7 Wally Innovations That Changed Sailing History

Since Luca Bassani founded the brand in 1994, Wally has pioneered groundbreaking solutions that have transformed technologies and aesthetics to the extent that today it is hard to identify any aspect of large yacht design that has not been influenced by his creative vision. We’ve put together a round up of seven innovations that have since been absorbed into mainstream yachting.

1. Carbon fibre

Wally Nariida
1995 Wally Nariida. Photo Nico Martinez

Everything from bicycle frames to champagne bottles is made of carbon fibre nowadays, but that was not the case in 1991 when Bassani launched his own 25m  sloop Wallygator (now Wally One). Her carbon composite hull and full carbon mast were complete novelties in boating at the time and were inspired by the New Zealand challenger KZ-1, the first big yacht with a full carbon mast, in the 1988 America’s Cup. 

In 1994, Wallygator II (now Nariida) even had carbon fibre sails long before 3DL arrived on the scene. Since then, Wally has been at the forefront of developments in carbon composite construction and when 50.5m Better Place was launched in 2012 she was the largest carbon fibre sloop in the world.  

2. Lifting keel

1994. Wally Nariida_Photo Guido Grugnola.
1994. Wally Nariida. Photo Guido Grugnola.

When the Wally 77 Carrera (now Lyra) was launched in 2000, she was the first cruising yacht to have a hydraulic lifting keel with bulb (as opposed to a daggerboard or swing keel) for better performance under sail and easier access to shallow bays. Again, the engineering systems have been continuously upgraded and improved. Wally’s first canting keel appeared on Tiketitan in 1998, unheard of for anything expect ocean racers at the time.    

3. Submarine anchor

1994. Wally Nariida_Photo Guido Grugnola.

Luca Bassani first introduced a ‘bomb bay’ anchor systemaboard Wallygator II. The underwater mechanism provided better weight distribution as the anchor and chain locker is moved aft instead of in the bow, reducing pitching under sail. The system was further developed and fine-tuned over the years and is now a standard feature on Wally sailing yachts. 

4. Easy sailing

1991 Wally self tacking jib. Photo Gilles Martin-Raget
1991 Wally self tacking jib. Photo Gilles Martin-Raget

Wallygator was both the catalyst and prototype for many developments that are now commonplace. These included simplifying the sailing systems with a self-tacking jib, swept-back spreaders and no running backstays. Wally took the easy sailing concept a step further with a push-button system for trimming the sails on Wallygator II, and again in 1998 with Tiketitan and Slingshot (now Itaca), which were the first yachts equipped with Magic Trim.

The fully automatic sail trimming system developed in collaboration with Cariboni effectively meant that even the largest yachts could be handled single-handed. Wally has continuously improved and refined the automation technology, so that on the WallyCento Tango, for example, the jib can be furled/unfurled in just 8 seconds.

5. Beach Club

1998 Tiketitan terrace-on-the-sea. Photo Guy Gurney
1998 Tiketitan terrace-on-the-sea. Photo Guy Gurney

A beach club or terraced main deck aft that brings guests into closer contact with the sea are must-have feature on modern superyachts. In fact, the terrace-on-the-sea concept was devised by Luca Bassani and first introduced aboard Tiketitan, which had a main salon below deck overlooking the open transom. The layout offered unique access to the sea and was applied to other Wally sailing yachts from 24-50m. 

6. On-Deck Living

1991 Wallygator cockpit. Photo Carlo Borlenghi
1991 Wallygator cockpit. Photo Carlo Borlenghi

Closely allied to the inside-outside concept is the deck and cockpit layout. Wally was a pioneer in completely separating the guest cockpit from the manoeuvring and operations areas for reasons of safety, efficiency and enjoyment. This philosophy reached a pinnacle of purity with Esense in 2006, where the raised bulwarks became an integral part of the hull structure and provided longitudinal rigidity to the huge open expanse of flushdeck

7. Glass

2003 Wally80 skylight. Photo Gilles Martin-Raget
2003 Wally80 skylight. Photo Gilles Martin-Raget

The mirrored glass salon aboard Tiketitan ushered in another innovation that has since become commonplace: the extensive use of structural glass. The first strip skylight integrated into the length of the deckhouse on a sailing yacht appeared in 2003 on the Wally 80, and Better Place was the first megasailer to have full-height superstructure windows. 

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