Umberto Felci is one of the big names in contemporary naval architecture and yacht design, although maybe a “hidden gem”. Felci never makes a big fuzz about his work and it almost seems that he is too humble to show off his projects. Which is a very nice character trait. I personally like him very much for his calmness, friendly and sympathetic way. Every time I have the chance to chat with him, I take him. When I joined the boating industry – a surprisingly long time ago, 2017 – I used to work for Dufour Yachts. A brand of which he already was and still is the principle yacht designer. But Umberto Felci works mostly for smaller brands, like ICE Yachts and realizes special one-off projects. Like this one:

Sleek, modern, luxurious: Felci 63

A few days ago we met briefly and he started to talk about the Felci 63 sailing yacht. A very interesting project, according to him, and so I asked if he could provide me with some more information. Looking at the exterior rendering of the yacht, I initially thought of the boat as a very, very elegant ship, like as if an Oceanis and a Grand Soleil had made a kid. And this is a compliment: A sleek, long, flat yacht, wide sterned, crowned with a mighty rigg. I asked Umberto to tell the story behind this yacht.

The idea behind the new Felci 63

This was already the second one-off project for this particular client, as Umberto discloses. This particular client was so happy with his first work, that for the second boat he again turned to Umberto. Key motivation, according to the designer, was to create a big unit yacht with maximum performance and trying to make it as elegant as and comfortable as possible. Umberto says that the client specifically wanted to go out sailing when most of his fellow luxury yachts friends with their so-calles “fast cruisers” would stay in or have to use their engines.

A boat made for sailing

The emphasize and focus of his work in this respect was to come up with a very dedicated hull-shape and sail plan to achieve this goal. Umberto says that this client is a very skilled sailor indeed with an interesting past in sailboat racing. What a great mission, I think to myself: Working for a client who wants a one-off with such sailing skills … but why didn´t this guy just get one of the already available yachts made by the various shipyards? I mean, there are plenty of great boats and brands on the market? There was simply no yacht that was really fitting his demands, although it is clear that a boat is always a compromise. But isn´t this the exciting part? Finding the right balance? Umberto nods. He says that together with the seaworthiness of this new boat and the customization of every detail, it really represents the added value of this choice.

One of the last using a pencil …

Umberto Felci is one of the last “old school” architects who is intensively utilizing the … pencil. Be it a quick sketch to grab hold of a transient idea that comes to his mind or for visualization of a concept to client or his team, there are dozens of hand drawn sketches. When work began back in 2021 the usual intensive briefing and conversation with his client started. Surprisingly enough – or maybe a sign of the quick understanding and precise realization of input, turning words into lines, Umberto Felci came up with a preliminary project that immediately got approved by the clients just a few months later. The executive phase started pretty soon after: Felci 63 was underway.

One of the last using a pencil

Designing a yacht is a delicate process. Especially when working for a single client. From the first sketches and a preliminary 3D-model, it usually takes a certain number of complete design loops and iterations trying to arrive at a satisfactory level for both client and for the designer. In this special case, Umberto tells me, it was thanks to the very good feeling and his professional sailing past, not too many design loops were necessary to finalize the layout. Umberto says that in terms of the time span needed when all of the Felci design studio had been involved it took approximatively four to five months. Which is pretty quick indeed! From the first step and shaky pencil-sketches to pressing the OK-button to start construction.

Rough ideas turning reality

It is of course much more than just talking and sketching around. Constructing a yacht involves many departments and many steps. Coming up with ideas and visualizing those to the client to get an approval is one thing – translating those ideas into zeroes and ones, meaning CAD-construction drawings for every detail of the yacht is another league. This also involves the CFD-calculations of the hydrodynamics in any sea state, polar diagrams and of course the bare construction with structural calculations leading to a layup-plan for the shipyard that is actually building this yacht.

CAD is indispensable

This job was given to Adria Sail in Fano. This is a shipyard specialized in building custom boats and one offs. They also are producing the GS 48 and mighty GS 80 for Grand Soleil and the boats from 30 to 52 feet by B-Yachts. Umberto says that the Felci 63 Scuderia is thought to be a pure one-off yacht, but: “You never know …”, he says and smiles.

The story of the Felci 63 yacht

Looking at Umbert o Felci´s interpretation of “fast cruising”, this is all but a no-frills-boat, you might think. But I see it differently: The “no frills”-aspect in this particular project for me personally is the apparent disentanglement from paradigms. The Felci 63-design feels kind of familiar in so aspects but upon closer inspection, there are so many new things and details which sets her apart from most boats I´ve seen. This is most apparent when inspecting her interior concept.

Just beautiful

For example, albeit sporting a classic 3-cabin layout with the Felci-typical galley placed to the front cabin-bulkhead, one quickly notices that the “usual” dinner-table-settee-combination with a vis-à-vis nav-station has been interpreted in a refreshingly new way. The galley is limited to occupy just the port side of the room whilst the owner´s bathroom seems to have grown sufficiently in size to starboard side: This is where the luxury part starts.

Salon concept of the new Felci 63

Also, the salon appears to be one single consistent lounge with huge couches. The seating area of those settees is vast. It reminds me of the “revolution” Beneteau started some years ago when introducing the First 53 where they got rid of the classic huge dinner table and instead fitted a big, cozy and nice lounge sofa. Felci, in this 63 footer, takes it to another level. The salon doesn´t feel like it is divided into lounge, dinner and nav-area. It feels like being one big socializing area.

Mini nav-station & Lounge

But upon closer look, it still retains the different parts. Because of course they are needed. There is still a dedicated dinner table (versatile to function as smaller coffee table and even a salon-bed if needed), there is still a reclining sofa and a full-scale chart table with switch panel and nav-station. It´s his design that makes it appear to be “united”. I like that very much.

“Sustainable luxury”

I chose the above headline not to write about any “green” approach in the yacht. I chose the word “sustainable” for a different reason. The whole approach of the Felci 63 Scuderia (this is her full type name) was to have a very powerful yacht with top notch performance whilst sustaining the highest level of luxury. Usually, you can´t have both as luxury equals weight and volume. Weight and volume usually mean losing performance. Umberto Felci tried to solve this Gordian knot.

Spaceship-like design

The idea of Umberto with the general layout was to make a “small” large blue water cruiser and combining the client´s demand for external and internal comfort. This drove an extensive research into all of the functions and qualities that a true cruising yacht must possess. This complex work, as Umberto describes it, was moved by the desire to say something new and to make the yacht increasingly efficient. The outcome first of all is a hull shape aimed to reduce heeling angles while preserving performance. The CFD and tests show an increased efficiency and comfort during navigation. Prime directive was to come up with significant reduction of the resistance of the hull to allow better and faster navigation under both engine power and sail.

What a nice guest cabin!

The hull of the Felci 63 This creates new volumes in longitudinal distribution, which not only enhances control but also makes the whole yacht more balanced and easier to handle. The appendices were also optimised using the same prerogatives, minimising the draught without losing either the righting moment or the lift of the appendices. These are things which can only be seen and felt when sailing. But there is another aspect to it: The interior luxury and level of comforts. As far as lifestyle is concerned, this new boat will mainly be used during holiday season by the family and must therefore be designed to make every moment on board enjoyable. Felci says that he came up with the idea to incorporate “episodes”. An “episode” for him is an area that offers a unique experience depending on the time of the day and the weather conditions and location within the yacht.

This attention to detail …

I like the renderings and drawings. The utilization of materials and textures, of colors and a special lighting-concept make for a luxurious but not overly exaggerating “bling” atmosphere. As Umberto puts it, the fine carpentry is in made with lightweight sandwiches and all of the construction details are designed and built to eliminate any extra weight without compromising strength. The comprehensiveness of the systems serves to make the living and sailing a pleasant experience. And I can truly see that: This is stylish, luxurious but also a kind of understatement, compared to some other all-out luxury yacht brands and products. Umberto Felci emphasizes that they´ve put extra efforts into another aspect: The interior shall communicate directly with the project as a whole. Therefore, even while being a separate environment, it should be able to dialogue with all the exterior spaces. “On deck” and “down below” are thought as one unity. Exterior and interior design are often done by completely separated designers.

Easy to sail but powerful yacht

Let´s look at the bare numbers. The Felci 63 Scuderia is 19.10 meters long, has a max beam of 5.50 meter and displaces some 20 tons. For comparison, the beautiful and also very performant Oceanis Yacht 60 by Beneteau is just 15 centimeters shorter and has 25 centimeters less width, displaces 21.7 tons. Felci´s 63 is made with in Epoxy-infused Carbon fibers. She carries an upwind sails area of 220 square meters, which is staggering. Compared to that, the Oceanis Yacht 60 offers 153 square meters with her classic mast and 183 square meters in the performance edition. Performance-wise the Felci 63 will surely be a head-turner!

Felci´s sketches are so beautiful

Whilst “our” Beneteau flagship is a very beautiful and astonishingly well-performing fast luxury production cruiser, the Felci 63 of course is another level. As Felci says, the boat is strong and nimble as a racehorse but at the same time very easy to sail. The sail plan and deck equipment allows the yacht to be sailed by just two people. In addition, they have limited the sail plan to just four sails to make it even more easy: A full batten mainsail mounted on an electrically furling boom comes with just three headsails. A J1 Jib, a J3 heavy wind/storm jib and a Code 0. All headsails come with electric furlers to ease the use of the right sail in diverse weather and sailing conditions.

Note the subtle sheer

As I already mentioned, hull and deck are made of a sandwich of carbon fibre, laminated in infusion with Epoxy resins, inside a numerically controlled female mould kit. This seems to have been an extremely complex job by the shipyard but in the end it paid off. It led to the creation of a rigid and lightweight craft, where the structures are laminated and infused directly on site and used to a large extent as subdivision elements for the interior spaces. And it´s a beautiful ship too: The slight sheer line is as elegant as it is tempting. A clean and neatly beautiful boat indeed!

The “Felci stroke”

Here I can see why the owners chose to have a one-off designed specifically for themselves. Umberto Felci and his team are not just skilled professionals who can master a job technically, they can make it look beautiful and unique too. One could call it the special “Felci-stroke”, something that is maybe his signature, just as one would always seem to recognize certain things in a German Frers-design for example. Just two examples:

A swift stroke …

They could have juts mounted one of the standard helm station housings for the plotter and displays. But Umberto Felci instead designed a purpose made custom one-off panel himself. A fine detail that – in sum – define the uniqueness of this yacht. And there are many of those details: The aft cockpit bed for example that, according to Felci is now a must on many of their designs, provides enhanced liveability, along with a convenient external galley. As he explains, the biminis and the dodger for this yacht, designed to ensure safe and dry navigation for various weather conditions, contribute to the unique character to the yacht’s overall appearance. A second nice detail is this:

… creating tempting forms.

Just another “Felci-stroke” but such a nice detail that is unique and so beautiful. The coamings are shaped concave to bend and to unite the forms fluently. It´s just so beautiful to look at. At the same time, design always has a function. Moreover, the focus on the ergonomics of movement and the accesses to the sea has grown significantly according to Umberto. This yacht offers a large, spacious and multifunctional aft cockpit that easily serves as a “beach on the sea” and also allows the hauling of a large tender.

What a beauty!

She comes with all amenities, of course: Among the many fine details that make this blue water unique and exclusive, for example, there is the telescopic gangway inserted in the stern, an electrified tender hauling system and a strong mooring winch aided by hydraulic fairleads. Truly a project Umberto and his team can be proud of indeed!

When will she float?

She does! As the YouTube video by the sailmakers – One Sails – suggests, sea trials of the Felci 63 Scuderia had been taken place some 3 months ago. The boat´s nature as a special one-off means that there is maybe no huge publicity desired. A boat built just to satisfy the demands of her owners – and I wish all them the best, fair winds and a million and more happy miles! For now it was very interesting to talk to Umberto Felci again about this special project: Such a great effort going into making just one yacht. Amazing!

2017: How time flies …

We part and remotely “shake hands”. I remember meeting Umberto for the first time in 2017, some unbelievably long 7 years ago, when I worked for Dufour Yachts and had the pleasure to be the host moderator during the unveiling world premiere event of the then brand new Dufour 63 Exclusive: Back then I learned to know him as a quiet, but very passionate, humble but proud man who will always find a solution to demands, problems and wishes for all of his clients: Be it a multi-million one-off design or an easy-to-build production boat.

 Ciao Umberto, thanks for this interesting insight!


More articles with naval architect and boat designer Umberto Felci:

My first interview with Umberto Felci: How to design a sailboat

Umberto Felci showing the ICE 60 yacht

Talking to Umberto Felci about the then new Dufour 470