised weight and machinery is that it creates an unusual layout, with a corridor effect through the central and forward accommodation.
This, combined with low deckheads, makes the space feel compact for its length. If the boat is used for cruising it would perhaps make more sense in privacy terms for the owner to use the aft port cabin, which adjoins the saloon.
To discover a yacht that is so aesthetically on the money inside and out is perhaps not surprising when it carries the Wally logo. But to find one where the design and engineering has been pushed so hard towards performance, while somehow maintaining enough of Wally’s DNA as well as the capacity for shorthanded daysailing, is another thing altogether.
Tango is proof that a dual-purpose, high-performance superyacht remains as attractive and exciting today as it has for Wally designs over the past 25 years. It helps explain why these yachts continue to be so popular and why the brand regularly attracts 20-strong fleets at Mediterranean regattas.
The pretty red rose on Tango’s transom is also a nice touch. The advanced raceboat design, technology and engineering poured into this latest Cento could mean that her competitors will need to get used to a good view of that aspect of the boat.
LOA: 30.48m (100ft)
Beam: 7.20m (23ft 7in)
Draught: 4.4m-6.2m (14ft 5in-20ft 4in)
Displacement (light): 47,500kg/104,720lb
Upwind sail area: 640m2/6,889ft2
Downwind sail area: 1,398m2/15,048ft2
First published in the April 2018 issue of SuperSail World.