Magnum Marine and its luxury, tough, fast powerboats

The remarkable story of a pioneering shipyard and a courageous woman
by 05 November 2010

Magnum Marine is a story of very fast, very stable, very tough boats. They have always been right at the front of marine technological development, as expressed by the factor that everyone looks for in a powerboat: speed.
The story began in 1958, when boatbuilder Dick Bertram discovered designer Ray Hunt and his concept of a deep-vee power boat. Before Hunt, powerboats had vee bottoms, but the vee diminished to a flat planing surface at the transom. Ray Hunt designed a vee with a 24-degree angle with respect to the horizontal (deadrise), and extended this right back to the transom. He thought that this would improve the ride, enabling the hull to cut through the waves instead of bouncing along over them. Hunt's 30-foot boat that he designed for Bertram reached 52 mph, and marked the start of the Bertram Boatyard.

The deep-vee was now on the yachting map, and in 1962, retired real estate developer Don Aronow asked designers Jim Wynne and Walt Walters to design a 23-foot deep vee hull for twin engines, and the result was the first Aronow hull. Don Aronow marketed these using the name "Formula," then "Donzi," eventually, "Magnum." In 1966, Aronow, who had become off-shore racing champion, built himself a new 27-foot race boat, the Maltese Magnum. The boat became World Champion, and Don Aronow built a boatyard: Magnum Marine, in North Miami.
The company was successful, and it changed hands twice, bought first by Clayton Rautboard from Chicago, and then by an Italian aristocrat, Filippo Theodoli from Rome. Theodoli saw the potential of this type of boat for the Mediterranean, because it was a boat that needed no crew to sail, that was fast, tough, stable, with interior headroom and living space.

The deep vee made it a dry and safe ride, while the hand-built, laminated fibreglass hull was virtually indestructible. From 1969 to 1976, the Magnum became phenomenally successful in Europe, with boats commissioned by the Kings of Spain, Sweden, and Carlo Riva.
Theodoli introduced another important technical feature, surface drives, which reduced drag and increased speed and fuel efficiency. He enlisted his friend Phil Rolla to design the optimum propeller for the new surface drives, and the result, with the Magnum hull, was the fastest boat of its time. The ideas were transferred to the Magnum 63, which was entered into the Miami-Nassau-Miami race. Filippo Theodoli won the 362-mile race, but more importantly, the boat was the only entrant to finish and make it back home. Important confirmation of the original ideas, and remarkable considering that it was basically a pleasure boat, weighing 85,000 pounds! The Magnum 63 was followed by the 70 in 1987: it became the largest high-performance yacht of its time.

Filippo Theodoli died in 1990, leaving the Magnum boatyard to his wife Katrin. One would have expected her to sell: after all, no woman had ever run a boat-building company. But she took a different route. She learnt how to drive a boat, and began work on her new Magnum. The result appeared in 1993: the Magnum 50, or "Bestia." The Beast. Even on the first test run in heavy seas, Katrin took the boat to 72 mph, while the keel sliced through the waves for an extraordinarily stable ride. Interiors were designed by Hermès. The King of Spain immediately ordered one of the new Magnum 50s.
The 1999 Magnum 44 became a favourite in the Mediterranean, and one proved its strength in a collision that caused no injuries, but that sliced the other boat in half. The deep-vee hull just went straight through the other hull. The Magnum 60 was designed by Katrin herself, and the model, the "Furia," notched up speeds of close to 70 mph. The first Magnum 60 was built for rock star Lenny Kravitz, with interiors by Roberto Cavalli (the press' descriptions for the interiors ranged from "cool" to the more dubious "shagedelic.")

From then on, models have continued to appear. The Magnum 80, then the largest ever to have been built, was launched in 2001, and another boat of this length appeared in 2008. The next to appear will be the Magnum 100. Meanwhile, the new Magnum 59, launched in 2009, reached a speed of 74 mph on its first sea trial. The new Magnum 100' yacht will appear in 2012, and it will be Magnum's largest yacht ever. Styling for the hundred-footer is by Italian designer Alberto Mancini, who introduces a new concept of cockpit liveability. There are separate seating, dining and viewing areas, with a top that can be extended to provide variable amounts of shade. The boat's two MTU diesels will provide a top speed of 55 mph.
The Magnum 100 is also innovative for its materials. It is in fact manufactured from advanced composite foams and carbon fibre, for 20% savings in weight, greater rigidity and efficiency. It will be a hybrid, as it will have an electric motor for slow speed operation in harbour, for zero emissions and noise.

Further reading: The luxury powerboat Hedonist, built in mahogany