In private life or at work, there’s always a moment that marks a turning point. For Hydro Tec founder Sergio Cutolo it came when he met Stefano Carletti. An explorer, diver and writer, Carletti was looking for a yacht that could help him achieve his dream – to return to the wreck of the Andrea Doria fifty years after the ship sank, to lay a commemorative plaque.
At the time the term “Explorer” hadn’t yet entered the nautical dictionary, but this encounter ushered in a new era for the yacht-building industry, and Hydro Tec, which had reached its landmark 25th anniversary, was destined to play a crucial role. “Carletti prioritised the technical aspects, almost to the point of obsession”, Sergio Cutolo recalls. “He thought about waterlines, stability, engines and spaces. We looked at the project from the technical point of view, and eventually realised we’d be making a new yacht. I still remember coming back from seeing Carletti after telling him we ought to find someone to the handle the design. He replied that what interested him most was function, and I could take care of the rest. The uglier the yacht the better it would be. Not a bad start!” says Cutulo with a smile.
The result was the Naumachos. It was the first in a series and opened up a new market segment as well as establishing the name of Hydro Tecon on the international yacht building scene. The studio helmed by Sergio Cutolo boasts the largest number of projects involving this type of craft. “The Naumachos was innovative for several reasons”, Cutolo continues. “First of all, it was no longer than 24 metres. Secondly, the design philosophy meant having just one engine. The concept behind the spaces was borrowed from the work boat sector, and finally, range was provided by tanks that can hold up to 40,000 litres of fuel”.
The Naumachos, buit by Cantiere Navale di Pesaro was the first in a long line of explorer yacht designs that enabled Hydro Tec to extend its operations in this area through collaborations with a number of yards, from Cantiere delle Marche to Cantiere Navale Vittoria, Palumbo Superyacht and Inace, a Brazilian company. It’s an important player in a story that began twenty-five years ago. Sergio Cutolo’s career path much further back, though. Exactly thirty-five years – another anniversary – after graduating in naval engineering at the Federico II University in Naples Cutolo joined Cetena, the Fincantieri research centre. “As a keen yachstman,” says Cutolo, “My dream was to design sail yachts. At the time my professor was Mino Simeone, whose name is linked to Minaldo, a race yacht built using laminate, which was then a cutting-edge technology which led to the success of yachts like Cuor di Leone in the 1980 Naples One Ton Cup”.
The project had a significant impact on Cutolo’s learning curve as it touched on the most elements of yachtbuilding culture, where the functional element takes precedence over aesthetics and shape. The search for performance in design remains Cutolo’s stylistic hallmark, displayed by all Hydro Tec yachts. It is the added value of a philosophy and a method inspired by the experience Cutolo has gained in his field. His career has been enriched by encounters with illustrious figures, two names in particular – Paolo Caliari and the engineer Alcide Sculati. “I owe him a lot”, says Cutolo. “He took me under his wing when I joined Baglietto. What made him special was his extensive knowledge of materials and his intellectual honesty. He taught me how to run a technical office. I still have his hand-written notes, which I re-read from time to time”.
The time he spent in Baglietto left an indelible mark on Cutolo’s career. “When I joined the yard it was building the Italia, a 12-metre designed by Giorgetti and Magrini. For me it was a dream come true, but it was my first and last experience in the sail yacht field. There were great changes in the air at Baglietto, especially in technology. I remember that while the America’s Cup yacht was begun in one hangar work was being done next door on the Adler, a futuristic design by Alberto Mercati. Both yachts were out of the ordinary, both in light alloy, both similar but extremely different. Remember that at the time a 12-metre yacht could sprint at just over 12 knots, but the Adler was designed to top out at 35 knots. Thirty years on, the world has turned upside-down – on the one hand we have America’s Cup craft capable of forty knots on foils while in the motoryacht sector the trend has moved away from sheer speed, with performance being measured by the efficiency of the individual elements of the naval design”.
Once again the performance becomes the focus of the debate and of Hydro Tec’s philosophy. The yard’s explorer series is joined by important models like the 80 metre Dragon by Palumbo Superyacht, the studio’s largest megayacht design so far, or the new Aicon 66, proof that a yacht design is inspired by a union of form and function – or rather, design and naval architecture. It’s an area where Hydro Tec remains head shoulders above the rest of the field.