In the early spring of 2021, Mårten Hedlund, President of Wall Street Luxury Europe, knocked on the door of Wally’s new showroom in the port of Monte Carlo. Allegra Bassani Antivari opened the door.
After touching base on Wally’s iconic boats that have revolutionized the sailboat industry and on the luxury industry and gender equality, Allegra and Mårten decided to take a stand and activate their combined assets, expertise and network.
The two-hour meeting became very personal and led to the decision to start exciting collaborations that will be presented later in the year.
Allegra Bassani Antivari is the daughter of the passionate yachtsman and visionary entrepreneur Luca Bassani that in 1994, the same year that Allegra was born, founded the innovative exclusive yacht brand Wally.
Wally Yachts has changed the entire concept of cruising yachts and has become an iconic brand both in the yachting industry and in the luxury market.
Here follows a personal interview with the person Allegra Bassani Antivari touching everything from her upbringing to the future of the world’s oceans and what needs to be done.
Allegra Bassani Antivari, where do your passion for the nautical world come from?
It all started with my father (N.B. Luca Bassani Antivari). He started sailing when he was four in a small town in Italy, on his little optimist boat in a pool… At 16, he was already the Mediterranean champion and from then on, pursued a lifetime of sailing.
When my grandfather sold the family business BiTicino, my father decided to pursue his dream: he started building, back in 1993, for himself, the first Wally sailing boat with added innovations to make them easier, faster, cleaner… The first one was named Wallygator (now Nariida), which I was literally born on. I have therefore been on the sea since I was a baby. The sea is my home. It is where I feel at ease, where I feel calm and safe, even though it can be scary at times.. Do not ask me to look under a sailing boat, the keel looks like a shark!
What were some of the out of the ordinary installations and improvements Luca
Bassani Antivari made at the time?
Back then, you would have a dozen winches on a deck, which he cleared down to four, then down to a complete flush deck. He brought a lot of innovations in the hydraulic systems, which allowed one person to sail a 30-meters boat instead of being 10 or 12. He installed canting keels in big yachts to allow them to be faster in every direction along with building “terraces on the sea”, and carbon fibre sails.. Those tweaks and customizations had never been seen before.
When did you decide to start working for the family company?
I was always immersed in the sailing world, my springs would start with the regate in Portofino and my summers would finish with the MAXI yacht Rolex cup in Porto Cervo, but unfortunately I never undertook the sport by myself; i was always blissfully tacking and jibing with my family.
After pursuing my studies in Business Administration (NB a Master in Luxury Management of Goods and Services and one in Premium Design Management), I went on working for a french shipyard and a shipping company. I wanted to stick to the sea, but experience work outside the family company, and it was indeed very different, there was no luxury there whatsoever. One day, I read an article about Wally, and had this silver lining that it was time to integrate the family business. I got in touch with the new Managing Director and asked if he would be willing to give me a chance, because I felt my heart was pumping “Wally DNA” all over my veins, the sea and relevant experience and the desire to pursue a lifetime dream.
What is one thing that you appreciate about the sailing world that you do not find
in any other sports or leisure activity?
I was just out at a regatta last week. Of course you have these million dollar boats, people are Uber rich and the events are incredible. But when you are sailing, you are probably wearing something really old, scratched or torn. You see sailors? Their hands are destroyed. And during the regattas, whether you are the owner or the last person in the group, Bill Gates or an officer, you are all the same. It is very authentic. One cannot say the same of tennis, golf or le Grand Prix de Monaco. If people do not know who you are, they will not even look at you.
What is your relationship with nature, and the ocean in particular?
I was living a very privileged life in Milan, but my dream was always to wake up by the sea.
I could do that during the summer, but during the winter, I would really feel the absence of the sea, even physically, I would always feel weak. Once I moved to Monaco, I never got sick again.
My parents always told me, whatever sickness you have, go in the sea, snort some sea water and you will feel better. So I perceived its healing properties from the start, though it is quite painful when you snort it!
I love the hecticness of cities but when I travel, I always look for something to do with nature. Going for hikes. Swimming…
And I still try to do my best wherever I go. I always clean up the beaches, even though it can be really unpleasant without gloves.
With clients, I always push for sailing boats over motorboats… Of course, we want to live in luxury and we do not want to go back 2000 years. But I think that technological innovation should take the planet into consideration, not just 80%, not 90%, but a hundred percent.
What did you notice or witness that shocked you, in the ocean?
A very vivid example is here in the Cote d’Azur. The coast used to be turquoise. However explorers came back with algae stuck in the engines that were not from here and very contagious. And now the cost is black.
I wouldn’t call it pollution, but it is still human made. Then when you walk on the beach, you find plastic, nets and all sorts of trash. You know that all the fish are dying from it, even from microfibers. Data shows that 150 million tons of plastic are already floating in the sea. If you pay attention, you perceive it. And once you go around the world, you perceive it even more.
What is your vision for the future?
One of my most important goals in life is to make a significant difference to the world’s oceans and for our future. 90% of the world is water, and there are so many things that can and must be done with oceans.
The meeting with Mårten Hedlund and our ongoing talks has created an embryo where we through sustainable commitment and clear efforts from leading individuals and strong brands will make a noticeable difference.
– At some point, we need to talk about what is really going on in a way that is interesting and beautiful, though tragic as well! The point is to make a change without commanding people to lower their standards: living in luxury while being sustainable. It will not only be a dream. It will be a reality.
Interview by Hélène Clabecq