A new challenge was glittering on the horizon: that of becoming a direct manufacturer. In 1985 Azimut took over the Fratelli Benetti boatyard of Viareggio, thus bringing into existence the Azimut Benetti Group. The Viareggio boatyard remained quite independent in terms of brand, image, and product, but it had the backing of Azimut management, book-keeping, and general and financial services.
This was a period of trips to the Middle East, and it was when Christina Onassis bought a Failaka in honour of her daughter. Time was tight and everyone, from the workers and fitters to the suppliers, gave it all they had. In just one hundred days the yacht was delivered in Skorpios in time for the little Athina’s baptism. The workers, who only managed to finish their jobs during the journey, landed just before the guests arrived on the island.
In 1988, Azimut Benetti embarked upon an adventure to conquer the Blue Ribbon Trophy, the thrilling transatlantic crossing without refuelling. The Group thus found itself thrust into the spotlight of the international fashion and sports media. To a design by Pininfarina, the Azimut Atlantic Challenger was created for the occasion. With Cesare Fiorio as skipper, and Dag Pike as navigator, everything appeared ready for the race to begin. But then, at the very last moment, it was found that the rules required the passage of at least one paying passenger: and so it was that the millionaire Winthrop Rockefeller went on board. And he paid one dollar for the trip.
In the early years of its history, Azimut had entrusted its designs to the finest British professionals, but by the late 1980s, Italian style had conquered the world: this led to cooperation with the dynamic young designer Stefano Righini, whose revolutionary style created a trend, establishing Azimut design as the standard for the world’s yachting industry.
With the contribution made by Righini, Azimut yachts were redesigned, freeing up their shapes. At the same time, processing techniques were adopted from the automotive industry, and they still distinguish Azimut Benetti around the world: glued glass panes, electric windows and seats, and authentic briar root. Also marketing and sales were thought out afresh. And the brand set sail for the greatest heights of international prestige.