When Stan Morley went looking for a new boat to replace his 15-year-old Sterling 40, he had some very definite criteria in mind. In his Bill Upfold designed Elite 14, Vacanza, he reckons he has found a boat that is just about perfect.
Vacanza is a typical Upfold mid pilothouse design and is the second of the new generation wider bodied 14m Elites. Samurai, the first Elite Pilothouse, was launched in 1986. Since then, over 25 more have followed, with Vacanza being the embodiment of 16 years of refinement. The concept for easy living with all areas of the layout combining to form one flowing unit has been retained.
Upfold has made some significant changes to the new hull forms of the 14m design with fuller forward sections and more beam on the waterline. The silent chine has gone in favour of blending the spray rail back into the topsides and with straighter flat sections at the transom.
“By increasing the built-in spray rail and shifting the strakes around we have made the boat incredibly dry”, said Upfold. “It’s exceptional in the following sea and much improved in a beam sea and overall I think it is a better hull shape that my previous Elites”.
Volume-wise Vacanza is a whole lot bigger and therefore not only provides even better ride and handling, but also vastly increased internal areas with spacious accommodation, galley and entertainment areas. The interior finish is very traditional with teak used throughout and a pleasant atmosphere that’s friendly and not formal. While there is no doubting the quality of the workmanship, this is a boat that could have been fully featured to create a very different atmosphere, but builder Lloyd Stevenson was building to the owners spec’s to create what he believes is the optimal interior.
“We pride ourselves on our workmanship and we can generate just about any interior an owner wants, but we also work within an owner’s parameters while remaining conscious of the budget”, said Stevenson.
While each Elite boat built is strictly a one-off and each reflects an owner’s own character, the pilothouse design does have a levelling effect. Accommodation is forward with the saloon central, the galley and aft cabin in the rear below the raised pilothouse. Where the changes come in is not only in the choice of timbers and furnishings but also the layout of the cabins.
The accommodation areas are split between twin cabins forward and a large stateroom aft. While in most Elites, the owners utilise the aft cabin as the owner’s stateroom, in Vacanza this has been given over to guests and the forward cabin is being utilises as the master. With a separate guest cabin there is dedicated area for six in three berths.
The forward cabin has a large double berth, although this area is available for two or four singles as well as an offset double. Storage areas are in large drawers under the berth, in a hanging locker to port and in side shelves. A small opening port above provides both light and ventilation.
The starboard side cabin has a 3/4 berth, which extends under the main saloon sole. This area can also be used as an office if you are happy with a two-cabin layout. It also provides the main access through to the engine room for regular maintenance, although for any major mechanical work there are lift-out panels in the saloon sole.
There is one forward head/shower area that services both cabins and provides all the necessary items such as full size shower, electric flush head and large vanity area with full wall mirrors. The overall effect is more like a house rather than a boat, although there are features such as the very high sill in the shower to retain water that keep the marine culture.
Vacanza’s main lounge area is inviting, with a warm contrast between the naturally oiled teak wood joinery and the light coloured fabric wall panelling. There are large L-shaped lounges either side and a handcrafted teak and holly convertible coffee/dining table. To port is the very well stocked drinks fridge complete with glass rack and liquor cabinet above and on the other side of the pilothouse stairs the entertainment centre. A teak slatted roller door hides away the TV and DVD, while opaque glass panels keep the circuit breaker board out of sight. There is also a separate wine locker and further storage aft of the starboard settee. The counter tops are finished in burr elm with teak trim, the same as the dining table.
The galley is separated from the dining and saloon area and the overall quality theme is enhanced by curved teak and ash steps and matching sole. The blue Formica bench top is enhanced with a Microwave, four-burner stove, fridge, large trash bin and plenty of storage areas. Sizeable servery areas are provided both when serving snacks in the cockpit or a more formal dining situation in the saloon.
Opposite the galley is the Upfold trademark aft cabin, which in Vacanza is a superb guests’ stateroom complete with an en-suite. This also doubles as the day head so there’s no need to go forward through the galley and saloon. Well split from the forward accommodation areas, the aft cabin also provides a degree of privacy for the owner’s guests.
Being a pilothouse design there is only the need for one helm station and in Vacanza there is no shortage of the right navigation and electronic equipment. The owner went to Auckland based electronic consultants, Advance Trident Ltd for a complete Simrad electronics system and the result is an excellent package that caters perfectly for the boat’s precise uses.
The boat’s control and mechanical systems are all well placed and easily readable. A twin helm seat takes up the centre of the pilothouse with settees either side and a further L-shaped settee on the aft upper deck. The folding rear door design is such that you can either open up the entire rear of the pilothouse or, if the weather’s not pleasant, just a single door. The sliding sunroof is a great feature of the boat and a smaller hatch provides extra ventilation when underway. During passage making it is the pilothouse that becomes the focal area of the boat.
Power in Vacanza is a pair of Caterpillar 3126 @ 385hp each, which gives a maximum speed of 27 knots and cruise of 22 knots. Power range for the Elite 14m is 300hp to 480hp per side, which would give 24 knots to 30 knots top speed respectively.
While the owner doesn’t plan to take up serious gamefishing, the cockpit layout does easily lend itself to such a task. Bolt in an Elite gamechair and a pair of outrigger poles and the boat could be transformed into a gamefisher. The extra set of cockpit controls is already there and the extra wide transom doors mean there’s probably no marlin that’s going to be too big to drag aboard. These doors were specially designed to enable the Aquapro tender to be dragged aboard. The cockpit also provides an external freezer, extra storage in surrounding lockers and under seats either side, plus in the quite large lazarette.
Vacanza is constructed to full MCA survey using a balsa core hull with epoxy resins with the decks a mixture of ply, PVC foam and glass. It is also one of the first boats to attain the BIA’s new BBS Mark of Excellence certification. All the interior timber joinery is teak, with a liberal use of lighter ply/foam/ply panels to keep the weight to an acceptable level. All-up displacement is 13,600 kg.
To date the builder of Vacanza, Lloyd Stevenson has completed nine Elites between 13.5 m and 16 m and has two more, a 17.8 m and 18 m underway in his Auckland shop. Upfold feels that anything under 13.5 m in the pilothouse form is too small and the internal space becomes too pokey. While 18 m is currently the largest Elite to date the enquiry level is certainly strong in the 16 m range and generally enquiries in recent years have gone towards the bigger boats.
“People who buy boats like Vacanza have usually been boating for some time and they know what they want in a good cruising boat”, said Upfold.
For Stan Morley, the Elite 14m Pilothouse has certainly provided everything he was looking for in a new boat and the result is a beautifully crafted vessel that combines the shared passions of the designer, builder and owner.
- Boat Name: Vacanza
- Design Name: Elite 14.8
- Year Launched: 2002
- Designer: Bill Upfold
- Builder: Lloyd Stevenson
- LOA: 14.8 m
- Beam: 4.8 m
- Draft: 1.1 m
- Displacement: 13600 kg
- Max Speed: 27.0 knots
- Cruise Speed: 22.0 knots
- Construction: Balsa/composite
- Fuel Capacity : 1800 litres
- Water Capacity: 750 litres
- Engines: 2 x Caterpillar 3126 / 385hp each
- Price As Reviewed : $NZ1.2 million