For a shipyard celebrating its 60th anniversary, CRN isn’t giving itself much time to celebrate, despite a special pavilion at this year’s Monaco Yacht Show. Founded in Ancona in 1963 and the historic heart and soul of what has been known as the Ferretti Group Superyacht Yard since 2019, CRN is one of the world’s leading builders of superyachts up to 90m.
Last year, CRN staged three spectacular launches, starting with the 62m Rio (click for Review, Issue 67) then the 52m all-aluminium Ciao, both designed by Dutch studio Omega Architects and both world premieres at the Monaco Yacht Show in September.
Earlier that month, CRN splashed the 60m Nuvolari Lenard-designed M/Y 141, an all-aluminium yacht that has been cruising in the Caribbean this year.
In March this year, CRN launched the 72m M/Y 139, which features exterior design by Andrea Vallicelli and an interior by Nuvolari Lenard. In May, the shipyard then received the hull and superstructure of the 67m Project Maranello, another Nuvolari Lenard design.
Also in May, the CRN section on the east side of the Ferretti Group Superyacht Yard launched the third hull of the all-aluminium Pershing 140 – hull one is in Hong Kong – and the third steel-hulled Riva 50Metri.
As well as Project Maranello, due to launch in 2025, CRN’s current projects include the 85m M/Y 144 – the shipyard’s biggest build to date – and the 70m M/Y 145, both scheduled for 2026. It also continues to oversee its sister brands’ metal builds such as hull four of the Pershing 140, hull one of the Riva 54Metri and the first Custom Line Navetta 50.
CRN handles the largest builds for Custom Line, which produces all its fibreglass models in sheds on the west half of the 80,000sqm Ferretti Group Superyacht Yard, which includes 33,000sqm of covered facilities. The site enjoys 250sqm of seafront on the Adriatic coast and can provide berths for fitting out and finishing up to 15 superyachts simultaneously.
Facilities include nine high-tech sheds, all fully heated, air-conditioned and comprehensively equipped. They feature state-of-the-art air-extraction, compressed-air and centralised technical-gas systems, heating and power-generation systems, and two overhead cranes for handling and installing materials on board.
In total, the sheds can accommodate up to 24 superyachts under construction at the same time, while hardware includes a 670-tonne travel lift for launching metal and composite ships of up to 50m, as well as hauling out vessels for testing.
There has been a recent upgrade of the building dedicated to crews and client captains, yacht surveyors and CRN dockers, who often stay at the shipyard for long periods of time for testing, trials and delivery of the yachts.
Meanwhile, a series of renovations are underway to create more modern and functional spaces dedicated to CRN office staff, management and design team and the entire metal world.
Scheduled to be ready by the end of this year, the new building in Via Enrico Mattei will house CRN’s technical office, project and production management, project architects and engineers, ship managers, as well as the purchasing, planning and control, and logistics departments.
Furthermore, in 2024, a new building will be built dedicated to showrooms and hospitality areas, to yacht owners and their families.
BUILDING ON HISTORY
CRN’s production facilities in 2023 have little in common with the original facilities in 1963, when Sanzio Nicolini founded Costruzioni e Riparazioni Navali (CRN), although the forward-thinking, innovative spirit instilled by the Marche-based entrepreneur ensured the builder’s remarkable rise. In 1956, Nicolini had set up Navalcraft, which formally became a part of CRN in 1964.
A maritime hub in the Mediterranean for 2,400 years, Ancona was then entering its halcyon days, boosted by the founding in 1959 of what would become the Marche Polytechnic University. The city’s southern quay was a hive of enterprise and along with CRN, shipyards included Castracani, Mario Morini and Vincenzo Marsili, and component maker Cooperativa Tommasi.
With a shrewd eye for the market, Nicolini used his metalwork experience to bring something new to Ancona’s manufacturing landscape. He expanded the company’s offering beyond fishing boats and tugs by constructing new metal hulls to transport workers quickly to the Adriatic gas rigs, then a growing industry.
He also began to apply his pioneering ideas to pleasure yachting. Specialising in steel and aluminium hulls, with first wooden and then aluminium superstructures, he positioned the company at the high end of the market, where it has since remained.
The yard found favour with a highly select and demanding clientele. Working with enthusiastic owners from Italy, Greece, the Côte d’Azur and the Middle East, he quickly built a solid reputation and production soon ramped up.
In a prolific start, 32 boats were built in less than a decade, including the first in an iconic line of 23m yachts, the SuperConero, whose recognisable design laid the foundations for future CRN yachts and was still providing inspiration half a century later as evidenced by Latona (2018).
Honourable mentions also go to the 21m Papo (1966), 21.6m New Caravelle (1967) and 38.4m Bagheera (1969), then the yard’s largest pleasure vessel to date.
THE 1970s: GROWTH & COLLABORATIONS
The 1970s were the years of the partnership between Nicolini and Carlo Riva, heir to the Riva dynasty, who had been seeking a capable ally in Italy to build large steel yachts. The result was two historic boats: one Marco Polo, inspired by the SuperConero, and one Vespucci.
CRN yachts also acquired a visual motif in the form of a special ‘bow chine’ inspired by the world of fishing boats.
The yard’s emblematic creations included the 31m Gazella (1974), the famous 35m Moneikos (1976) – initiating the yard’s ongoing tie-up with Ancona-based VideoWorks, a long-time leading developer of audiovisual and home-automation systems – along with the 35m Caribe III (1979) and 36m Santa Cruz Tres (1979).
In 1978, CRN built its first 45m-plus yacht, the 47.2m Fath Al Khair, for the Emir of Qatar. This was a seminal project, as vessel sizes grew with demand from an increasingly sophisticated market.
THE 1980s: INNOVATION & CUSTOMISATION
The 1980s were the decade of ever-increasing customisation and loyal repeat clients who kept coming back to CRN for one new yacht after another. Craftsmanship and full-custom production were becoming crucial concepts.
The owners were assisted every step of the way from before the contract was signed through to delivery and beyond, putting them at the heart of a process that made them feel special and unique. This approach remains a hallmark of the shipyard’s work to this day.
In the mid ’80s, Nicolini began to work with Mario Sardella, head of the historic Mario Morini yard. The collaboration yielded four yachts under the Cantiere Navale Nicolini brand: Yahala (1983), Luwida (1985), Alhaja (1986) and Al Menwar (1988).
Morini took care of the steel and light-alloy work along with onboard systems, while Nicolini provided the outfitting. With this joint venture, Morini acquired expertise in thin sheet metal machining as well as a fervent attention to detail and familiarity with tailor-made approaches to design and construction – a new concept of pleasure boating that would become central to the CRN story.
Growth brought alliances with figures of international renown, who joined Nicolini in running the shipyard and on the sales side. The visionary George Nicholson, a mainstay of the international yachting scene, became a CRN ambassador, and many prestigious clients arrived through his endorsement. The clientele in these years comprised mainly Greek magnates and Middle Eastern royalty, owners who demanded the highest standards.
The quest for innovation, aesthetic ideals and functional excellence prompted a series of collaborations with distinguished international designers.
Jon Bannenberg completed a trio of bespoke designs for three Greek brothers, each reflecting a different cruising experience: the 52m Akitou (1981), 43m Varmar (1982) and 33m Vanina (1986), the latter inspired by Vespucci and featuring a middeck children’s room made of stone pine.
With the yachts growing bigger, other large builds included the 47m Awal (1980) – CRN’s first yacht with a touch-and-go helipad – 53m New Santa Maria (1984) and 45m Abdulaziz (1987). CRN also designed and built the 33m F100 (1983) for Gianni Agnelli, the high-profile head of Fiat, one of Italy’s largest companies.
Featuring exterior lines by naval architect Gerhard Gilgenast, this extremely innovative yacht has been described as the first true explorer yacht in the pleasure boating world, foreshadowing a style that would be all the rage three decades later.
In 1988, the 47.5m Azzurra was built for American owner Edward Sacks, who came to CRN at the behest of Gilgenast, who would go on to design her. The interiors were by Paola Smith, the first woman to win a prestigious international yacht interior-design award, of which she went on to claim many. Azzurra became a sought-after worldwide success, as her charter price eloquently shows.
Over the years, the list of prominent designers who bestowed their signature touch on CRN’s boats grew longer. In 1986, Terence Disdale designed both the exterior and interior of Il Vagabondo, leaving his mark on an exclusive yacht inspired by a more traditional concept of luxury, including the first-time use of lifts inside a yacht.
Other outstanding yachts built in the ’80s included the 44m Jameel (1985) and 41m Nourah of Riyad (1987), while 11 ferries of 32-54m also hit the water. The last yacht of the decade, Maracunda 50 (1990), featured interior design by Alberto Pinto.
During a decade that shaped the history of Italian yachting, construction began on the shipyard’s new headquarters, which has been CRN’s home since 1986. The company also restructured with an ever-keener eye on the North American market.
THE 1990s: LESS BUT BIGGER YACHTS
The Gulf War broke out in 1990 and deeply affected the following decade for CRN. The company’s clientele was heavily concentrated in the Middle East and the conflict undermined the market, so the decision was made to diversify, extending activities to refitting and the purely commercial side.
Production slowed down and only seven yachts touched the water in this decade. However, the dimensions can be considered remarkable, while important names continued to collaborate with the shipyard, with Terence Disdale designing the 65m Awal II (1991) and 50m Sahab IV (1997).
Francois Zuretti designed three other historical yachts: the 48m Pegaso (1996), 50m Pestifer (1998) and 61m Numptia (2000), distinguished by her round stern.
Numptia was also an expression of CRN’s continuous focus on devising innovative methods for hull transport. For the first time, three sections of the ship were transferred from the shed to the launching yard by means of trolleys – a fast, efficient method that paved the way for today’s handling methods.
In 1999, the decade ended with a significant boost for the CRN shipyard after it was purchased by the Ferretti Group, which stemmed from Ferretti Yachts and Custom Line, and also includes Pershing (acquired in 1998), Riva (2000), Itama (2004) and Wally (2019).
THE 2000s: NEW CENTURY, NEW START
The first landmark of this new era was Magnifica, a splendid 43m yacht designed by Nuvolari Lenard and launched in 2001, the first of a successful range. CRN and Custom Line also merged that year, making Ancona the hub of megayachts within the Ferretti Group.
In 2002, CRN acquired the Mario Morini shipyard, which had built 280 ships and brought expertise in steel construction. The union between CRN and the Mario Morini shipyard gave rise to the current, almost 80,000sqm site. Variations of yachts followed one after the other until there were five in a year, with the CRN fleet again growing rapidly.
Inspired by Magnifica, the 46m Kooilust Mare (2003) and Saramour (2005) designed by Nuvolari Lenard introduced the concept of ‘fully customised’ megayachts built on the same naval platform, an important step in CRN’s development. The shipyard’s articulated naval platform system guarantees flexibility and reliability in yacht construction, facilitates the planning of field work and has a positive effect on production, testing and delivery times.
A collaboration began with the Zuccon International Project architectural firm, resulting in the 54m Ability (2006), with four decks, vertical glazing, large interior volumes and an imposing appearance that became CRN’s trademark.
The 54m Maraya (2007) was the first yacht with an openable sea deck and was followed by the 60m Givi (2007), 57m Romance (2008), 60m Tacanuyaso MS (2008), 60m Blue Eyes (2009), 60m Mimtee (2010) and 60m Darlings Danama (2011). Nuvolari Lenard again collaborated with CRN on the 72m Azteca (2010), formerly Clarena II.
Also in the second half of the decade, CRN expanded its portfolio and diversified its production by adding composite construction to its traditional steel and aluminium production. Thus, two composite superyacht lines were born, leading to six units of the CRN Custom Line 128’ (40m) and seven of the CRN Navetta 43 (43m).
FROM 2012: CONTINUED GROWTH
In January 2012, the Ferretti Group was acquired by China’s SHIG-Weichai Group, which became the majority shareholder, securing a 75 per cent share of the entire company.
Later that year, CRN launched the 60m J’Ade, notable for its revolutionary superstructure design, interior innovations and first floodable garage, a worldwide unicum for this type of boat, in which a technical space is transformed into a living area.
Delivered in 2013, the 80m Chopi Chopi became the largest yacht built by CRN and will remain so until the 85m M/Y 144 is completed. Other notable builds included the 61m Francesco Paszkowski-designed Saramour (2014), a true ‘floating art gallery’ characterised by clean lines.
The 73m Yalla (2014) designed in collaboration with Omega Architects was the first vessel to be produced by CRN on the new 12.5m-wide naval platform.
In 2015, CRN launched the astonishing, military-inspired Atlante (55m), whose aft main deck features an innovative, multi-purpose area that can transform from a full-beam tender garage into an openair living area. The year also marked the launch of the 46m Eight following a refit, the first in the shipyard’s history.
The decade continued with the 74m Cloud 9 (2017), a spectacular combination of technical expertise and cutting-edge design, with refined interiors by Andrew Winch.
The 50m Latona (2018), designed by CRN’s Technical Department with Zuccon International Project, includes a balcony that can be used while sailing, a terrace overlooking the sea that can be opened at anchor, a beach club and a floodable garage for the first time on this size of yacht.
Zuccon also designed the 79m Mimtee (2019), which features interiors by Laura Sessa, while the 60m Voice (2020) was the first CRN yacht to achieve IMO Tier III certification and was also notable for its aerodynamic exterior and bold colours.
With three yachts ranging from 52-62m delivered last year, a 72m superyacht splashing this year, and three projects from 67m-85m in build, the only way is up as CRN looks forward to its seventh decade in Ancona.
This article was first published on yachtstyle.co
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