At our base in Lavagna, Azimut had everything from a 39 to a 58 on hand

At our base in Lavagna, Azimut had everything from a 39 to a 58 on hand. When comparing boats of vastly different sizes, what impressed me most was Azimut’s refusal to merely scale everything down on their smaller models. On the 39, the side decks are still wide enough to allow unimpeded passage past the superstructure, and deep secure toerails will help you stay on board in rough weather. The cockpit is just as deep as on their larger boats. And oversize cleats secure the stern lines, which run through integral stainless fairleads appropriated from their Quarantasei 46.

For the exterior styling, Azimut have taken the distinctive ‘eye’ theme they established in 1994 on their AZ54. Two little teardrop-shaped eyes appear to gaze out from behind the main side windows. They provide more than just an original styling theme though – the entire glass area inside the 39 is very large, making for a light and airy interior.

Accommodation

This is the age of immaculately finished American cherry woodwork, superbly upholstered seating, and mirror-finish helm consoles. But despite the convergence of many boatbuilders in these three key areas, Azimut’s designers have always managed to produce interiors that look and feel different from their competitors.

Their trump card is the overhead lining. Azimut have promoted this from its usual role as something to hide the wiring behind, and fashioned it as a central part of the styling. The moulding incorporates the disparate elements of screen mullions, lighting, pelmets, overhead lining, and even the side-window motors, and blends them into a dramatic, flowing shape.

Buy a 39, and thereïs no need to worry about what crockery, cutlery or glasses to shop for: safely secured in a beautifully crafted drawer in the saloon is a complete set for six people. There’s a welcome return of the fiddle in the galley, although it’s a shame this feature has not made it into other areas of the 39. Stowage volumes are fine for daily jaunts. Adding several shelves in the shallow lockers beneath the twin-moulded sinks would improve matters for longer trips. There’s the option of a larger fridge, but means losing the big locker above the standard fridge. Extra storage is available under the helm seat, which hinges forward to reveal a large moulded locker.

Like many builders, Azimut adopt a formulaic but effective layout forward: two cabins, each with an ensuite heads compartment. Tall owners will welcome the particularly long berth in the main cabin. The large rooflight in the heads makes for a light compartment, though I was surprised how austere this was. Azimut normally produce extremely stylish and colourful heads, but on the 39 the only oasis in a desert of ivory glassfibre is a blue basin.

Should bad weather drive you inside, the seating position – high and close to the bow – has good sightlines. One pleasant feature is that the electrically operated side windows are low in relation to the seat, so the helmsman doesn’t feel closed in. Microcommander throttles are available as an option to replace the stiff cable controls. The instruments and switch-gear are clearly laid out, and the adjustable wheel goes some way to compensating for the fixed helm seat.

Chart tables are now on the endangered species list, but if you must rely on integrated GPS/plotters as your main navigation aid, make sure that you have a good radar to help you into a stRange harbour in fog or at night.

On deck

Stefano Righini has clearly given considerable thought to being able to move around the deck as safely and easily as possible. Forward, the good side decks and deep toerails help, as does canting out the high guardrails slightly to give that little extra room when you are clutching fenders.

Azimut have sensibly retained the twin transom doors used on their larger boats to ease traffic flow around the cockpit and onto the large bathing platform. Some stops on the doors might be worthwhile if you venture offshore a lot – a big breaking sea would easily remove the lift-and-twist hinges.

Up on the flybridge, there’s very comfortable crescent-shaped seating for four and a huge sunbed that would do justice to a 46-footer. Care is needed moving around in lively conditions as the guardrails are below knee height at their lowest point. And the big flybridge hatch needs a stay to hold it open – I’m assured this is in hand, though. In contrast with the cockpit, thereïs no stowage whatsoever up here – adding a few moulded recesses for the indispensable sunglasses, mobile phone and suntan lotion would improve matters.

The simple helm instrumentation is clearly laid out, although there’s no chart space, the fixed seat-back is too upright, and moving the throttles aft would put them in a more comfortable position. A large adjustable wheel allows the helmsman to sit and steer, or to stand for mooring.

Small details make day-to-day life on board so much easier. For instance, a small central section of the cushioning on the cockpit seats can be removed to provide a proper step onto the hydraulic passerelle. This ingeniously allows the two locker lids either side to hinge up with their cushions in place – a huge improvement over the usual fight with Velcro-attached cushions to get inside the lockers. There’s more storage in three other cockpit lockers and the lazarette, with the big anchor locker forward. Here, a generous 75m of chain is contained in a separate glassfibre bin, to help flaking and prevent ropes becoming entangled with the chain.

Handling and Performance

Our prototype boat was fitted with the Caterpillar 3116TA engines at their lower 325hp rating. Given the 28.8 knots we achieved, the 350hp options would push the boat at the magic 30 knots. Whatever the Speed, the Range – with our usual 20% safety margin – hovers around a modest 200 miles, so there’s little extra expense involved in going fast.

The 39 handled everything from flat water to a choppy Force 4 with reasonable ease – upwind, downwind, and in a beam sea. So it would seem that going slowly will only be obligatory when the conditions become really rough. Six turns of the wheel lock-to-lock is perfectly normal, although Iïve never understood why boats need so many when only two or three turns are necessary in a car – it’s good for the arm muscles, I suppose.

Noise levels in the saloon and on the flybridge are very similar to the competition – the surprise was in the cockpit. Here, I had expected that the combined engineroom/lazarette would be noisier than average as the sound ricocheted off some of the uninsulated surfaces. It’s possible that the foam-cored topsides and the underwater exhausts help to suppress the noise, because the levels were a few dB(A) lower than average. Azimut are continuing to work on their exhaust systems, so further reductions may be on the way.

Engineering and construction

As long as the engines are handed so all the service items are accessible from between the engines (as they are on the 39), the trend towards sealing the saloon floor is a real blessing. Access to the engineroom and lazarette is then far easier via the large cockpit floor hatch, leaving the saloon intact except for major engine surgery or removal. The minor downside is that, with no small inspection hatches, checking and topping up the water levels is very awkward – remote header tanks would solve the problem.

Huge engine beds support the twin Caterpillars. Although there’s no smooth-flow coating on the laminates to diminish the build-up of grime, they are well compacted with even resin distribution, which adds to their strength. The lazarette, however, does have a wipe-clean glassfibre moulding supporting the fuel tanks, batteries, fuel filters and generator.

Verdict

“AZ 39 – passion and reason,” exhorts Azimut’s brochure. Marketing hyperbole it may be, but for once it’s a very accurate reflection of what Azimut’s baby is all about. It’s not fair to judge something as subjective as style. Still, I find it hard to believe that any follower of contemporary design would not feel a little passion for Azimut’s wonderful sculpted overhead finish in the saloon, or for the sweeping curves of the exterior and the two eye-shaped windows.

Passion aside (and ignoring the overwhelmingly good sterling:lira exchange rate), the reason for buying a 39 is that overall it’s a very well-designed boat. The flybridge is clearly the area that would benefit from several small changes and refinements – Azimut’s attention to detail, evident almost everywhere else, seems to have thinned with the altitude. However, where Righini has given us what weïre used to from his bigger boats, it’s always for a good reason. The big bonded windows, effective side decks and toerails, and substantial fairleads and cleats, are all welcome sights on any boat. And there is Azimut’s usual near flawlessly finished woodwork and impeccable upholstery inside.

With the 39, Azimut have moved on, but only where they need to. It’s good to see that not everybody believes in reinventing the wheel.

DIMENSIONS

Length overall 40ft 1in 12.22m

Hull length 36ft 10in 11.22m