In the first “Youngtimers” article we went in search of the Itama, the timeless Italian open boat. In this new episode, the Mediterranean remains at the center of our reflections, but our roots are on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, in the United States, at a rather precise address: 2900 N.E. 188th Street, Miami, Florida. We are in the heart of Thunderboat Row, the legendary street of “roaring boats”. Let’s discover Magnum Marine, a brand now headed by Katrin Theodoli and famous for its high-quality boats which, even when second-hand, are highly sought after. This market is particularly active in Italy, with which Magnum has a special bond.
I arrive in Santa Margherita at that time of year when the town prepares for the summer season, in an atmosphere of rebirth. It’s in this climate that I visit the headquarters of Santa Marina Yachts, a broker whose history is linked to various brands, including Magnum. I am greeted by Adriano Bena, a partner at Santa Marina Yachts and an expert on Magnum Marine. He’s telling me about the brand’s latest developments when he discovers that I’ve never been on one of these yachts. “I’d take you out now to try a Magnum, but unfortunately we’ve sold them all!”. The demand for boats between 2020 and 2021 has wiped out the used ones and Magnum yachts have established themselves as the first choice.
They are not only highly sought-after but also hard to find because their owner usually does not let them go. At the same time, the American shipyard is working hard to become a major player in the new market, as suggested by the recent agreement with S.N.O. Yachts, for which the Sardinian company will be the official dealer for the European market, as well as a service center where the boats will be customized and fitted out. This is a rebirth of a yard that has never really been out of the spotlight. “We will provide all kinds of assistance to Magnum Marine’s European customers – Francesco Pirro said in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Stampa – and we will also customize boats produced in the USA for them. We will also offer all our help to Katrin Theodoli to speed up the launch of the new models she is thinking about, including larger ones”.
What makes Magnum owners fall so madly in love?
“The name – explains Adriano Bena – exerts a considerable fascination. The look and substance of a sports boat, but suitable for pleasure, does the rest. Magnum owners are boaters that want to cruise fast and safe, without renouncing the pleasure of staying at anchor”.
This fascination is still intact, even though so much time has passed since Don Aronow, offshore champion and boat builder, founded his third boatyard, Magnum, at Thunderboat Row. It was 1966 and Don Aronow had already witnessed the birth of Formula and Donzi, later acquired by two large groups. However, Aronow’s inventiveness knew no rest. In the same year, he built Maltese Magnum, a 35-footer designed by Walt Walters and powered by twin Holman & Moody engines, 530 HP each. With the Maltese Magnum, he became the world champion. Later, he decided to set up a small boatyard. In June 1966, in the alley of roaring boats, the production of the Magnum yachts began: the first models were a 27-foot racer and a 35-foot cruiser.
In 1969, marquis Filippo Theodoli was walking through the New York boat show when he came across a Magnum 35’, a perfect boat for the Mediterranean. It was such a thunderbolt that Theodoli immediately bought a Magnum 35’ and became the exclusive dealer for Europe. Magnum Marine thus landed on the Old Continent, where it would leave an indelible mark. About seven years later, Filippo Theodoli and his wife Katrin bought the shipyard from businessman Clayton Rautboard, who had taken over from Don Aronow in 1969. The pure, high-performance open yacht was being born, where adrenaline engines went hand in hand with luxury interiors and fittings in general.
1977 saw the arrival of the Magnum 53’, the forerunner of a generation of boats that had a resounding success in the Mediterranean and led many other manufacturers to follow the same direction. Owners were crazy about this boat. Why? The reasons are explained by Adriano Bena and have always characterized Magnum: a motorboat that the owner can steer single-handed, as fast as a racer and yet safe to maneuver, with enough range to reach Corsica and Sardinia from the continent. Last but not least, the possibility of staying comfortable onboard once stationary. In addition, engines and drives also changed: the marine diesel engines met the surface drives invented by Howard Arneson. But there was still one ingredient missing: propellers. Special propellers were needed and another nautical giant, Phil Rolla, came into play. The collaboration between Theodoli, Arneson, Rolla, and Pininfarina gave birth to the Magnum 63’. On her debut in 1983, she was the fastest and most efficient boat in the world.
After Filippo Theodoli’s death in 1990, his wife Katrin Theodoli took over the management of the shipyard. This was a major challenge, not only out of a sense of responsibility for the brand but also to prove to some detractors that a woman could well lead a successful boatyard. She learned how to drive a boat in secret and, while doing so, she was thinking about new models, with the advice of Pininfarina, Paolo Martin, and Luiz de Basto. It was during this period that models such as the Magnum 50’ Bestia or the Magnum 44’ were born, true bestsellers between Italy and the French Riviera. But Magnum Marine is not only a cult brand. The company’s history continues and two new models are due to arrive in 2021: the Magnum 47.5’, the first with the yard’s outboard engines, and the Magnum 60’.