As soon as we laid eyes on the graceful lines of Cockwells’ latest offering, we knew we had to take her for a spin... Nick Burnham gets up close with this exquisite work of art
TESTED Just as its name suggests, this one-off wooden tender is a floating work of art
We get many emails from boat manufacturers asking us to test their latest boats. Frequently sent via a PR company or from a marketing exec, they’re usually full of flowery prose (that always includes the word ‘lifestyle’) about a ‘brand new model’ that, on closer inspection, often looks suspiciously like the previous model but with larger windows.
The email from Cockwells was somewhat different. Partly because it came directly from the man with his name above the door, Dave Cockwell. But mostly because of it’s brevity. Entitled ‘Fancy a go?’, it simply read ‘Our latest creation, we don’t have her long so please let me know’, and had a photo attached. It took us about half a second to decide that yes, we fancied a go. A builder of custom superyacht tenders and bespoke one-off commissions, boats from Cockwells tend to be seriously high-end, but the photo suggested that he’d gone stratospheric.
Catching sight of the boat at Port Pendennis Marina, it’s immediately clear that the photo didn’t do the boat justice. Based on a concept by Rodman Whitely Dixon, with an interior designed by Cullum Bespoke, the Titian’s low profile, coldmoulded construction with teak veneer finish marries the minimalist geometric form of a Wally Power to the grace of a Riva, yet resembles neither of them. In fact, it looks completely different to anything else on the water.
And if you think it looks good from a distance, wait until you get up close! The teak decking of the foredeck, for example, is laid out herringbone-style, and the caulking between the timbers is copper infused. Nothing is allowed to taint the perfect lines – stainless steel cleats retract, filler caps are flush and there is no anchor, winch or even bow roller in evidence on the foredeck. On board, a walkway leads between twin aft sun loungers to a cockpit that would seat six comfortably plus a double helm with another twin seat adjacent at the front. The wooden floor echoes the herringbone motif of the foredeck. In fact, almost everything you see that is not either upholstery or part of the dash layout is wood, reminding you that what you are aboard doesn’t just look special, it’s built special.
It’s the same story inside. The low ceiling of what is unashamedly a day boat features silk panels set into wooden frames imbued with fine art unique to this boat. Cabin sides are slatted wood and the floor and galley units feature more of that trademark copper edging. What the interior lacks in headroom it makes up for not just in the detailing but also in facilities. The galley may be compact but there’s a proper oven, a ceramic hob and even a coffee maker, while the separate heads features a sleek Tecna electric flush loo. The entire area is air conditioned, creating a comfortable, cool haven in which to escape the heat.
The whole boat is a work of art, but it is performance art. The concept and build might suggest old-school cool, but the technical systems are from the future. Not a single knob or button is allowed to mar the ‘glass cockpit’ dash ahead of the tactile wood-rimmed alloy spoked steering wheel. Instead, two large touch screens control every aspect of the boat from engine instrumentation and navigation through to switching via an Empirbus control system for lighting, pumps, and my favourite gadget, the anchor system. Press ‘deploy’ and two hatches at the front of the foredeck open, followed by a stem head roller unfurling into place, anchor attached and ready to be lowered. Another option commands a bimini to motor into place, shading the entire cockpit. But for the ultimate in performance art, press ‘engine hatch raise’ and feast your eyes on the pair of Yanmar 320hp V8 diesel engines – they’re linked to a pair of Hamilton jet drives beneath the swim platform. Better yet, press the two buttons marked ‘engine start’.
Exhaust pipes beneath the bathing platform rumble menacingly before settling to a throaty burble. A joystick docking system takes the guesswork out of manoeuvring, and a dynamic positioning system allows you to virtually anchor the boat in place. But the throttles are more fun to play with.
Dave Cockwell suggests giving me a demo first. Is this to protect his new baby, to show how gently to treat it? Quite the reverse – he’s concerned I won’t push it hard enough! “Holding on?” he asks, before winding on a huge slug of lock, punting the boat onto its ear into a tight turn. Showing no mercy, he hurls the wheel the other way, slaloming the boat like a downhill skier, hull gripping, soaking up the abuse and begging for more.
Once my internal organs have arranged themselves back into roughly their original positions I take the wheel. The jets run constantly, buckets deflecting the thrust to achieve a virtual neutral. So manoeuvring is super smooth as there are no gears to mesh. Helm controls are conventional, two throttle levers and a wheel. No tabs, no outdrive trims, just fast/slow/left/right. No cavitation either, since there are no propellers to aerate and lose grip, in fact the more you gun it, the harder it turns. It’s hilariously fun to drive. With a 40 knot top end and insane handling it’s just like a jetski! An exquisite, hand-built, wooden, pushing £1m jetski…
SPECIFICATION Build Cold moulded RCD C8 persons LOA 32ft 11in (10.50m) Beam 9ft 11in (3.35m) Draught 1ft 0in (0.30m) Displacement 5 tonnes Price £900,000 inc VAT Enquiries www.cockwells.co.uk
L E F T The exceptionally tactile wood and alloy spoked steering wheel MIDDLE The console ahead of the passenger side matches the helm RIGHT Every detail is exquisitely designed