Renato “Sonny” Levi was born in Karachi and schooled in Cannes in the South of France. His father, an enthusiastic motor yachtsman and interior designer & manufacturer by trade, began boat-building for the government in Bombay during the war. It is here that Sonny found his love of designing boats, inspired by the colourful array of local craft all around him.
After joining the RAF and completing his training in England, Sonny returned to Bombay to work at his father’s bustling drawing office. In the 1960’s he moved to Italy to begin working for Navaltecnica in Anzio. From here he began pushing the boundaries of powerboat design both through ground-breaking naval architecture and engineering solutions. The rest, as they say, is history.
The Hidalgo Story
Launched in 1968 to designs by Rentao “Sonny” Levi for Roberto Olivetti and regarded as one of the fastest boats in the world fitted with diesel engines, Hidalgo was a particular favourite of Sonny’s as the requirements were very specific and with the minimum of compromises. The main function of the craft was the realisation of long-distance high-speed cruising in all sea conditions using diesel propulsion. Adopting the theory that as the weather worsens, the best thing to do is keep going at full speed, Hidalgo was designed with a self-draining cockpit.
Hidalgo was originally equipped with two Cummins 370hp engine connected to conventional immersed propellers. These were later replaced with two LDU (Levi Drive Unit) stern drives equipped with surface propellers driving from a pair of Caterpillar 425hp diesels. Hidalgo shared much in common with her predecessors which includes G50, built for the Agnelli family and Barbarina, built for Conte Augusta. In her later guise, and thanks to an associated weight reduction of an incredible 700kgs, Hidalgo boasted an operating range greater than 300 miles and a top speed of 42 knots with comfortable and economic (relatively speaking) cruising at 35.
In the spring of 2016 Hidalgo was moved in Vismara Marine shipyard in Viareggio where together with the shipwrights from Cantiere Navale Checchi, she is now benefiting from a comprehensive refit and improvement to all her on-board systems. Her hull structures were first cleaned and then reinforced, with all the woodwork treated with epoxy resin applications to improve both appearance and mechanical characteristics.
The old 425hp Caterpillar engines were replaced with two 550hp Cummins turbocharged engines that will now power the two propellers through her completely overhauled ‘LDU’ sterndrives. To further increase comfort and improve performance the old trim-tabs have also been replaced with more modern units.
The extensive nature of the refit has not stopped just at her machinery and structural aspects, but has continued with modifications to the deck layout and other changes focused towards making their beautiful and historic boat shine once again.
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