The Italian Sea Group's 45-metre offers a 21st Century design fusion
What was it Rudyard Kipling said about East and West never meeting? He was writing in darker, colonial times, of course, and these days there are cultural exchanges going on everywhere you look – business, food, the arts. Playing a small role in this global simmering is the Italian Sea Group’s 45-metre Flying Dragon, an all-aluminium yacht with a beguiling fusion of design traditions wherever you look.
It starts aft, where the hull’s blue hind quarters are decorated with some black calligraphy that quickly resolves into the shape of a dragon – the ruler of the roost in the Chinese zodiac, and a symbol of power and spiritual significance. And it continues inside with Chinese artworks and nods to yin and yang, nestling in with some more traditional design accents and stylish Italian furniture. So how did this unlikely marriage come about? “It was a specific request of the owners. It is a style they really love. The suggestion they gave me was to create interiors with this East/West mood, made of pure, modern Italian and European design blended with Far Eastern cues,” says Gian Marco Campanino of GMC Design, who was responsible for the interior. “My intention was that this mix never became too blatant or obvious, so I worked with a certain lightness, playing with typical Chinese decorative elements in an understated way, just to give a taste, avoiding any stylistic repetition for its own sake.” The owner – it should be pointed out – is relatively young and completely European.
Since her handover late last year, Flying Dragon has had a winter with the owners on board in the Caribbean, and is preparing for her first season on charter in the Western Mediterranean (she is available through Y.CO). The yacht is a flexible choice for charter groups, and even with only two decks internal spaces never feel pinched and deck heights are generous. Fusion moments are everywhere you look inside and out, and are exemplified in the main salon. Initially, you register the elements that are most familiar. The dark woods of the deck and the cabinets contrast with the white furniture, stylish and clearly sourced from higher-end manufacturers in Italy. So far, so traditional superyacht. But then other elements catch the eye – the windows either side of the sofa are decorated with surrounds in a geometric motif (which is repeated either side of the bed in the owner’s suite and on the lower deck). “These decorative elements are simply made of dark natural-oiled wood, and they are common design touches in China,” says Gian Marco.
There are further eye-catching Asian elements on the main deck, such as the decorative Chinese vases, while the centrepiece table is something Gian Marco calls “a little out of style for its Art Deco accents”, though it exemplifies the melting-pot mix inside the yacht. The ebony top – fringed with silver-plated detailing – plays host to a gorgeous backlit onyx insert. The central feature is in bronze and of a Colombian design, cast at a specialist foundry in Pietrasanta. Forward of the table is a startling feature in bronze by Based Upon. “It is an amazing bronze wall – a stunning custom-made art piece!” says Gian Marco. “Based Upon also created the iconic central medallion with the ‘Flying Dragon’ image.” The area as a whole is wonderfully light, with the floor-to-ceiling windows either side of the table really opening up the space.
Outside on the main deck there is a table and seating, and this has become a popular spot with guests. A flip-down TV in the overhang means that guests have been gathering on the cosy sunpads aft to catch a late evening movie under blankets. The master suite is forward on the main deck, and boasts a wonderfully self-contained ambience. To starboard, a fold-down terrace creates a fine spot for breakfast, while foldaway Technogym kit is a hop from the bed. The spacious bathroom, accessed by a side door, is separated from the sleeping area, while underfloor heating throughout adds a cosy touch.
Flexibility is what sets a charter yacht apart, and guests on board Flying Dragon are spoiled in this regard. The four lower-deck cabins were configured as two twins and two doubles when I visited the yacht, but all the beds are movable: twins easily become doubles, and vice versa. The oriental theming is less apparent below, though the cabins have a feeling of cosiness that comes from the giant ribbed faux leather bedheads.
For exterior designer Luca Dini, the yacht was very much in the Italian Sea Group/Admiral tradition of fast yachts. “I wanted to create a speedy sportsboat, even at this size,” he says. Capable of 20 knots, the planing Flying Dragon is part of Admiral’s Regale range. “I made some innovations such as retaining a full beam as far forward as possible, with a folding balcony in the owner’s cabin,” Luca Dina says.
“I work in close co-operation with all my clients in order to better understand their desires. It has always been my belief that we should take into account the expectations and dreams of customers without imposing our own taste,” he adds. That’s a neat way of summing up a yacht that broadly offers made-in-Italy styling with Eastern elements that match the owner’s vision. Mandarin spoken with an Italian accent, or Shanghai meets Sorrento? Either way, it makes for a surprisingly pleasing tone.
• A version of this feature appears in Issue 44 of SuperYacht World