It’s really not fair.
That’s what I was thinking perched on the weather rail of the Italia Yachts 14.98 Artemis while beating up Eastern Bay on a sunny, 10- to 12-knot day in sparkling flat water. As perfect sailing days go, it was a top three, easy.
I’d been invited along for the annual Annapolis to Miles River Race, a 20-plus-nautical-mile jaunt down the Chesapeake Bay, up Eastern Bay, and into the Miles River. And it really wasn’t fair, I was thinking, because most boat review sails amount to a couple of hours of somewhat perfunctory sailing, and rarely is the boat pushed for any length of time in the way an owner racing or even cruising on passage might do.
But here was Artemis and her crew, short tacking up the side of Eastern Bay, pushing her to sail as high and fast as possible, and with her 785-square-foot main on a 73-foot Axxon Composites carbon spar and No. 1 jib she was not disappointing—the B&G mast display showing between 6 and 7.5 knots of boat speed in 7 to 9 knots of true wind at apparent wind angles (AWA) of 25 to 27 degrees.
Those of us on the rail shifted high side to low side and back as the wind speed varied, and the 22,000-pound displacement 51-footer responded under us like a big dinghy. With all lines led aft through tunnels and two well-placed handholds on each side of the cabintop, it was easy to move around.
This was Artemis’ first race for owner Jeff Kennedy and his crew of seven, who’d sailed many miles together on his previous boat, an Italia Yachts 13.98. The day was a shakedown for the 475-mile Annapolis to Newport Race a week in the offing. After finishing the race, we would turn around, sail back down Eastern Bay, and continue south in the Chesapeake until nearly sunset, testing and tweaking sails and systems and giving the various helmsmen time at the wheel to feel the new boat. Then we’d turn back for Annapolis for night sailing practice.
Kennedy grew up sailing on the northern Chesapeake and has been in sailboats his whole life, from cruising on his family’s first boat, a Pearson 30, to racing Lasers and 420s in college, becoming a sponsored national champion windsurfer, and more recently sailing on a friend’s high-performance SIG 45 catamaran.
But while he enjoys and clearly invests in racing—“I think I’m Quantum’s number one customer, pretty sure,” he laughs—he says this boat will primarily be used for cruising with his wife and twin daughters, on the Bay but also New England and probably the Caribbean. He expects to do a couple of spring and fall races on the Bay and one summer distance race (Annapolis to Newport this year, Newport to Bermuda in 2024), but the rest of the time, the boat will be in cruise mode.
“I want to sail fast, I want to be able to race, but I want to be able to cruise,” he says. “I want to have safety, comfort, a true performance cruiser-racer, and that’s what this is.”
Designer Maurizio Cossutti says the boat “was designed around the concept of being…an elegant boat, going fast through the water. We’re seeing some of our competitors going in the direction of upsizing boats—wide boats, heavier boats.”
This can’t be said of the 14.98. In both of its versions—the cruising Bellissima or the racing-oriented Fuoriserie—a certain sleek, greyhound leanness defines its profile, with a fine entry, a nearly flat sheer that helps create the impression of relatively low freeboard, and a smooth run aft that ends in a lovely, soft lift to the saucer-shaped, vertical transom. The fine entry forward helps minimize slamming in a head sea, and the comparatively narrow stern sections mean less drag and more speed.
“From the bow aft to the shrouds it’s kind of the same shape up front” as Artemis’ predecessor, the Italia Yachts 13.98, Kennedy says. “The whole aft section just holds its beam, the waterline is about the same. The other one didn’t have much overhang in the back, but this one has a lot of overhang, so as soon as you’re moving, you get all that waterline length, which is speed.” The 14.98 is “about 30% higher stability” than the earlier boat, he said. “That was a stiff boat, but this one, you get to about 20 degrees of heel, and it just stops.”
The build is a blend of fiberglass, carbon, and PVC core. The deck is laid inside the hull, bonded and laminated together, forming one monolithic structure. Hull and deck are vacuum-infused vinylester with PVC densities depending on location, says Erik Haaland, sales director of David Walters Yachts, the North American dealer of Italia Yachts. Load and through-hull areas are solid GRP (fiberglass).
“The structural grid is a mixture of GRP and carbon fiber and produced as a separate element that is bonded and tabbed into the hull, ring frames, and stringers,” Haaland says. “There are ring frames at the bulkheads and longitudinal stringers in the hull that are 100% carbon fiber. These are tied into all structures on the boat, so all hull and rigging loads are connected together and to the keel. Bulkheads are fully tabbed into the hull and structure.”
There are two cockpit and deck layouts. In the cruising Bellissima version, all lines lead aft beneath the deck to emerge through a bank of organizers and jammers in front of two primary winches adjacent to one another on each coaming and within close reach of reach of the two helms, enabling shorthanded or singlehanded sailing. The mainsheet moves through a single block on the floor of the cockpit; the self-tacking jib operates on an athwartships cabintop track forward.
The Fuoriserie version sports six winches—two up in the pit, two mid-cockpit, and two aft—and lines exit to accommodate each winch position. The German mainsheet system is controlled via a beefy full-length traveler on the cockpit sole just ahead of the helms; the jib is handled on two relatively short tracks inset and forward on the cabintop, allowing for close sheeting angles.
It’s worth noting that owners can have it both ways; for instance, Artemis is a Bellissima version with a teak cockpit and luxury interior, but with the Fuoriserie deck and cockpit layout for racing. All but one of her Harken winches are electric for cruising, manual when racing.
Both boats have twin wheels controlling a single, 8-foot-deep rudder. The helms are on aluminum Jefa pedestals angling out from the cockpit sides, each with a stout grab rail in front. They’re uncluttered and practical; each has a B&G multifunction display, a compass, a nifty inset to hold an iPhone, and buttons to control the winches, arranged neatly to mimic their placement.
At the starboard helm, controls for the 60-hp Volvo (on a saildrive with a three-blade Flexofold prop) are at calf height, along with the control panel, which includes switches for safety items like deck lights and disabling the electric winches (you can also control the Lewmar anchor windlass from here, if desired). Also here, the helmsman can turn around and adjust the Dyneema backstay with a Harken hydraulic tensioner.
On Artemis, both helms had a step that angled out of the cockpit floor to make it easy to steer while heeling, and I liked the placement of the primary winches ahead of the helms—it provided just the right space for the mainsheet trimmer/tactician (or your friend or spouse) to sit comfortably next to the winch to trim while talking easily with the helmsperson. I also liked that at 5 feet 4 inches tall, I had completely unobstructed sight lines all the way forward while steering.
A life raft locker in the cockpit sole is just ahead of the traveler and only three steps from the transom, which folds down into a swim platform. Two big lazarette hatches aft of the helms offer piles of storage, and more storage is under the cockpit seats.
Both models have keel-stepped masts that stretch to 73 feet; the cruising version is a three-spreader aluminum, carbon for racing. Rod rigging is standard with the option for EC3 carbon rigging. Forward, the furler is recessed just behind the integral bowsprit, which is 6 feet long on the racing version and 3 feet 3 inches on the cruising model.
Under the boat, the standard keel shape is a T with a lead bulb, but owners can also opt for a shoal draft L-shaped keel. Depths range from 9 feet 10 inches for the standard racing keel to 6 feet 5 inches for the L-shaped shoal draft. Kennedy joked that the draft does limit his Bay cruising, and during the race, it was a little teeth-gnashing to watch a Farr 30 sneak beneath us as we rounded a mark that our draft demanded, but that’s the shoaly Chesapeake for you.
The first time I saw Artemis was at the spring boat show in Annapolis, and belowdecks she was in pure cruise mode. The warm yet glam vibe comes from Mirko Arbore, featured in Forbes in 2019 as, “the coolest Italian designer you’ve never heard of.” Recessed lighting is dominant throughout, providing subtle warmth. Use of thin slats in some areas, lit from behind, draws the eye forward and harken to Arbore’s use of screens in his designs that grace palaces in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and elsewhere. Textures are subtly mingled; the Forbes story best describes the overall impression as Arbore’s “particular brand of spectacular, yet sleekly understated style.”
Functionally, the layout is rather traditional. Down the wide steps (nice strong handholds here, and whole thing lifts for ample engine access), you’re immediately at the L-shaped galley to starboard, with a C-shaped dining area forward of it. The galley has a single deep sink (I’d always opt for two), with a faucet that slides down so a panel can cover the sink to create additional counterspace. Immediately to the left is a head, with the forward-facing nav station and chart table to port and a settee ahead of it.
The placement of the big keel-stepped mast makes for a bit of a wonky arrangement at the head of the dining settee, but the table has a slider that makes it easier for diners to be seated, and it can be lowered to make an additional bunk (or sail storage in race mode). The owner’s suite is forward, with a centerline queen berth and a luxuriously appointed en-suite head.
Aft are two nice-sized cabins with double berths; with a lee cloth up the center, these easily convert into four deep, comfy sea berths in the quietest part of the boat.
Creature comforts on Artemis include a Termodinamica compressor that provides 54,000 btu of heating and cooling, zoned for each cabin to be individually controlled. Kennedy also opted for a Spectra 400c Compact watermaker for distance cruising.
To support all this, the boat is kitted with four 200-Ah Victron LiFePO4 batteries with room to expand further if desired, a Victron Lynx BMS, a 3,000-watt inverter, and a 120- to 240-V transformer for the air conditioning. Twin Balmar XT-250 alternators with Wakespeed controllers are engine mounted. Haaland says the boat can come with a WhisperPower genset, but Artemis’ electrical system is designed around rapid recharge using the engine alternators and the large inverter.
As we headed down the Bay, I spent about 30 minutes sailing with the A1 chute in 10-12 knots of breeze, making steady 7s and 8s with easy, fingertip sailing. Kennedy’s description of her as a big dinghy is spot on; just the slightest murmur in the helm let me know when I was getting a little too high and needed come down a couple of degrees. Adjustments were instantaneous and fine, even in light air, and the pure fun of sailing the boat could easily be addictive.
Hours later, after a brief lull when the northerly petered out, the late afternoon southerly seabreeze filled in and continued to build as sunset approached, so I was able to steer for a bit on a tight reach under the No. 2 jib and feel the big deep rudder biting well, but still with relaxed hands on the wheel. I did manage to underestimate that rudder when I rounded a mark and left a skidmark in the water, we spun so fast.
The team threw a reef in the main to test that process; when one of them had to do a ballet move on a winch to stretch for the last few reef points, I was reminded how big this boat and its sailplan is, and I wondered how that would safely work in a rough sea or shorthanded. Heading back north, the breeze was piping 15 to 18, and while we were able to hold the A3 kite—the boat’s smallest—for a while, eventually the angle back to Annapolis wasn’t doable, so the crew shifted to the No. 2 jib, and we coasted on into the night.
By the time we returned to Annapolis, we’d sailed 100-plus miles, and this boat (and her crew) had made it feel easy.
LOA 53’ 6” (racing) 51’ (cruising)
LWL 43’ 2”
Beam 14’ 3”
Draft 8’ 3” (standard) 9’ 10” (race), L-shape 6’ 5” or 7’ 5”
Ballast 8,488 lbs
Displacement 22,002 lbs
Sail Area 1,432 sq ft (main and jib), asymmetrical sail area 2,238 sq ft
Engine: Volvo Penta D2-60 with saildrive, optional D2-75
Base Price (includes U.S. delivery and commissioning) $918,000
New Boats & Gear 2024