Italy’s Adriatic coast, particularly near Fano, is an idyllic place for a sea trial. Not only do the region’s white-sand beaches and rolling hills provide a sublime backdrop, but the shallow depths along that stretch of the Adriatic can create a sizable chop to really test a boat. Running Dominator’s 800S there recently provided an even more interesting angle: Dominator’s executive team was aboard, and so was the boat’s owner, his captain and a small army of technicians to prepare the motoryacht for a two-month shakedown cruise in the southern Mediterranean.
I’ve never met an owner during a sea trial — a potentially iffy time when untested systems might not perform as promised — but Dominator owner and CEO Wolfgang Pernsteiner and yacht owner Toufic Khoureiri seemed unfazed by the possibility of a potential glitch. Khoureiri, who recently owned a 72-foot cruiser, couldn’t wait to take over the 80-foot Dolly. He’d decided to go with Dominator, a lesser-known Italian brand, because of the company’s willingness to customize his yacht down to the smallest details.
Credit for that willingness goes to Pernsteiner, an Austrian industrialist who bought Dominator in 2009 with a vision to create mini-superyachts for owners who could afford larger craft, but who wanted to downsize into vessels that a professional captain, or even an experienced couple, could handle. The Dominators would be true custom yachts, with state-of-the-art technologies and luxurious interiors. Pernsteiner knew that Dominators would carry a top price in their class, but he also knew that demanding owners like Khoureiri would be willing to pay for their quality.
On an Even Keel: Humphree Interceptor
Humphree’s HCS-5 is a trim system that uses “interceptor” technology developed in World War II. Devoted to creating an ultra-smooth ride, the Swedish firm combined four software-based systems with an interceptor unit at the hull bottom at the transom. Using sensors that update every half-second to adjust the hull’s angle and position, the interceptor automatically deploys a nearly 3-inch blade at different lengths to control trim, list and turning radius, as well as to stabilize the boat. The software determines the boat’s highest fuel efficiency at any given speed, and the system’s Coordinated Turn feature prevents the boat from heeling far over. Humphree offers its Auto Trim, Auto List, Active Ride and Coordinated Turn controls separately, but Dominator chose the whole package to make Dolly more fuel efficient and comfortable. Two Seakeeper 7 gyro systems also provide stability when the boat is at anchor. —M.V.
“We don’t build 10 yachts to the same specs and then try to find clients,” Pernsteiner says. “Instead, we spend a great deal of time with each client, designing and building the yacht they really want. Our goal is not to be just up-to-date with a standard offering, but a forerunner in technology.”
Dolly is the second hull of the builder’s 800 series, but she’s an entirely different vessel from Hull No. 1. Dominator not only altered the yacht’s layup to shave 20 percent off the hull weight, but Pernsteiner also found a different propulsion system to improve fuel efficiency. Add to that the many extra systems and technical modifications mandated by Khoureiri’s longtime captain, Joe Attara, as well as a custom interior by Alberto Mancini at Italy’s AM Yacht Design, and this 800S is unlike any other flybridge in her class.
Dominator went with sandwich-core materials for hull construction, using vacuum infusion instead of a traditional hand layup for big weight savings without compromising the 800S’ hull stiffness. The new layup resulted in a shallower stringer system, which added interior volume to the four staterooms belowdecks.
The propulsion system — twin 1,800 hp MAN diesels joined to Fortjes 4000 pod drives — let Dominator build an engine room about 5 feet shorter than a conventional engine and straight-shaft-drive system would require. The Fortjes 4000, built by German firm Reintjes, connects the engines with duo counter-rotating props via an integrated reverse-reduction gear box with hydraulically operated clutches. The MANs sit above the props, with the Fortjes 4000 in between. Reintjes reports this system typically delivers 15 percent better fuel efficiency than a conventional propulsion system. The counter-rotating props are designed to reduce cavitation, improving fuel efficiency and lessening interior vibration.
Sitting at the dock at Marina Dei Cesari in Fano, the 800S looked like she was ready for takeoff. She has a handsome, muscular profile with curved black windows and a sweptback radar arch connected to the carbon-fiber hardtop.
The 800S was a pleasure to drive, from the lower helm as well as the flybridge. The lower station is well laid out and comfortable, thanks to the Besenzoni helm seat. Three monitors for the Raymarine electronics sit above a shelf of controls that include the bow and stern thrusters. This setup provides easy access for navigation and system monitoring. Moving aft, her salon was quiet enough for conversations running at speed, with dB(A) levels at a mere 68. (Normal conversation is 65 dB(A).)
Running the 800S through tempestuous 4- to 5-foot seas from the flybridge, I thought she felt even more sprightly than from my cocoon in the salon. This boat performs well at speed in head seas, slicing the waves, though we did take a few over the bow here and there. Fully loaded with fuel and water, her theoretical top-end of 35 knots never materialized, though Attara said the 800S passed it later after the Reintjes techs dialed in the Fortjes 4000 drives.
Dolly felt like a much more nimble boat than many other flybridge motoryachts I’ve tested in this size range, partly because of the Fortjes 4000, but also because of the Auto Trim, Auto Tilt and Active Drive features of her Humphree HCS-5 trim system (see “On an Even Keel”). It kept the boat stable at all speeds, in all directions. Even during tight turns at speed, the system’s Coordinated Turn function, based on aviation technology, kept Dolly from substantially heeling and, according to Humphree, shortened the vessel’s turning radius by a measurable 45 percent.
Fuel burn on the 800S ranged from as low as 15 gph at a relaxing 9.5 knots to a maximum of 181 gph at her top-end, wind-through-your-hair velocity of 32.5 knots. A friendly cruise of 23.3 knots saw the motors consume about 113 gph.
Dominator’s next launch will be Ilumen, an 85-foot motoryacht. To offer a taste of the yacht, Dominator created a virtual-reality experience it calls Usence. Using 3-D goggles and shoes that slide over a specially designed carbon-fiber floor, I “toured” Ilumen by walking into the salon, down to the master suite and onto the foredeck. The graphics were realistic, and movements like stepping up stairs felt authentic. When I reached for side railings, I found the carbon fiber, marble and wood that Dominator incorporated, so they also felt real. Usence uses the correct dimensions of the 85-foot yacht, and users can click among many wood and marble options. —M.V.
The exterior of the Dominator 800S is sportier than you’ll find on most flybridge motoryachts this size, and the interior is unusually bright and spacious. Working with Mancini, Khoureiri and his wife opted for uninterrupted open space in the salon, all the way from the cockpit doors to the helm station, including an open galley.
“We worked together to develop a nice, warm atmosphere, without big contrasts, by using tone-on-tone colors,” Mancini says. Light-colored oak joinery, custom Minotti sofas (the color of “ostrich leather,” according to Mancini), off-white Venetian blinds and bianco perlino marble in the galley give the salon an informal but elegant feel. The asymmetrical side windows, 6-foot-8-inch headroom and lack of bulkheads add to openness.
Belowdecks is the owner’s full-beam amidships suite, which is also simple, yet refined. Headroom is 6 feet 9 inches, with a substantial 2-by-10-foot dresser to port of the queen-size bed. There’s a couch on the other side, as well as a true walk-in closet. Abaft the sleeping space, glass doors divide the full-beam head into three sections: his-and-her sinks, a generous shower and a toilet plus bidet. Botticino marble adds a sense of refinement, and the sheer volume gives the impression of being on a much larger yacht.
Top speed: 35 knots
Attara visited the shipyard weekly during the final months of completion and worked with Dominator to add superyacht-caliber systems like Hydromar water softeners and anti-microbial, ultraviolet water purifiers. He also insisted on small details like an ***** charger in the bow area, along with 24 tiny LED lights at foot level for night vision without glare.
Fit and finish are strong across the boat too, with no rough edges behind the cabinets, plenty of beefy hardware and all electrical wiring in neat arrays.
By the end of Dolly’s prep period, with all systems go, the new owner couldn’t wait to head south for Turkey. The plan was to cruise Turkey’s west coast for a month, explore the Greek islands for another and then head for Cannes, France — a shakedown cruise that any superyacht owner would love.