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She's the second 26 metre from the Cantiere delle Marche and was built for a large family hoping to navigate all the way to the famous Pacific islands. Speciation is the evolutionary process that gives rise to new species through the adaptation of certain members of an existing species to a new ecological niche. The Darwin Class, a type of explorer yacht built by the Cantiere delle Marche (CDM), is a fine example of speciation in the nautical world as it was designed to fill the gaps left by its competitors.

Although it was only opened in 2010, the Ancona yard has already built seven yachts and has all slots filled up until 2015. So the new species is flourishing. Not exploding, just adding to its numbers one by one. The question is: how has it succeeded where so many failed in the mass extinction of owners that began in 2008 and continues to take its toll? “We started with the demand from the owners that were left. And let’s be frank about it – they were the only ones that were going to the sea when three times the number of boats were being sold as are today,” says Vasco Buonpensiere, CDM’s director of sales and marketing. “They’re more rational, solid boats,” he continues, “approached with the old-fashioned idea of building a family of boats that people would hold onto for a lifetime and even pass on to the next generation.”

The Darwin 86 Percheron, the steel and aluminium explorer featured here, is the living proof of just how much of a hold this species has on the hearts and minds of owners. “The owner of this one is a young South American with four children. When we met, he was looking for a smaller, fibreglass pre-owned yacht…..” However, during his meetings with Buonpensiere and his colleagues, the buyer became taken with the idea of taking his family on a long cruise from the Mediterranean to the Americas, Cape Horn and the Galapagos (follow his blog at: The level of customisation available for the interiors clearly helped him make his choice. “We were able to work on the layout of the smaller children’s cabins: the floor is the same height from the berths to the bathroom, for instance, which makes it easier to manage the kids when they get out of the bath.”

A dedicated desk, internet connection and space for books was added too so that the older of the children could continue his schooling remotely. Although, at 26 metres, the Darwin 86 is large rather than huge, its hefty forms, full volumes, high bulwarks and 7.5-metre beam guarantee impressive interior and exterior liveability. There is 165 square metres of usable space on deck, for instance, with room for a six-metre tender and a five-metre one plus a crane aft on the upper deck. None of which translates into pokey interiors either with a massive 145 square metres of space spread over three decks. The sleeping quarters are on the lower deck together with an enormous engine room and a spacious stern garage. Communal areas and the galley are on the main deck (the crew quarters are forward) with a sky lounge and the captain’s cabin on the upper deck. The Percheron is a breed of French draft horse renowned for its speed and ability to adapt to a wide variety of diverse climates as a result of which it was exported all over the world, making it the perfect name for this Darwin 86. “The CDM’s DNA is naval rather than nautical. Our workforce has worked on some of the most complex ships in the world, including oil tankers, so they are completely used to working to certain standards. They couldn’t do anything else. When we decided to launch CDM, we started with the yard and the people that could guarantee the kind of boats we wanted.” This is why only cupronickel tubes were used while steel plating in reinforced areas of the hull boosts its thickness from 8 to 12 millimetres.

One last word of advice to owners that like CDM’s construction methods and skills but prefer a less classic look: the Marche yard has now also unveiled the Nauta Air line, designed by Nauta Yacht Design of Milano, which spans four displacement and semi-displacement yachts of between 80’ and 115’, also in steel and aluminium. Something to think about!

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