Former American powerboat champion Tim Ciasulli talks about yachting and owning the first Benetti Oasis 40, which he named Rebeca after his wife.Photo: Carlo Demicheli / @boatfromtheworldPhoto: Carlo Demicheli / @boatfromtheworldTell us something about previous boats you’ve owned?
I actually owned the first Sunseeker in the US – a Sunseeker 55 Camargue. There was a dealer in New York who I knew from racing and he told me I had to check out the Sunseeker brand. At the time I was building a race boat with Cougar in the UK and went to the Sunseeker yard and loved what I saw. The Camargue was a great boat and I kept it for a year-and-a-half, then sold it for more than I had paid for it! From there I moved up to a 64 flybridge motor yacht, then an 80-foot Baia, and then a 110 Horizon. I must say I learned something from owning all of them. Then came the 40-metre Oasis. You know, you get that 5-foot-a-year disease… It doesn’t always happen on an annual basis, but sometimes you save it up and 5-feet becomes 20!Being the first to invest in a new model is a calculated risk. What convinced you to take the plunge?
I’ve always been a bit of a pioneer and I say you can always spot the pioneers in life because they’re the ones with the arrows in their back! But seriously, I knew that mine and Benetti’s values were aligned and those values are integrity, passion and accountability. Benetti had all three in spades, which was more important than being the first customer for the Oasis 40. If you have those values then the product is likely to be outstanding. As a car dealer, I know that boat companies are not always known for their customer service, so when you see a boat company like Benetti espousing those values I knew it was a marriage made in heaven.Photo: BenettiAt what stage did you get involved in the Oasis project?
We had already seen the concept renders, but then they showed us the scale model when we were on our previous boat in Palm Beach. I must have spent 3 or 4 hours just looking at that model from every angle, and it was gorgeous. Italians are known for their styling, right? But this was a radical departure for Benetti, as it would be for any boat company for that matter. You know, they all say that they blur the boundaries between inside and outside, but all they really do is put in bigger windows. This was a completely clean sheet of paper and we realised that the onboard lifestyle the Oasis 40 could offer us was exactly what we wanted. So it was an easy choice: this is a no-compromise boat.Photo: BurgessWhy the decision to switch to a displacement hull?
Remember I said I learned a lot from my previous boats? Well, I would take a bunch of friends out for a blast off the coast of Connecticut and we’d get back to the dock and go below deck and the doors would be open, plates all over the place, and it would take a day just to put it all back to rights. I crossed one time from Fort Lauderdale to the Abacos and even the fridge was turned over. The fact is: going fast and having a nice yacht that you can enjoy with friends are mutually exclusive. But I have both because we tow a 43-foot, carbon fibre Midnight Express with five 450hp outboards that goes 100 miles an hour. So I can take friends out and scare the hell of them and then go back to the mothership and relax in comfort.Photo: BenettiYou have Italian heritage; was that a factor in deciding to buy an Italian yacht or just a coincidence?
Probably a little more than coincidence. My wife and I have owned a home in Italy since 2015 and we plan on spending a lot of our time – once I stop working full-time – in Italy because we love it. As Americans, we put in 80-hour weeks and run around like headless chickens and we miss the important things in life like spending time with family, breaking bread, enjoying a glass of wine or an aperitivo with friends. That’s the Dolce Vita and the life we love. It’s not about having a big boat or Ferraris in the garage; it’s about relationships.Photo: BenettiPhoto: BenettiThe interior designer, Enrico Bonetti of Bonetti/Kozerski, is also Italian. Did you have any special requests?
What I liked about Bonetti/Kozerski was that hadn’t designed a boat interior before, so they had no preconceived notions. It was a fresh start. Enrico had some design criteria from Benetti and part of what he wanted was to get rid of all the clutter and make the spaces very light and airy and easy to move around. For example, on previous boats it was sometimes hard for the crew to move around the dining table, but on Rebeca the space planning is great. My wife suggested opportunities to introduce more storage into the design with the rosewood cabinets because you can never have too much storage space on a boat. In the saloon there is also a round ceiling that represents the wheel in my business. We took that design element and brought it into the back-lit mirror as you pass from the stateroom into the bathroom.Photo: BenettiPhoto: BenettiHow was your maiden cruise and what’s a typical day afloat for you?
I have undiagnosed attention deficit disorder – and by the way, I think I have a lot of my associates are the same – which means I’m always on the go. I get up and put my bare feet on the teak floor and immediately feel like I’m outside. Depending on where we are we will anchor offshore or stay in port. We love to explore new places and we really enjoyed discovering the Italian coast and places like the Cinque Terre last summer. We also did some entertaining and with 20 or so people on board that wonderful open aft deck really comes into its own, especially when the side platforms are deployed.Photo: BenettiPhoto: BenettiAmerican owners tend to drive their own boats more than Europeans. Is that the case with you?
I’m also a pilot and you find that there comes a point when you’re uninsurable, which is probably a good thing because you just don’t do it enough. It’s fine on a sunny day, but all the training comes in when it’s not a sunny day. I’m very happy to let the captain run the ship – he has the judgement and experience with big boats. You do become a student of the weather on yachts, and also race boats for that matter. There have been times when we took off in uncertain weather and the captain decided to go back: right decision every time.How was the experience of building with Benetti?
It’s interesting that Benetti is just as interested in my experience as an owner as they were in the quality of the boat. They want me to enjoy the whole ownership experience. That’s a pretty profound outlook, especially in the yachting industry, and they’re looking to keep me as a customer for life. So maybe my next boat will be a 50-metre explorer.Photo: BenettiI was going to ask: will there be a bigger one?
Well, I think I have a very severe case of the 5-foot-a-year disease! I certainly have that 50-metre already mapped out in my mind’s eye. But for the time being, we have the perfect boat with Rebeca and we’re very happy with her.