Monte Carlo - Your first impression that the Niniette 66 looks like the marine equivalent of a supercar is absolutely right. That’s exactly what it is.
The Niniette was created by Monaco-based upmarket motor yacht builder Palmer Johnson, in collaboration with Bugatti. But it wasn’t as simple as that; designers from the two companies first met early in 2015 to to draw up a proposal for a high-performance motor yacht that would clearly reflect the Bugatti DNA.
The first renderings were shown to prospective customers before the end of that year, and a number of them, including several Bugatti owners, showed serious interest - until the new Bugatti Chiron supercar was revealed in March 2016, and suddenly the Palmer Johnson design looked a bit old hat.
To their credit, Timur Mohamed of Palmer Johnson and Bugatti design director Etienne Salomé promptly went straight back to their drawing boards to reshape the boat in the image of the Chiron and, a year later, this is the result - the Palmer Johnson Bugatti Niniette 66.
The 20-metre hull is actually a very slim trimaran, with a narrow main hull and two outer sponsons, giving it positive stability and roll damping even at high speeds, as well as outstanding performance and fuel-efficiency for its size; powered by two 735kW MAN diesels, it has a top speed of 44 knots (80km/h), and a draught of less than a metre, making it perfect for island-hopping.
The design also makes possible a wider beam - 6.5 metres - than monohulls of the same size, allowing for a wide aft sun-deck and unexpectedly spacious accommodation below decks. Extensive use of carbon fibre adds to the yacht’s structural rigidity, while also reducing weight, thus increasing performance.
There’s more Bugatti influence discernable in the sweeping curve of the sheerline, and in the design of the deck furniture, using carbon fibre, fine leather and morta oak - wood from fallen oak trees that have been buried in peat bogs and preserved from decay by acidic, oxygen-free conditions for hundreds or even thousands of years, until the wood is stained all the way through in various shades of black, as hard as teak and just as impervious to rot.
Unsurprisingly, it is one of the world’s rarest and most expensive types of timber, mostly used for jewelry, tobacco pipes and exclusive cutlery handles.
The lower part of the sun-deck includes a combined Jacuzzi, sun pad and bar, with a fire pit (no, we’re not kidding) between the Jacuzzi and the two forward seats of the flying bridge.
The helm seats were specially designed by Bugatti, as was the helm station, a futuristic command centre with interactive infotainment system for control, monitoring, navigation and entertainment.
Unlike the several small cabins found below decks on most yachts, the Niniette has only two main compartments - a spacious saloon trimmed in polished metal, carbon fibre, leather and marble, with a classic Bugatti horseshoe overlooking the main seating area, and an ensuite owner’s cabin with a double bed.
What’s in a name?
Ettore Bugatti was the quintessential renaissance man, as much an artist as an engineer, creating trains and boat and planes, as well as the world’s most successful racing car ever (the Type 35B) and some of the the most exquisite road cars, notably the various derivatives of the Type 57.
In 1930 Bugatti was commissioned to create the first of a series of racing speedboats, known in those days as hydroplanes, for racing driver Prince Carlo Maurizio Ruspoldi. So pleased was Bugatti with the result that he named it Niniette, the family’s pet name for his youngest daughter Lidia.