On board M/Y Vespucci with Capt. Benjamin Calzaroni

18 June 2021 By Risa Merl
All images courtesy of Guillaume Plisson

Capt. Benjamin Calzaroni on the refit of the 30.5-meter M/Y Vespucci - the yacht that once belonged to Carlo Riva - and his love of the sea...

Despite growing up in landlocked Paris, Capt. Benjamin Calzaroni of M/Y Vespucci had an early love for the sea. His family was originally from Corsica, as he explains, and they would make a pilgrimage to the French Mediterranean island for holidays each year. His father owned small boats that he kept in Corsica and would take the family out to explore on the water. “My earliest boating memory was in Corsica on my father’s boat,” Calzaroni says.

He didn’t wait long before starting a career in yachting. At 16, he worked as a seasonal deckhand in the port of Cannes. He went on to study for his professional trainings in Nice and Marseille, earning certifications as a chief engineer and radio officer. He went on to obtain a French merchant navy captain’s license, rated at 500 tons. “After working as a first mate and engineer on three different boats, I had my first opportunity to become a captain on a thirty-meter boat,” says Calzaroni. A thirst for exploration motivates the captain in his chosen line of work. “The things I enjoy most about my job are navigation and discovering new places,” he says.

But the other thing he loves is upgrading and refitting yachts that he’s taken command of, a joy that he was luckily able to pursue as he assisted in the refit of the classic yacht Vespucci. The 30.5-meter yacht is not just any classic — it belonged to none other than Carlo Riva. Of course, the Riva name is synonymous with sexy mahogany runabouts, but there were also some larger Rivas built in Carlo’s day. Construction began in 1977 at the CRN shipyard in Ancona, and the Riva family would go on to use the vessel for many years to come.

Vespucci has been well-loved, and, therefore, she hasn’t traded hands many times over the course of her life. Her current owners, Philippe and Miene, are only the fourth to take on stewardship of the historical yacht. Though Vespucci was continuously maintained, she never had real refit until the owners bought her in 2016 and took her for a refit at Monaco Marine, which lasted from December 2016 to February 2018. They sought to refurbish Vespucci while retaining her heritage and unique qualities. Luckily, they were able to refresh rather than replace her traditional joinery — and even the original engines. Yet her hull required a good deal of restoration. Like any refit, challenges came up along the way, but her committed owners, crew, and refit yard persevered. “During the refit, I was in charge of the exterior work and all technical works for compliance with flag requirements,” says Calzaroni. “I was also in charge of coordination between all the professional bodies involved.”

Vespucci is now back on the water, turning heads with her classic exterior design and earning admiration even from Lia Riva, Carlo’s daughter, who came to see the refit after it was complete.

“I like running a classic yacht like this because they are often more robust, secure, and reliable,” says Capt. Calzaroni. “Vespucci is a strong boat, and she’s very reliable.” But it’s more than her seakeeping capabilities that have won over the captain. He also likes that classic yachts “have a soul.” Modern yachts simply don’t have the same romance and history of a classic like Vespucci.

The owner is pleased that his captain and crew have a love for classics, and specifically Vespucci. “The crew shares this everyday passion [for] preserving the yacht’s character, history, and the traditions of pure [cruising],” says Vespucci’s owner Philippe. He spends time on the boat, and like his captain, enjoys being away from port and exploring the sea.


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